It’s December – meaning shortlists are being compiled left, right and centre for various awards. Whether it’s best newcomer, best band or most streamed single, everybody wants to win something to end the year on a high.
The most important award in my opinion has always been album of the year. Sometimes a top single can come from lots of radio play, a very famous feature or being endorsed in TV ads. This cannot be said of an album. To win the best album of the year, you must have met the incredibly high expectations of fans and critics alike.
A lot of shortlists consist of albums that not only I didn’t like but albums that hugely underdelivered. I’m still astonished to see lists headed by The Arctic Monkeys ‘Tranquillity Base Hotel and Casino’, the kooky and frankly unwanted 11 track album sounds lacklustre and outdated, it certainly doesn’t do David Bowie’s legacy any favours when he’s named as a notable influence.
For me, Pusha T’s Daytona is not only the best hip hop album of 2018 but possibly the best album of the year by a significant margin. The eclectic beat choice is a testament to Pusha’s versatility and ability to flow over near enough anything, long time fans will remember Numbers on The Board, an experimental beat that was like nothing I’d ever heard before. This album, to me, is a sequel to that single.
The seven-track album, all produced by Kanye, features ten samples. In terms of production, it’s a merger of early 2000’s and Post Yeezus Kanye. The beats are experimental but Pusha never shows signs he’s out of his depth, every track is perfectly written and produced. Pusha is one of the best lyricists in the Hip Hop, his complex rhymes are filled with euphemisms, metaphors and some of the best wordplay I’ve seen in rap music in a decade. His cadence is similar to that of a late 90’s rapper, perhaps that’s why it sounds so impressive when you hear him showboating over modern and experimental beats.
Daytona easily eclipses Drake’s 25 track album, Scorpion. The latter felt boring and slow, a good track was few and far between; other than the posthumous Michael Jackson collaboration – I can barely remember two other songs from Drake’s most recent album.
Very rarely do I finish listening to an album and want more. After ten or fifteen songs, the tracks become very samey and feel like quite a chore to continue listening to. Daytona felt short and sweet, the two features on the project were from Hip Hop heavyweights Rick Ross and Kanye West. There is no song that can be skipped on this project – whereas I feel with Travis Scott’s Astroworld or Drake’s Scorpion, I often find myself skipping more songs than I listen to.
The album takes you through the life of Pusha T, who makes no secret that he was heavily involved in drug dealing and gang violence. The artwork depicts Whitney Houston’s bathroom, filled with drug paraphernalia – Pusha says it represents the ‘chaotic nature’ of the album; although many have insinuated it represents the journey of Pusha T. He is a drug dealer turned musician – he inflicted pain onto others by selling drugs, yet when he reaches the upper echelon, he realised that people here suffer too, if not more, and will do anything to make themselves feel better. The album cover caused quite a stir – with many of Whitney Houston’s estate disappointed that somebody had sold the photograph to Kanye West with the clear intentions of it being used as album artwork.
Somehow, Daytona, only ranks twelfth on the album of the year website. Meaning it sits below both Tranquillity Base Hotel and Casino and Cardi B’s Invasion of Privacy, perhaps it’s a matter of opinion or taste but I’m truly blown away that Daytona isn’t top three. With twenty six days to go, I’ll be very surprised if I hear a hip hop album that ranks higher than this.