I’ve spent most of this year thus far waiting on this mixtape. I’m not alone. Pusha T clearly put on his Andre Young starter kit marketing the release of the long-awaited Fear Of God mixtape. The anticipation may have both helped and hurt the reception of it, though. Some have been so outspoken about how good it’s supposed to be, that it may be hard to tone down their appreciation at this point. Some waited so long, they received the mixtape with arms crossed, screwface firmly affixed. I feel like I’m floating somewhere in the middle. I was a fan of the Clipse. I was a fan of the Re-Up Gang (Clipse along with Ab Liva and Sandman, the latter of which is no longer with the group). When Pusha decided to go solo, I was 100% for it, though I did have concerns about the loss of balance between the brothers Thornton, which made previous works almost seem symbiotic.
I rarely buy LPs. Mixtapes, in my opinion, are the future of the industry. Studio LPs have become for the most part marketing machines that further the label’s agenda and not necessarily that of the artist. Unless you’re someone like Raekwon, who has built a solid fan base on virtually no radio airplay or commercial leanings, new artists are pressured to cater to the largest audience possible, sometimes sacrificing quality in the process. Unfortunately, Pusha’s Fear Of God seems to lean more towards new-artist-LP territory than mixtape classic. Amongst the majority of joints being proper, there are a few obvious reaches for mass appeal that detract from the overall feel of the project
Don’t get me wrong…this is a dope mixtape. “Open Your Eyes”, “Alone In Vegas Outro” and “My God” are Pusha Ton in rare form. Production and flow are a seamless pairing on these joints. Those who complain about Pusha not having much subject matter are the type who like to order pizza, hamburgers, and Chinese food all from the same spot. There’s nothing wrong with finding your niche and mastering it as opposed to trying to impress people by half-assing it in multiple niches. That being said, there a re a few attempts at branching out that lead to missteps on Pusha’s part. On “Raid”, Pusha enlists 50 Cent and Pharrell to basically try to emulate the same energy created on “Popular Demand (Popeye’s)” by the Clipse with Cam’ron. The maddeningly repetitive “Touch It”, with Kanye West to me sounds like a throwaway Yeezy joint Pusha just hopped on. “Feelin’ Myself” is by far the worst joint on here and borders on intolerable, with a syrupy hook lent by vocalist Kevin Cossom. Exceptional lyrics from Pusha aside, this song interrupts the whole vibe of the mixtape, taking you from feeling like you have 20 kilos of coke in your trunk to 20 kilos of pure glitter. Understandably, you can’t expect an artist to remain the same person throughout his career, especially when breaking away from a group, but it isn’t unreasonable to expect a product that doesn’t veer completely away from what you know him for.
The freestyles are where he shines, but using tracks like “Money On My Mind” and “Speakers Going Hammer” as instrumentals just make them come off dated. “Can I Live” is a classic instrumental and something that makes you wonder why Push never freestyled to it before. All in all, I won’t say Fear Of God is wack by a long shot. Those claiming it’s cold hot dog water are just being contrary, in my opinion. However, it seems to me that Pusha didn’t take full advantage of the freedom granted from mixtape creation to do the girttier, less-radio-friendly tracks that make someone like me prefer mixtapes over LPs. Tracks like “Touch It” would be great for his G.O.O.D. Music debut, but the streets wanted a mixtape and got something that was half-and-half. Just being fair. At the end of the day, Pusha T is still an exciting artist and somebody I want to see more from. Hopefully, he’s got his ear to the streets and won’t let schlock like “Feeling Myself” serve as the blueprint to his career. Pusha’s bars are unquestionably fire, but laying them over the tracks he’s selected here is like pearls to swine on a few tracks. But let’s not act like Pusha isn’t leagues ahead of his class.