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Meaning of ‘Retribution’ by ‘Pusha T’ feat. Kehlani

Released: 2015

In “Retribution,” Pusha T, known for his sharp lyricism and drug-dealing narratives, merges braggadocio, introspection, and the realities of being embroiled in the drug game. The song’s theme is about maintaining integrity amidst the trappings of wealth, power, and dealing with doubters.

At the onset, Pusha T expressed pride in his authenticity, likening himself to the “coldest,” a portrayal of his ruthless streak in hustling. His partnership with music producer Timbaland, referenced as “Timbo,” gave birth to a standout track akin to Jay-Z and Kanye’s classic “Otis.” In his world, every event, like games in Monte Carlo or shopping sprees, is tinted with the undercurrents of illicit drug trade, symbolized by the line “All I know is white.”

Continuing the exploration of his growth, he confesses that his wealth has made him more “different,” potentially hinting at increased disconnect or arrogance. The repeated question “Who are you?” serves as a taunt towards detractors who question his credibility or newcomers who try to enter his lane without paying dues.

The line “I’m admired by the greats” reinforces his elevated status in the rap game, while the imagery of being the “fire and the base,” illustrates his influential and explosive presence. He further establishes his prowess with the line, “Cold case, Rolls Wraith,” a metaphor linking his previous untraceable drug dealings (cold cases) to his current success symbolized by the luxury car Rolls-Royce Wraith.

Moving forward, Pusha T continues the defiance against mainstream expectations, declaring he’s never “bit at that apple,” potentially rejecting the temptation to conform for mass appeal. He shares his worldview where hustling is a consistent aspect, being “covered in white,” a nod to his drug-dealing past.

In the closing verses, Pusha T cements his legacy as the “last dope dealer,” a badge of honor in some hip-hop circles, but a reminder of the grim realities of his past. Harsh realities like relationships built solely on financial gains (“Chase a nigga for the money, they behind me”). He concludes by making it clear that his grandiose lifestyle and wealth are not mere illusions but a mountain of success, high enough for anyone to climb indefinitely.

Throughout “Retribution,” Pusha T delivers a candid narrative of success stemming from illicit activities, weaving elements of regret, triumph, and unapologetic authenticity. His vivid description of navigating the complexities of the hustle, his rise in the rap game and the cost it often requires, delivers a powerful commentary, typical of the realness that Pusha T embodies in his craft.

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