PUSHA T INTERVIEW
"I was in Paris two days ago, and I'm going back in two days. I would have never left had I fuckin' not had this engagement," Def Jam rapper Pusha T announces on the line dialing in from North Carolina.
He's eager to get back in the studio and finish up the solo album he has been vigorously working on with Kanye West.
"They tryin' to keep me from leaking everything right now. It's taking too long. I'm tired. Let's go!" he jokingly proclaimed in a recent interview with UK radio host DJ Semtex. He's been so hyped about releasing his new material that he has already been referring to it as the best album of the year.
"I feel like people know what they're gonna get from me lyrically, and if they don't, they 'bout to find out," he states boldly.
Rappers and bravado go together like Tony Montana and coke. Weighing yayo, hustling the days away and stacking piles of dirty money have always been the rapper's favored topics.
As one half of Virginia duo, The Clipse, Terrence Thornton, 35, has established a career with the help of The Neptunes and his brother, No Malice (Gene Thornton). Known for their raw rhymes over stellar production, they have become one of the most respected duos in the game.
After gaining mainstream success on Pharrell Williams' Star Trak imprint in the 2000s and surviving label drama with Jive, Pusha T announced his new home as a solo artist at G.O.O.D. Music in 2010.
Since then, his "Runaway" performance alongside Yeezy at the VMAs, strong features on G.O.O.D. Friday tracks and collaborations with 50 Cent and Rick Ross have been major platforms for allowing him to shine as an individual.
The past year was exceptionally notable for the star. Not only was Pusha featured on the highly successful Cruel Summer compilation featuring label mates Big Sean, Kid Cudi and Common, but he also laid down memorable verses on 2012's hottest song of the year, "Mercy," and Chief Keef's club banger "I Don't Like."
Now busy cooking down his official debut album, My Name Is My Name (a reference to The Wire's infamous drug lord, Marlo), his goal is to make it cohesively match Kendrick Lamar's praised good kid, m.A.A.D city.
Trips to Paris for lengthy studio sessions with Ye and beats by Swizz, Pharrell, Nottz, Rico Beats and Hudson Mohawke are sure to provide a monumental spring soundtrack. Expected to drop this May, he is anxious to share his eclectic production and compares the lyrics to an emotional roller coaster.
He elaborates, "It's the street life. The mentality of it. Family relationships where I am...about my brother not being on the second verse of my songs."
In 2012, his brother, Malice, experienced a spiritual awakening and took a Hip Hop hiatus to devote his time to Christianity. Leaving Pusha to stand on his own, he began penning a book entitled Wretched, Pitiful, Poor, Blind and Naked and changed his name to No Malice.
Born in the Bronx and hailing from VA, the siblings had enjoyed musical success together since 1992 and even formed their own label, Re-Up Records, in 2004 where they released their We Got It 4 Cheap mixtapes with Ab-Liva and Sandman as The Re-Up Gang.
Despite his brother's absence, Pusha continued to display his lyrical prowess on 2011 mixtape Fear of God and star-studded EP Fear of God II: Let Us Pray, which featured Diddy, Juicy J and Tyler, The Creator.
His most recent mixtape, Wrath of Caine, boasted quality, yet gritty production from Jake-One, B!nk and Kanye West and verses from French Montana and Wale. Recurring themes throughout his work include his criminal lifestyle complete with choppers in the closet and an "ain't nothin' more important that the mula" attitude that often leave him pleading for God's forgiveness.
After two decades of solidifying his place as king of the coke flow, the G.O.O.D. Music golden child was still left off of MTV's Hottest MCs in the Game list. The rapper notorious for dissing Lil' Wayne asserted that he deserved a spot on the countdown because he "blacked out on the (YMCMB) crew during the entire year" and also admitted he may have influenced Yeezy's radio rant with DJ Enuff in which he complained about his number seven ranking.
Regardless, his unmatched air of self-assurance leaves no doubt that he will push his passionate work ethic to the limit to land on the countdown next year.
With his braids still intact and an insatiable hunger to "feed the streets," the man fearless enough to proclaim Big Daddy Kane a greater lyricist than The God, Rakim, takes a break from his recording schedule to speak with me about his Star Trak days, Givenchy Kanye and his collaboration with Argentinian designer Marcelo Buron.
He also discusses the new Clipse album, As God As My Witness, and the Jigga slash Biggie slash Ma$e slash Raekwon inspiration behind My Name Is My Name.
Throughout the interview, his drive and determination to become recognized as one of Hip Hop's elite is definitely apparent. It is evident that he sincerely believes the world is his and that he also wants to make one thing definitely clear: When you fuck with Pusha, you're fuckin' with the best.
Andrea Aguilar: Coke is your topic of choice. What's the craziest thing you saw as a dealer?
Pusha T: Oh my gosh. Where are you going with this interview right now? (laughs)
AA: Well, I mean, you're always spitting about coke!
PT: I think more on the downside, you know, the friends and family in situations that get broken up and manipulated as well as being hurt by family members turning on them and so on and so on. I'll never understand that. That's pretty bad.
AA: You reference Scarface a lot. Is it fair to say he's one of your heroes?
PT: No. No, that was just an iconic movie. I feel like it's a story that people can relate to, and it's always about me giving two sides to the story. You know what I'm saying? People can say I glamorize the lifestyle, but I don't think so. I think I always tell the truth in regards to how it goes. I think that's a true representation even in a screenplay sense...Of course it has to be glamorized for the big screen, but I feel like in a perfect world, he would've came out the man on top and wouldn't have got killed. It's even crazier too because the reality of it is that Miami was really built off of it. That's real. Very real. There is a lot of truth to (that movie).
