The self-proclaimed “Cocaine Dr. Seuss” is back. Four years after releasing “Daytona,” Pusha T has resurfaced with “It’s Almost Dry,” a 12-song collection of coke raps… and not much else. It’s a disappointing conclusion considering the married father presumably has so much more hard-earned wisdom to offer his fans. Now 44, the former Clipse rapper has been dropping albums for over 20 years, but the content rarely waivers and typically centers around drug dealing and cocaine, and “It’s Almost Dry” is no break from form. While sonically much more cohesive than its chaotic predecessor, Pusha fails to push himself into new territories, making the entire album feel safe, rather than an attempt at growth.
Even the album’s title has a double meaning that alludes to drugs. As Pyrex P recently explained to Rolling Stone, he looks at his albums like an artist looks at a painting and insisted a “masterpiece” isn’t finished until the paint is dry. But, of course, oils are not his primary substance of concern; he also noted it’s common in drug culture not to get a product until “it’s dry” either.
This is not all to say King Push hasn’t tirelessly perfected the coke-rap aesthetic over the years. Album opener “Brambleton” is by far one of the most alluring songs on the project with its ascending synths and deep, rolling bass, even if it does still find him rapping about drug dealing with lines like “We really used to roll around, copping quarter pounds from border towns and shit.” His voice cuts through the beat like a hot knife cuts through butter, allowing his vocals to effortlessly take centerstage. The third verse feels like a unicorn moment where he gets honest about his emotions, admitting he was “sad” about an unflattering interview his ex-manager Anthony “Geezy” Gonzalez did with VladTV in 2020.
They are the same sentiments he expressed in a conversation with “The Breakfast Club” co-host Charlamagne Tha God earlier this month, where he got so candid about his parents’ deaths just four months apart — his mother died in November 2021, while his father passed away in March — he shed a tear and asked for a tissue. It’s these personal insights that feel glaringly absent from the album and could’ve added some substance to the monotonous subject matter.
Still, musically, there are several outstanding moments that show off both Kanye West’s and Pharrell Williams’ production prowess. “Let the Smokers Shine the Coupes,” produced by Pharrell and mixed by fellow producer extraordinaire Mike Dean, is an undeniable banger that would have had the Pyrex glass exploding in the trap house with its heart-thumping beat. And for anyone with a taste for John Lennon in their hip-hop, West’s choice to include a reimagined sample of “Jealous Guy” on “Dreamin’ of the Past” provides a welcome respite from the dark undertones that cradle the first two cuts.
Meanwhile, the Pharrell-crafted “Neck & Wrist” boasts a coveted verse from Jay-Z and stellar hook from the N.E.R.D mastermind that hark back to a time when the Neptunes and Clipse were running early 2000s rap. The production continues to be equally split between Ye and Pharrell throughout. “Diet Coke,” with its delicate piano notes and high-pitched vocal samples, is Ye at his best, while the eerily scarce soundscape of “Call My Bluff” allows Pusha T’s lyrics to easily skip across the top. But the song is followed by the seemingly misplaced “Scrape It Off the Top,” featuring Lil Uzi Vert and Don Toliver, which sounds like nothing more than a desperate attempt at a hallow radio cut.
The album quickly stumbles across another major hurdle with “Hear Me Clearly,” which ironically, contains the most cacophonous collision of sounds on the album, making it nearly impossible to pay attention to what Pusha is saying. An angelic choir and haunting organ bring the project to a melancholic end with “I Pray for You,” which reunites Pusha with his brother and Clipse partner-in-rhyme Malice. Again mixed by Mike Dean, the rueful closer features Malice “slaving over stoves” and barely scratching the surface of how a drug-fueled lifestyle could potentially weigh heavily on a man’s mind.
Unlike Jay-Z’s 2017 album “4:44,” which found the hip-hop billionaire boldly addressing his marriage to Beyoncé, a highly publicized affair and how he’s grown as a man, “It’s Almost Dry” struggles to propel the Virginia native’s narrative forward. While it can be a comfortable, mostly engaging listen to anyone familiar with his coke-sprinkled catalog, it would’ve made more of an impact had Pusha T made even a partial attempt to risk vulnerability and reveal who he is underneath the “Godfather” persona.