Pusha T and Kanye West are out here asking the important questions.
Pusha T’s Daytonahas been lauded throughout the fan community, with many gravitating toward the project’s emphasis on lyrical groundwork. Push has long been a champion of his contemporaries, the definitive choice in the “favorite-rapper’s-favorite-rapper game.” Charlamagne Tha God claimed one must have a certain degree of wisdom to enjoy the project, inadvertently channeling a classic Rick & Morty meme in the process, while lyricists like Royce Da 5’9” and Joe Budden have praised Pusha’s technical prowess throughout.
Though brief, Push has managed to pack Daytona plenty of density. Yet many have instantly gravitated to the curiously titled “What Would Meek Do?” which features Kanye West playing double duty behind the boards and mic. While plenty have viewed this as Kanye’s album prelude, it’s Pusha who sets things off, opting to flex some comedic chops with a tried and true “Dylan” reference. Yet as the song evolves, so to does the subject matter; after all, Ye’s mere presence imbues this one with an inherent set of expectations.
Push eventually achieves title, alluding to Meek Mill’s publicized tilt with Judge Genece Brinkley. “Angel on my shoulder, "What should we do?",” raps Push, “Devil on the other, ‘What would Meek do?’ Pop a wheelie, tell the judge to Akinyele, middle fingers out the Ghost, screamin' "Makaveli.” It’s interesting that Push chooses to align Meek with the devil, thus painting the rapper as a symbol of rebellion; the road less traveled, and for good reason - at least in the eyes of traditional society. He goes on to paint a fantastic tapestry of what fans worldwide wished Meek had the power to do - tell the biased judge to channell Akinyele and “put it in her mouth” (metaphorically of course), while riding off on some 2Pac shit.
Pusha’s invocation of Meek speaks to a greater issue of racial injustice, and he manages to address the topic without being heavy-handed; a minimalist lyricist, Pusha has made an artform out of brevity. On that note, enter Kanye West, who has never been one to hold his tongue.
Shades of the oft-thrown around “Old Kanye” glimmer, as Ye sets things off with a comic callback to his iconic “poopity-scoop” mantra. At the very least, his sense of humor remains in tact; self deprecation generally provides a refreshing dose of humanity, especially in the serious field of hip-hop. Yet there are still many who feel that Kanye owes them an explanation, in light of his recent penchant for controversial comments. While Pusha himself has claimed that Ye will clarify his myriad stances on his solo album, “What Would Meek Do” certainly addresses some of his recent behavior, albeit on a surface level.
“Am I too complex for Complexcon?” raps Ye, alluding to his removal from the conference in 2016, “everything Ye say cause a new debate, you see, he been out of touch, he cannot relate.” It’s hard not to recall his recent “why do all black people have to be democrats” comment; could an openly liberal publication like Complex ever accept the conservative Kanye West and his differing values? Kanye seems to pose the question in a rhetorical sense, as he clearly already knows the answer.
To be fair, his commentary on frequently causing new debates is at once true and false; the rhetoric he’s peddling isn’t exactly groundbreaking, as he seems to be drawing from the likes of Candace Owens and Jordan Peterson, two controversial figures he openly respects. Still, hearing a conservative voice in hip-hop is certainly unconventional, and perhaps that is what he is alluding to. Regardless of where you stand on Kanye’s value as an intellectual “free thinker,” he does raise an interesting point about celebrity culture. Can someone as famous as Ye ever relate to the plight of the everyman?
There doesn’t seem to be an answer. Instead, he seems to look to hip-hop’s quintessential messiah, 2Pac Shakur, for guidance. What he’s saying here is obvious. It’s Ye against the world, while his average internet critic is essentially reduced to boy-band status. Once again, he makes reference to his “Make America Great Again” hat, touting it as a relic of “whiteness,” a proverbial get-out-of-jail-free card for American road-stops.
“If you ain't driving while Black, do they stop you?” asks Kanye, “will MAGA hats let me slide like a drive-thru?” It appears he’s wondering whether police have any patience for a black republican; does a bigot’s racism run deeper than their societal values? Perhaps Trump’s now-iconic red cap is the perfect litmus test. Granted, it’s unlikely that Ye will ever convince his ardent doubters that rocking MAGA is anything less than a betrayal. To be fair, it’s equally unlikely that Kanye particularly cares.
He closes things off with an allusion to his recently unearthed opium addiction, citing the harm of “seven pill nights.” Considering how he managed to keep it a secret for so long, it’s refreshing to hear him draw strength from his pain. “No more hidin' the scars, I show 'em like Seal,” promises Kanye, perhaps hinting at his most personal project thus far.