By 2013, everyone should know that “gangsta rap” is an umbrella term for ultra-violent, hyper-masculine hip-hop that mixes Godfather-esque lavishness with street tales as compelling as those seen on The Wire. This is nothing new; it has been in the genre for decades. But it somehow sounds different when listening to artists like Pusha T. Formerly one half of the Virginia-based duo Clipse, Pusha T went solo, signed with Kanye West and began to release his own tracks back, starting with the 2011 mixtape Fear of God and its sequel, the Fear of God II EP. Now he is ready for his solo debut studio album My Name is My Name, but not before releasing the “prelude,” Wrath of Caine.
Sonically, Caine is a mixture of dark melodies, booming bass and energetic sampling alongside upbeat synths and horns. Young Chop (“Blocka”), Kanye West (“Millions”), B!nk (“Take My Life”) and the Neptunes (“Revolution”) are some of the big name producers on this 11-track mixtape that add their signature sounds to Pusha T’s gritty, sharp wordplay and delivery. Lyrically, he delivers on nearly every
single track whether it’s storytelling or just punch lines. In the “Intro” he compares less-than-quotable rappers to “internet porn,” while on “Take My Life” he raps: “It ain’t enough that I struggle through my career/Less appreciated when I was part of a pair.” One of the best tracks on the mixtape, “Revolution,” details Pusha’s career from the Clipse breakout single “Grindin’” until now. Even the seemingly cookie- cutter “Millions” (Featuring Rick Ross) has its moments where both performers showcase their talents as artists. However, while he is gifted at playing the tough drug dealer, Pusha shines most when he’s being reflective, so tracks like “Revolution,” “Take My Life” and “I Am Forgiven” showcase some of his deeper moments.
Two words: French Montana. The Moroccan-born rapper’s voice on “Doesn’t Matter” makes the song hard to get into, and the use of Auto-Tune makes it skip-worthy despite Pusha T’s performance. Kevin Gates on “Trust You” also becomes a bit annoying after extended listening. In general, most of Caine’s features — while they do work within the songs’ contexts — are difficult to listen to due to the distortion of the performers’ voices. However, aside from “Doesn’t Matter” and “Trust You,” the mixtape is so short that there is little else to complain of.
With the exception of “Doesn’t Matter,” Wrath of Caine is definitely worth multiple spins. Pusha T paints a gritty drug dealer soundtrack that allows the listener to live out Scarface fantasies. While the mixtape is simply something to hold over his fans until My Name is My Name’s release, Caine seemingly shows that Pusha is determined to prove “this is the end to all [his] unrecognized greatness.”