Pusha T, “King Push — Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude” (Def Jam/GOOD Music/Re-Up **)

Pusha T’s second album examines America’s dark side, individually and as a society. “M.F.T.R.,” featuring the Dream, delves into the desire to be more famous than rich, with artists making bad business decisions for the sake of stardom — even if it’s temporary. This leads into “Crutches, Crosses, Caskets,” which Pusha has said represents how he sees the rap game: “Crutches, crosses, caskets, all I see is victims. / Rappers is victimized at an all-time high, but not I.” For the most part, it’s difficult to stay focused on this album. There’s a sameness. One track and set of lyrics bleed into the next. But one standout and likely favorite is “Sunshine,” featuring Jill Scott. On that track, Pusha tackles the onslaught of police-related deaths while pointing out it’s nothing new. He raps, “They’ll never rewrite this, the way they rewrote history.” Ending the album with that track, which is a call for a miracle, lives up to the album’s title. There is a dark side, and Pusha thinks we’re getting too caught up.

Sofiya Ballin, Philadelphia Inquirer