Pusha T’s Melbourne show starts in a little over four hours and I’m having the opposite of an outer-body experience. I’ve been partying for the past three nights and my body is retaliating with the urge to be sensible. I’ve cooked a roast, all the housemates are home, and goddamn Friends is playing on TV. Rachel is pregaz and hackneyed thoughts of good things coming to an end are lazily rationalising having a quiet night. My plus-one shows up and we move outside to escape the domesticity. Between us we have two six packs, MBs and VBs, and a UE Boom streaming Darkest Before Dawn from Apple music. I’ve been hounding the album since it’s mid December release and memorised all the lyrics, especially to the Biggie-sampling, Timbaland-noir ‘Untouchable’ which I “Yuugh!” to on cue, but can’t muster up the requisite hype to continue rapping along with Pusha as he trashes Donald Trump. Quite simply—shit is dire. So far all signs this evening point to a mediocre Snapchat story. Maybe a few select bars from ‘Numbers on the Boards’ or something. In the end, however, I was served a lesson in longevity. The night would see us going blow for blow with cocaine’s last superhero and, eventually, with one of us getting their hair bleached blonde.
Really, King Push is somewhat of anomaly in rap music. Young Push and his brother, who rapped under Malice, came up making music with Timbaland before any of them were a thing. As teenagers, the Virginian rappers formed Clipse in 1992, and their first album, Lord Willin, was one of, if not the first album to come out on Pharrell and Chad Hugo’s Star Trak imprint in the early 2000s. But the story of a rich rap heritage is a rhyme a dozen. What makes Pusha T an anomaly is how he’s navigated the flotsam that comes with forming and dismantling a hugely popular rap-group, and stayed skirting the spotlight without some PR-fueled revision of his image. He was coke rapping then, and he’s coke rapping now, but unlike 50 Cent and his unrelenting clutch on gangster rap, Pusha hasn’t simply made the same album over and over. “You gotta be early” Pusha T recently explained to Noisey. He was speaking of his recognition of Future and decision to feature him on My Name is My Name before Future became the centre of rap internet that he is now, but you’ll find him in the liner notes of other pivotal moments in twenty-first century bangers too. He rapped on Justin Timberlake’s debut solo single ‘Like I Love You’, which at the time would have been kind of like if Killer Mike got on Zayn Malik’s new album and the track went number one. He was also one of the first to link up with Tyler the Creator in a post-Bastard world with ‘Trouble on my Mind’.
Pusha T is pushing 40. Sitting in my backyard downing VBs I’ve just turned twenty-five, like yesterday, and the typically banal burdens of a recently quarter century’d human are all on hand. Mostly the impulse to be a responsible adult who hasn’t been crending all week. But, tonight is about Pusha, and if he can still embody the turn-up with 15 years on me, then it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t reciprocate his energy. Luckily I’m in good company. My plus one is a pretty Cook Island dude nicknamed ‘Tim the Tool Man Taylor’ for his love of tools and getting wrecked on them. We both shotgun a tinnie for probably the first time since 2011 and get on our way.
We arrive at Prince Bandroom a little after Pusha’s intended start time of 10pm to the crowd chanting “Pu-sha” before the DJ plays ‘Schtick Talk’ and heightens pandemonium in front of the stage. I lose my shit to ‘Shtick Talk’ because the rap internet has programmed me to, while the Tool Man wanders off into the crowd. He comes back when the song ends with the tools to make a good night better and we decide to move further in. Mostly because the girl behind me had taken offence to me being 6’5 and having gangly trap arms by jabbing me in the back, but as soon as we move, a ‘Yuugh’ booms from the speakers and Pusha T comes out to Kanye’s version of ‘I Don’t Like’. Two staggered ‘Woo!’s and one key later we’re as messed up as the crowd is.
The benefit you get from a 38-year-old rapper is that a crowd is like putty in their hands. They know exactly what the fuck they’re doing and even though you know you’re bending to their whim, you’re entirely complicit. It’s like going to see The Force Awakens; there’s nothing individual about your experience, but you love it because you’re getting exactly what you came for. The start of Pusha’s set is almost like a resumé showing all the feats he has played part in, he doesn’t play Clipse hits like ‘When the Last Time’ or ‘Mr. Me Too’ but punctuated his hits like ‘Blocka’ and ‘Millions’ with his work with Kanye like ‘So Appalled’ and ‘Runaway’.
“Okay, so I see you know what I’m all about.”
I guarantee if anyone in the crowd was feeling as seedy as I was before the show, by now, Pusha T had rejuvenated them. In fact, they probably were. It’s the start of the year, nearly everyone either has time off work, or is pretending that they do, and is living out their newfound optimism for this year being a better one. His adlibs act as audible Hydralite. His animated facial expressions that seem to make the whites of his eyes double in size show why he doesn’t need a hype man. People are on each other’s shoulders.
The squeal of the intro to ‘Nosetalgia’ rings out and one of the dudes on shoulders is rapping word for word. Pusha has gotten right up in his face, about a foot away, and they’re both doing the same idiosyncratic movements that come with “let it sizzle on the stove like a minute steak”. He daps the dude at the end of the verse who then gets off his steed’s shoulders. It’s ignorant, but there’s something about hearing someone credible rapping about the substances you abuse that is periodically the most fulfilling validation of your shitty lifestyle choices. More keys are supplied while Pusha is spouting a monologue about being the president of G.O.O.D. Music and pronounces Darkest Before Dawn the hardest-hitting record of 2015—which it technically is—and then ‘Numbers on the Boards’ drops. The Tool Man starts a mosh which only a few people get amongst and I take no Snapchats.
From here on out any journalistic responsibilities have been lost in the moment. This time, when ‘Untouchable’ is played I’m joining Pusha from trashing Trump through to announcing that the place is looking like Beirut and I’m as far away from wearily watching Friends on free-to-air as possible. He does an encore that at least included ‘Trouble on My Mind’ and the music does what it’s meant to; alleviate every one of their day-to-day by indulging in the hyperbolic characters behind it. We leave the building and Uber to a kick-on party and make bad decisions with bleach because being an adult in 2016 can wait another day.
See our full photo recap here.
- Photography: Rhys Newling