Pusha T, '40 Acres' | NPR MUSIC FRONT ROW
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Pusha T's set was the culmination of a gradual separation from his brother, No Malice, with whom he performed as Clipse until three years ago. The Virginia native made his name as a writer of sharply observed scenes of the drug trade and a connoisseur of unsettling, emotionally raw production.
He was vulnerable up there on stage at Le Poisson Rouge, playing none of the hits he made as part of Clipse (the ones the crowd knew by heart), instead favoring his more recent work with Kanye West, and pulling from his solo mixtapes and debut album, My Name Is My Name. The songs are full frontal assaults dappled with graceful metaphors and harmonies that leave marks. Eyes wide, face open, Pusha doesn't shirk anything, rapping about dirt he's done, ugly facts, and praying. "I'm just talking to the world like it's you and I," he says during "Suicide."
He put the audience on his back, building trust and moving toward a moment between the first and second verses of his encore, "40 Acres." He shut his eyes, leaned on the mic stand and visibly gathered himself before hurling his meticulously drawn story out into the air, even though it hurt to say the words.--FRANNIE KELLEY
Producers: Mito Habe-Evans, Robin Hilton, Frannie Kelley, Amy Schriefer; Event Coordinator: Saidah Blount; Audio Engineer: Kevin Wait; Videographers: Alex di Suvero, Becky Harlan, A.J. Wilhelm; Special Thanks: (Le) Poisson Rouge; Executive Producer: Anya Grundmann