What is the purpose of a tennis ball? Logically, it seems self-explanatory: it is a ball used to play tennis. Therefore, when you look at a tennis ball, considering the role it has played as an athletic instrument within your reality, you assume that it will bounce, that it is light, and that it is fuzzy. But do you know what to do when it splits open? Do you know what it means when you see a little bag tucked within this tennis ball that, to you, is only a ball with which to play tennis? This is what Pusha T means when he says “we got the tennis balls for the wrong sport” and “if you know, you know.” If you have caught on to the nature of his reality, the reality of an ex drug dealer, after listening closely to his words, you realize that the former line is referring to a practice of that business. You know, so you know, just as he does, because he has showed you.
DAYTONA relies heavily on the knowledge of this reality, just as the majority of Pusha T’s discography does. However, this record defies the repetitiveness of its subject matter through the dexterity and intricacy of its lyrical approach. Each of Pusha T’s line becomes critical, as each one may conceal a double entendre and / or a deceptive metaphor that further unveils the savagery and intensity of Pusha T’s former enterprises. “Just add water/ Stir it like a shake” manipulates the prior exercise metaphor into such a lingual backflip, flipping the prior line in order to project this reality in more vivid color. Obviously, like most people, we don’t know what this kind of life is, but Pusha T is able to articulate it in such a fascinating and intense way that we are able to envision the devil that the rapper had danced with for so long. We’ve never danced the dance, but it becomes impossible to stop watching the atrocity.
Pusha T’s own relationship with his past becomes inextricable from his artistic presentation of it. “Santería” exemplifies this, portraying the darkness of Pusha T’s past as well as the savagery and edge the business had left in him. This, however, is also a complication of the feelings communicated on “If You Know You Know,” as Pusha T displays both a villain’s pride as well as a disgust with charlatans attempting to display the same feeling. Thus, DAYTONA becomes a lyrical tour through the pain, savagery, and glory of this business in a way that many of Pusha T’s former records have failed to be.
Kanye West and Mike Dean’s steller production only further accentuate this narcotic dance with the devil. Soulful samples set the ears ablaze, be it the druggy majesty of “Come Back Baby” to the fiery Spanish chorus of “Santeria.” Guitars echo with an elegant violence on “The Games We Play” only to give way to the somber piano and ominous percussion of “Hard Piano.” DAYTONA is back-to-back sonic elegance and fury, an onslaught of honed musical weaponry. It is the backdrop to an album about selling drugs and it assumes this role with passion and grace.
Even the lukewarmness of the features cannot deter the momentum of the record. While Rick Ross is in rare form, his presence on “Hard Piano” leaves something to be desired. Kanye West, on the other hand, comes with a feature that leaves a strange taste in my mouth. Though there are some clever bars as well as a strong energy, it’s become quite the nuisance that he intrudes on other artists’ music with his own public situations (see “Watch” by Travis Scott). None of the features are necessarily bad, it’s just that Pusha T is such a force to be reckoned with on this album that anything that isn’t a match to his output fails in comparison, be it on the album itself or in the arena of rap itself. Pusha T has asserted himself as a figure standing at the top of the rap mountain, and DAYTONA is his victory anthem.