Welcome to volume three of the Song Battle series, where we take two classic hip hop albums and pit them against each other, song for song.
For the first instalment, we took Chef’s Purple Tape and put it up against Biggie’s monumental debut. Then in the second volume, we took two 1996 monsters – Jay-Z’s Reasonable Doubt and Nas’ It Was Written to examine the opening shots to their legendary beef.
For the third volume of Song Battle, we’re pitting two rappers who happen to be friends, close collaborators and label mates. Both Yeezus and My Name Is My Name dropped in 2013, and continued both Kanye and Pusha’s run of being two of the best rappers alive.
In interviews leading up to him dropping the album, Pusha said that Kanye wanted My Name Is My Name to be 9 songs, but he pushed for 12 songs instead. In my opinion, Kanye was right. If we took three songs off Pusha’s album, it would be an undisputed classic, but as it stands, there are some filler tracks weigh it down.
In this song battle, we’re going to exclude two songs off My Name Is My Name since Yeezus only has 10 songs. We’re going to omit “No Regrets” and “Let Me Love You”, because, well, they’re just not as good as the other songs on the album. Alright, let’s get into it.
“On Sight” vs. “King Push”
Two legendary opening songs. “On Sight” is Kanye throwing away a decade’s worth of music trends that he’s built on, and rebuilding from scratch. It’s hard, it’s uncomfortable and it’s fucking awesome. On “King Push”, Pusha takes time to establish himself as a solo rapper and take a few subtle shots at Drake as well. “King Push” edges this, just barely though.
Yeezus= 0, My Name Is My Name = 1
“Black Skinhead” vs. “Numbers on the Boards”
This is a super tough decision. “Black Skinhead” is fucking crazy and the energy on this track just propels the whole album to another level, but “Numbers on the Boards” is the greatest Pusha T song of all time, so how can I not pick that?
Yeezus= 0, My Name Is My Name = 2
“I Am a God” vs. “Sweet Serenade”
Here’s something I’ll never understand – the incredible amount of love from Pusha T fans for “Sweet Serenade.” Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great song, the production from Swizz is cool and combined with a haunting Chris Brown hook, it’s definitely a banger. But I’ve been to Pusha’s live shows where it was the biggest song of the night?! “I Am a God” is basically the thesis statement of Yeezus so I’m going to pick it for the win. Point to Kanye.
Yeezus= 1, My Name Is My Name = 2
“New Slaves” vs. “Hold On”
Easy pick. “Hold On” is a great song that features Hudson Mohawke behind the boards and a killer Rick Ross verse, but c’mon, “New Slaves” is like a top five best hip hop song of the 2010s. No competition.
Yeezus= 2, My Name Is My Name = 2
“Hold My Liquor” vs. “Suicide”
Another super tough round. “Suicide” is just vintage Pusha T and Neptunes, that gives off serious 2000s Clipse vibes. “Hold My Liquor”, though, is just majestic, with Chief Keef and Bon Iver on the hook, and an incredible Mike Dean guitar solo. I think you have to go with Kanye for this.
Yeezus= 3, My Name Is My Name = 2
“I’m in It” vs. “40 Acres”
I get what Pusha is doing with the introspective “40 Acres” – he’s providing different looks to his artistry, but honestly, Pusha’s rap style and voice just doesn’t suit the melodramatic, over-produced tracks. He needs bare-knuckled, stripped down production to do his best work; something like “I’m in It.” Kanye takes this one.
Yeezus= 4, My Name Is My Name = 2
“Blood on the Leaves” vs. “Who I Am”
“Who I Am” has crazy production Kanye and Mano, but the rapping leaves much to be desired. Pusha comes on and then just disappears from his own track, leaving it up to 2 Chainz and Big Sean, the latter delivering one of the worse verses of his career. If you’ve ever been to a live show and seen “Blood on the Leaves” performed, you’ll know which song (easily) wins this round.
Yeezus= 5, My Name Is My Name = 2
“Guilt Trip” vs. “Nosetalgia”
Back in 2013, Kendrick was on his victory lap after the win that was good kid, m.A.A.d city. Hopping on tracks with 50 Cent, Tech N9ne, Schoolboy Q, the Compton king was out there blitzing features and murdering everyone on their own songs. Except Pusha T. Even though Kendrick’s verse on “Nosetalgia” is spectacular, and one of his best feature verses of all time, Pusha more than holds his own. Basically, what I’m saying is that “Nosetalgia” is a better song than “Guilt Trip.” Point to Pusha.
Yeezus= 5, My Name Is My Name = 3
“Send It Up” vs. “Pain”
Kanye is a master at curating the right features for his albums, and King Louie co-starring on “Send It Up” is just one example of this. But Future sounds like a demon on the hook for “Pain” and Pusha’s opening bars are just so crazy (“18 wheeler, gorillas / Black with gold chains, Pittsburgh, like Steelers”). This one is really tough but I’m going to go with Pusha at the end of the day.
Yeezus= 5, My Name Is My Name = 4
“Bound 2” vs. “S.N.I.T.C.H.”
Ok, last one – Kanye’s love dedication to Kim, “Bound 2” vs. the genius Pharrell-helmed “S.N.I.T.C.H.” In terms of songwriting and poignancy, “S.N.I.T.C.H.” is perfect, it combines an incredibly creative hook with Pusha’s introspective bars, but I don’t think much of the production. “Bound 2”, on the other hand, is always on repeat for me, the production on that song is just incredible and Kanye has sounds as romantic as Kanye can sound, in that Kanye way. Yeezus takes this one.
Yeezus= 6, My Name Is My Name = 4
Result: This was a really great match-up. Yeezus and My Name Is My Name were two of the best and hardest rap albums of the 2013; with both Kanye and Pusha foregoing whatever trends were happening in hip hop at that time and sticking to their vision. While My Name Is My Name started and closed off extremely strong, the album’s middle section let it down, allowing Yeezus to take over and win the battle.