After nine months and two postponements, Pusha T and his It’s Almost Dry tour finally touched-down in London, with the rapper delivering a no-nonsense, if slightly short, set.
“I’m giving you new shit, old shit and I’m giving you classic shit,” Pusha T announced as he addressed the Apollo audience for the first time, after rattling off a three-track medley from his most recent album.
He’d so far rapped every word, hit every note and controlled every cadence of his opening sequence, proving he’s just as good live in the flesh as he is on wax. This is hardly surprising for a rapper who’s consistently put out genre-topping records for over two decades now.
A performance on ‘Hear Me Clearly’ precedes the show’s first and only section featuring tracks from 2018’s Daytona. It helps that the album itself only has a 21-minute runtime, allowing Pusha to perform every track bar ‘Hard Piano’. The section itself features a highlight in Pusha’s acapella ‘If You Know You Know’ introduction.
Conversation around Pusha T often still seems to be centred around his 2018 beef with Drake, yet it appears the rapper has no issue with this, indeed even enjoys. Whilst performing ‘What Would Meek Do’ and ‘Infrared,’ Pusha plays into the now-infamous lyrics that began their feud, adding extra emphasis as he counts on his fingers the list of disses at the Canadian rapper. This prompts a “Fuck Drake” chant to break out, as Pusha finishes the Daytona closer, which the rapper listens to with a nod and a smirk before gesturing that the crowd quiet down.
This is just one moment in which Pusha genuinely attempts to connect with the crowd. He refers to them as his “family” throughout, stops the show to sign a fan’s record, and oftentimes seems to single-out people who know his raps word for word. This effort does not go unnoticed, as the crowd regularly responds to requests of hands up or equivalents, and when Pusha returns for his first encore, the crowd is eager to obey the request of a mosh-pit.
It’s with his final leg in which Pusha T finds the right balance between his album cuts and fan favourites. He interchanges ‘Diet Coke’ with songs such as ‘Mercy’ and ‘Don’t Like,’ which cause expected pandemonium. He honours his opening promise of “classics” by performing his verse in Clipse’s ‘Grindin’’, whilst a cover of Future’s ‘Move That Dope’ is both well-executed and well-received.
Yet despite the attempt to play to the crowd with these hype songs, Pusha’s performance does somewhat lack in spectacle. His technical rapping ability is clear, yet when that’s looked past, it’s just Pusha on the stage, with limited effects besides a screen behind him, and a hype man and DJ hidden off to the side; compare this to, say, J.I.D, who just two weeks ago at the same venue, had a rough dozen entourage on stage hyping up the crowd and dancing to his songs, along with much more prominent lighting and effects.
This is not helped by the fact that despite a large array of fan favourites and mosh-worthy tracks, most of these songs are not Pusha’s, meaning they often begin at an unconventional point in the track, and cut off after just one verse. You get the repeated feeling the crowd want more than just a verse of these songs – they want to sing past Pusha T’s cameos.
Cuts from Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Family in particular – ‘So Appalled’ and ‘Runaway’ – barely allow for choruses, as Pusha’s appearances are so short-lived on the original track. Whilst these songs are notorious and do a lot in the way of people-pleasing, you’re left wondering whether hearing mere snippets at a Pusha T show is money or time well spent.
Furthermore, the non-stop, back-to-back-to-back nature of some of these runs does a fantastic job of keeping the crowd energised, although it must be said that in almost rushing through multiple portions of Pusha’s catalogue, the show flew by for a 24-track setlist with two encores, finishing 45 minutes before the Apollo’s 11pm curfew.
Despite the runtime, Pusha T evidently intends to please his fans, and he achieves in doing so, by curating a show that incorporates moments for each stage of his illustrious career.