Pusha is in my top 5. Clipse were great. And I even enjoyed No Malice’s first Christian rap album–it had teeth while still being about rebirth and God.
Let’s rank ’em all!
Let the Dead Bury the Dead by No Malice (2017). There are no bad albums in this entire discography, but this is as close as it gets. It signaled the end of No Malice’s career.
Fear of God (2011). Pusha’s first mixtape as a solo. A bunch of the songs also appeared in finished form on Fear of God II, which is why it doesn’t rate higher.
Cruel Summer by G.O.O.D. Music (2012). A compilation with Pusha T featured on five of the tracks–and he murders every single one.
Best cuts: New God Flow and Higher.
‘Til the Casket Drops by Clipse (2009). A solid album, but when you hear what came before it, and after, it’s going to make you sad. There’s enough here to make it worth your time, for sure. It’s just that Clipse and Pusha T are so phenomenally talented that expectations are always high.
Road to Til the Casket Drops by Clipse (2009). A disappointing mixtape that followed the “We Got It 4 Cheap” series. Like the album it was hyping, it simply can’t compare to what preceded it.
We Got It 4 Cheap Volume 3 by Clipse (2008). The first in this series that is not by Clinton Sparks. Instead, DJ Drama is the DJ. But he follows the formula established by the extraordinary Volume 2 by pulling beats out from under rap greats like Kanye West, The LOX, Dr. Dre/Snoop Dogg, and others, and Clipse play their part. It’s still a great mixtape. The fact that it’s the worst of the three by no means indicates lack of quality. This series of mixtapes is fantastic.
Fear of God II: Let Us Pray (2011). Pusha’s first release on Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music label was this EP. And all the stars come out. P. Diddy. Fiddy. Young Jeezy. Juicy J. Meek Mill. And, of course, West himself. It’s a good collection of songs that previews the incredibly strong solo work that would follow in the years to come.
Favorite cuts: Trouble on My Mind featuring Tyler the Creator; Alone in Vegas.
Wrath of Caine (2013). His second solo mixtape. Some good stuff, a few nice features, but overall it doesn’t rate as high because it lacks some of the creativity of his later stuff. It’s good, but it feels like it was probably a very easy tape to make for Pusha because it’s very similar to stuff he’s already done.
My Name is My Name by Pusha T (2013). Pusha’s first solo album, continuing his collaboration with Pharrell and marking the beginning of his partnership with Kanye West. Marked by lots of quality features (Jeezy, 2 Chainz, Kendrick, Big Sean), and an appearance by the best Re-Up Gang member (Ab-Liva), MNiMN showed Pusha could exist, quite easily, without his brother. It reached #2 on the hip hop charts.
Favorite tracks: King Push, Numbers on the Boards.
Hear Ye Him by No Malice (2013). I really liked this album. I know it fell kind of flat for most hip hop heads–probably because “born again” doesn’t really play to Clipse’s audience–but if you listen to lyrics and No Malice’s delivery, you can recognize that he is still a master.
Favorite tracks: Title cut, Unforgettable.
We Got It 4 Cheap Volume 1 by Clipse (2004). The first mixtape of this renowned series from Clinton Sparks. Teamed up with Ab-Liva, Sandman, and other from their extended crew, Clipse take on a few the big hits of the day (Drop It Like It’s Hot) and mix in some truly extraordinary originals that never reached official album status (Stay From Around Me, Studyin’ Y’all). The only flaw is that the songs without Pusha or Malice are noticeably weaker, and detract from the overall mixtape.
King Push: Darkest Before Dawn–The Prelude by Pusha T (2015). This is an actual album, despite that it has a confusing name. Released on Kanye’s G.O.O.D. label, it was the prequel to Daytona, which didn’t arrive until three years later. The album finds Pusha breaking away from the formula that made him famous–he is much more reliant on the music here, and interacts with it freely and fully. Where his work has always been marked by primitive beats and hardcore lyrics, he seems more willing to stretch and take risks here, and even makes something damn close to a soul/pop song with Jill Scott. He’s growing and maturing as an artist, and the effect is fantastic.
Favorite tracks: Crutches, Crosses, Caskets; Untouchable; and the Intro.
Lord Willin’ by Clipse (2002). Their debut, produced by Neptunes. It’s very much a “first album by a big name producer,” in that they come strong with some monster hits like Grindin’ and Ma I Don’t Love Her, and those big songs drive the whole album. It also was the big break in many ways for Pharrell, who sang on half the songs. The difference between this record and so many other albums supported and pushed hard by a label is that the sound was so…Different. Minimalist. But Pusha and Malice’s presence made it feel gigantic. This is one of the best rap albums of its time.
Personal favorite cuts: Grindin’, Ma I Don’t Love Her, When the Last Time.
Daytona by Pusha T (2018). The best rap album of 2018, the same year of Pusha’s beef with Drake (which Pusha won, hands down). Even the album cover–showing Whitney Houston’s bathroom on the day she died–was controversial.
Favorite songs: What Would Meek Do? featuring Kanye West; If you Know You Know; Infrared.
Hell Hath No Fury by Clipse (2006). At the peak of their powers and on the heels of a major smash debut, Clipse found themselves with label problems that delayed their follow-up by four years. Fortunately, it was well worth the wait. It’s one of my favorite studio rap albums of all time. The big hits, like Mr. Me Too and Wamp Wamp, are both catchy and quality, while the deeper cuts are extraordinary.
Not just the best Clipse album, one of the best rap albums ever.
Favorite tracks: All of them. But If I had to pick a few I’d go with Ride Around Shining, Ain’t Cha, and Keys Open Doors.
We Got It 4 Cheap Volume 2 by Clipse and Clinton Sparks (2004). In my not-so-humble opinion, this is the greatest mixtape of all time. Every track takes beats that were a hit for someone else, whereupon Clipse murder the entire world of rap on their own shit. They do The Corner better than Common. They steal Juelz Santana’s first big hit and make it their own. They crush Ghostface, Mobb Deep, Outkast, and, best of all, 50 Cent and The Game’s Hate It Or Love It (one of my favorite rap songs of all time).
See if you can find a version with No DJ, so you don’t miss a word–sometimes Clinton Sparks’ hype shouts step on the opening bars.