On Fear of God II: Let Us Pray, the follow-up to his Fear of God mixtape released earlier this year, G.O.O.D. music signee and Clipse member Pusha T doesn’t stray far from the formula that made him one of Kanye West’s go-to rappers.
Enlisting 10 producers, including Hit-Boy, The Neptunes, and Bangladesh, and 11 guest MCs, Pusha’s penchant for vocal inclusiveness belies the rapper’s own lyrical cleverness and ability to command an album. But then again, if West, Rick Ross, Young Jeezy, Diddy, and Tyler, the Creator all wanted to hop on your project, you probably wouldn’t refuse them either.
Fans of the original Fear of God may get déjà vu, as five of the 12 tracks are culled from the original mixtape. Still, Pusha creates a cohesive whole worthy of its official album status.
HIPHOPUCIT.com previews Fear of God II ahead of its November 8 release.
1. “Changing of the Guards” feat. Diddy
Produced by Rico Beats
It’s telling that the album’s first line, spoken by Diddy, is, “Heavy is the head that wears the crown,” as Pusha T abandons his storied coke rap (temporarily) for chest-puffing braggadocio and “King of the World” rhymes. In this opening salvo produced by Rico Beats, Pusha gets the clever punchlines in (“Wish I could jailbreak my team like an iPhone”), but mainly displays a newfound lyrical confidence over the synth-driven, anthemic beat. Like Watch the Throne‘s “Who Gon Stop Me” and “Ni**as in Paris,” it wouldn’t take much to remix this one into a club-friendly dance track.
2. “Amen” feat. Kanye West and Young Jeezy
Produced by Shawty Redd
Don’t let the title fool you: Pusha hasn’t exactly run to God, but, with assists from Kanye West and Young Jeezy, reconciles “tryna get saved” with “time to get paid.” Shawty Redd cooks up martial drums and ominous synths to anchor this brooding, dark track highlighted by its guest stars. Expect hand-wringing from the usual suspects over Yeezy’s line, “In Egypt, they fighting for freedom/ Cop pull you over no reason, beat him.”
3. “Trouble on My Mind” feat. Tyler, the Creator
Produced by The Neptunes
Pusha fans have probably been playing this one, the album’s lead single, since it was released earlier this summer. Longtime collaborators The Neptunes deliver another dark synth track, pairing the rapper with Tyler, the Creator. It’s a risky juxtaposition on paper, but Tyler’s insouciant flow rides perfectly over the beat. Odd Future lovers will be quoting Tyler’s line, “I’m a problem/ ‘Cause I wanna fuck the world but not a fan of using condoms,” but Pusha steals it with his career-summing couplet: “Who else could put the hipsters with felons and thugs/ And paint a perfect picture of what sellin’ it does?”
4. “What Dreams Are Made Of”
Produced by The VIPs
For those who remember old-school wrestling, Ric Flair’s speech, sampled over an air horn and melodramatic faux-strings, is the best track opening of the year. (“I’m having a hard time holding these alligators down!” is destined to be the new hip-hop catchphrase.) Pusha’s first solo track is defined more by The VIPs’ street orchestral instrumental than any poignant lyricism, which includes the unfortunate lines, “Nothing match the feeling of pulling up in that new toy/ And it ain’t even half of my safe, tucked like a Jew boy.” Watch the original Flair speech here.
5. “Body Work” feat. Juicy J, Meek Mill, and French Montana
Produced by Rico Beats
The album’s most stylistically diverse track, “Body Work” features appearances by Three 6 Mafia’s Juicy J, Maybach Music Group signee Meek Mill, and rapper-singer French Montana. Rico Beats builds his synths like horn blasts, constructing one of the grimiest tracks on the album. Still, Juicy J’s the real hero here.
6. “Everything That Glitters” feat. French Montana
Produced by A-Traxx
French Montana comes through again, handling the hook on the album’s slowest, most plaintive track. Producer A-Traxx melds cold, martial drums with shimmering pianos and mournful, pathos-inducing strings, while Pusha reminisces about the trap game. The song can also be heard on DJ Drama’s recently released Third Power.
7. “So Obvious”
Produced by Bangladesh
“Take a glimpse through my life as I walk through it/ Powder everywhere like I drug the chalk through it,” Pusha rhymes on this Bangladesh-produced track. Vocally, Pusha is at his most confident, over-enunciating select words to convey seriousness and authority. Bangladesh doubles as hypeman, opening and closing the track like an amped up Diddy in ’96.
8. “Feeling Myself” feat. Kevin Cossom
Produced by Tha Bizness
The only R&B-centered track on the album, singer-songwriter Kevin Cossom supplies the supple hook and is smart enough to add the necessary, if outdated, “pause” ahead of the double-entendre title. Minor points off to Pusha for making a “Deal or No Deal” reference, but Tha Bizness’s smooth, yet propulsive and head-nodding beat wouldn’t have been out of place on a Clipse album. But seriously guys, “pause” is over. Stop.
9. “Raid” feat. 50 Cent and Pharrell
Produced by The Neptunes
The Neptunes flip a piano loop and chopped, soulful vocals into one of the album’s best and most energetic tracks. Pharrell handles hook duties, while 50 Cent sounds reinvigorated over the kinetic beat. Pusha shows the clever wordplay that make him a perennial favorite, with lines like, “Every time a ni**a wanna try to turn a prophet/ Folks rush in/ Three letters try to stop it/ FBIR/ SDEA/ One letter short but still motherf**k the DA.” It sounds better than it looks.
10. “My God”
Produced by Hit-Boy and Deezy
Military marching drums and swampy, electric guitars anchor this Hit Boy-produced track, which sounds more like a revelatory call to arms than simple musical bed. Pusha’s not breaking any new thematic ground here, but lines like, “Make a small town feel I threw a blizzard at it/ Get the green from the scale like a lizard had it,” redeem the well-worn terrain.
11. “I Still Wanna” feat. Rick Ross and Ab Liva
Produced by Lee Major
“You know what fame is?/ Sittin’ with the woman of your dreams and forgettin’ what her name is,” rhymes Pusha, appropriating the flow of G.O.O.D. Music head Kanye by over-enunciating the end of the sentence. Lee Major cooks up a scary, menacing beat that could double as a remix of The Exorcist theme, while guests Rick Ross and Re-Up Gang member Ab Liva turn in spirited verses.
12. “Alone In Vegas”
Produced by Nottz
A minimalist Nottz beat with twinkling piano ends the album on a mournful, melancholic note. Pusha extends the most depressing title of the year to his flow, eschewing his usual reserves of energy for a more laidback, monotone style highlighting the rapper’s ambivalence to being a “self-righteous drug dealer dichotomy.”