'King Push,' 'Push-a-ton' and 'El Presidente'. There are many names Pusha T goes by, but perhaps the most fitting is, 'Greatest Rapper Alive'.

The Virginia Beach hip-hop careerist made his claim for that title last night, delivering a ferocious set of blistering drug-rap that proved if he's not wearing the crown just yet, he's certainly got one hand on it.

Blessed with a taut, muscular voice and the ability to make complex rhyme schemes sound incredibly simple, Pusha T showcased songs from throughout his career: from his days in celebrated rap duo Clipse, to his more recent solo work and input into two Kanye West albums.

West looms large over Pusha T's career since he signed up to his Good Music roster in 2010. He's mentored him, let him guest on two albums, 2010's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and 2012's Good Music Label compilation Cruel Summer, and recently made him president of the label - hence the title 'El Presidente'.


But with two solo albums behind him - including last year's late minimalist rap masterpiece King Push - Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude - and a third due in April, Pusha T has enough of his own standout solo material to easily stand on his own.

His mid-set triple whammy of My Name Is My Name highlights, including Suicide, Sweet Serenade and the rolling bass wallop of Numbers on the Board, was the moment the show turned from just another rap gig to an electric early entry for hip-hop show of the year.

When he followed it up with the heaviest hitters from Darkest Before Dawn, including the Biggie-sampling triumph Untouchable, in which every line already sounds like a quotable, and the jazz-flecked throwback Crutches, Crosses, Caskets, it proved we haven't yet seen all that Pusha T's capable of.

And if there's a better drug-rap verse than Pusha T's input to Future's Move That Dope, arriving last night as an encore with so much blazing intensity you could see the whites of his eyes as he spat out his lines, Terrence Thornton simply hasn't yet written it. Long may El Presidente reign.

Pusha T
Where: The Studio, Auckland
When: Saturday, January 9

- nzherald.co.nz