Friday, May 20th, 2022

Pusha T, Jay-Z, Pharrell Williams – Neck & Wrist

Shakira’s hips consult lawyers…


Ryo Miyauchi: While Kanye simply wanted bars after bars from Pusha, Pharrell apparently urged him to start thinking outside the box when recording It’s Almost Dry. And to perhaps satisfy Pharrell, he channels his old self in Lord Willin’, pinching his voice to loosen his stiff bars. It sounds impressive as an idea, a back to basics effort, but the vocal techniques fail to cover up the fact that the guy lives and dies by the punchline, especially when the bars feel so exposed in front of a sleepwalking beat. 

Micha Cavaseno: I’m just glowering at Terrence for not letting Pharrell take the hook on this one properly. Anyway, his verse feels like a parody of himself on Til The Casket Drops, which I’d be fine with were it not for the fact that Jay is doing Got It 4 Cheap Vol. 2/Hell Hath No Fury Push mixed with Pharrell more convincingly. And this is the man who was doing Kingdom Come at the same time. HUH!?!? Also this beat sounds more like The Cool Kids at their peak ripping off Clipse but worse, which leads me to ask… When the best guy encapsulating your sound is the one who wasn’t present for your peak… Is it good that you can’t even do good fan fiction of your best work?

Thomas Inskeep: Reminiscent of We Got It 4 Cheap, this is peak-excitement Pusha T, in no small part because on It’s Almost Dry he’s gotten the best work out of Pharrell in eons. Of course, no one raps about the coke trade like Pusha, and for that matter, few rap on his level on any subject, period. Jay-Z sounds fine, but is kinda phoning it in. Though when Pusha and Pharrell are giving this much, it doesn’t matter.

Alfred Soto: A woozy synth line and clattering percussion track keep things stable, and while Pusha’s verses are fine, his and Pharrell’s decision to jump up a note on the penultimate syllable of every goddamn line is an active annoyance.

Nortey Dowuona: The first verse from Pusha T reminds me that rappers can indeed age and keep their blades sharp — as much as they can. The Pharrell hook tells me that it’s very difficult if they’re not inspired. The Jay-Z verse and the loong intro remind me why most don’t — cuz they got lazy.

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: I love Pusha T’s music dearly but this is thoroughly middling — not just relative to his high standards but the broader drug rap scene in 2022. It’s Almost Dry is as solid as anything he’s done in the last decade, but here his previous gift for translating the grandiose visions of his albums into perfect singles — surprisingly hooky microcosms — fails him. It’s one thing for Push and Jay not to match their classic eras, but it’s another for “Neck & Wrist” to pale in comparison to a collaboration that’s only a half a decade old. Pharrell doesn’t help either — instead of the uneasy blend of paranoia and nostalgia that his and Ye’s production on the album tracks often conjures, here he contributes a beat that sounds tedious and a hook that fails to get anything profound or catchy out of repetition. It’s a song of three iconic figures failing to live up to the billing.

Andrew Karpan: Proof that capitalism doesn’t really work: on some level it must be strange how much more likable Pusha T has made being a decades-removed drug dealer than Jay-Z, who is ostensibly the person who turned that idea into a whole business, man. Even on Pharrell’s most coherent collection of glass funk beats since he randomly cut that divorce album for Beck, the elder statesman of elder statesmen of New York City rap can’t quite sell that he actually cares very much about Biggie Smalls. Instead, his bleary, fatalist soliloquy on matters of the late ’90s just reminds me that money can’t insulate you from the ordinary stuff of petty grievance. But the bars from Pharrell’s former Virginia Beach neighbor turn out to be made of the durable stuff of total nonsense. The floor plan is nothing like the model? Put the first 500 in the safe and lose the combination? How would you ever open it? Stuff to think about. 

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