AA: What are some of your favorite memories from the Star Trak days?
PT: Man, my favorite memories from the Star Trak days were definitely in the studio, man. In the studio in Virginia being Virginian and looking at our idols and the people we looked up to and watching the fire and the competitive spirit of Pharrell and Chad together and trying to make records. People look at Clipse like, "Man, you have a great discography. Dope records like 'Grindin.' It's so crazy." Yeah, man, but I know how those records were derived. I know where they came from. I know that "Grindin" was made to try to beat "(It's All About) the Benjamins." People, if they knew how we used to sit in the studio with Pharrell and Chad being like, "Puffy, he gonna pass out." (laughs) Those records were made with that type of spirit.
AA: I can only imagine. Yeah, that was the best. You, Kelis and Pharrell.
PT: Yeah. It was awesome. Even the Kelis thing. Man, they were just so ahead of their time to me. All of them. I don't like to get caught up in the past. I look at it like, "Wow." We definitely were key. No pun intended.
AA: (laughs) Keys open doors...So what's up with Cruel Winter? The rumor just doesn't die.
PT: I don't know. I don't know. I'm just working on My Name Is My Name. That's what I'm focused on. That's what I'm going back to Paris to focus on. That's what Ye's got his attention on. He's working on his album simultaneously. I think he's just beginning, and I'm ending, so it works out well this way.
AA: You're doing tracks with Kanye in Paris...You have said they are "dark" and address the "heavy truth." Can you elaborate on that?
PT: I just feel like...he's produced on the album already, but there's some tweaks and things that he wants to do. A few of the records, I made this chalkboard list of all the songs and shit, and he's like, "I wanna do this. I wanna add this to this beat. I wanna make sure this beat is heavier production wise." Me and him have just been talking like our goal is to finish up a few of these records. To me, it's the funner part of the album. It's not single driven. It's like the rap, and it's the production that I wanna hear. That I think the Hip Hop Pusha T fan wants to hear. That VA production fan wants to hear this, you know what I'm saying? That menacing hardcore Hip Hop. That "New God Flow"- esque feeling.
AA: Kanye's going to be a father. Has that affected the G.O.O.D. family dynamic at all?
PT: Nah, man. Nah. I don't think so. I haven't noticed any differences. He's a lot happier. He's definitely a lot happier as an individual. You know, when we're here working and engulfed in the music and so on and so forth, you really just get focused on music and nothing else. I mean, to me personally, I feel like I'm the most human. I love music, but I've learned a long time ago don't let it consume me. I feel like it's good to see him talk about his child who's going to be born. You know, just that whole lifestyle. He's happy there's something else that's interesting that's out of the norm.
AA: So what do you think about his rants then? You say that he's happy, but he's going off at his shows all the time lately.
PT: Yeah. I just think he speaks to his fans because he doesn't do interviews, and that's why you're asking me a million questions about him. (laughs) He doesn't do interviews, so I guess rants are his way of speaking with who he wants to speak to. I think it's healthy.
AA: You collaborated recently with Marcelo Buron on a shirt. What was that like?
PT: Well, it's something he did for me personally. I wasn't creatively involved. He sent it to me saying, "Hey, do you like this?" My team and stylist, Marcus Paul, and I met these guys a long time ago. I thought, "You know what? You need to do something different from the BAPE years and all of these eras and times where I've switched clothing lines and streetwear." I wanted to do something different going into my solo project, so I got with these guys, and they've been really instrumental in helping me. Through them, they brought me Marcelo's tees, and I was like, "Wow. This shit is really dope. I really like them." This was before he really amounted to anything. I got them, and I had the "Life Is So exciting" video with Fab, and I wore them in that. I think I might've worn them a couple times before because my guys were, like, the first to have them. From there, he reached out to me via Twitter and via Instagram and was just like, "Yo, I appreciate you wearing that. You really put it together. I like it." I also have a store, and we carry the line. We just placed an order for the store who's gonna carry it. That was just another way that we connected. He has a pretty big account with The Webster in Miami, which is a pretty exclusive store. I shop there all the time. The connections were sort of endless as far as me and him go.
Actually, when I got to Paris, he came to meet me in Paris, and was like, "Yo, I did the shirt, and this is the final draft of it." I'm totally happy about them. They carry it at Barney's and at The Webster. He's just a really dope, dope, dope... I don't want to say just designer. I learned so much about him just over dinner, and he was telling me about everything that he does. He's into PR, he's a DJ, he's a creative director as well. He was showing me his (portfolio), and I was reading it , and one of the writers said, "Man, I first learned of you on Pusha T's Instagram." He was like, "Man. I just want to thank you. Thanks a lot for supporting the brand. You didn't know me, and I didn't know you." We didn't know each other or nothing like that. It was a genuine like for the product.
AA: What direction are you going to take this new album, My Name Is My Name?
PT: My Name Is My Name is going to be album of the year period point blank. That's just real shit. Listening to the album...actually lining it up, actually sitting down with it with other ears in Hip Hop. I had people in there just listening to it, man. Everyone was really happy with the direction. It's a very important part of the album. It's super hard, and that's what I feel my fan base loves me as. I'm taking my time doing a couple records, but the album as a whole...The direction to me is Hard Knock Life Volume 2 meets Life After Death - the hard record.
AA: Whoa. Wow.
PT: (laughs) Meets Ma$e Harlem World with a splash of fuckin' Purple Tape. Let me tell you something. Hard Knock Life 2 isn't my favorite Hov album. It doesn't mean it wasn't great. I didn't look at the album and say, "Damn. I want to make this my own personal best album as what I want to hear." I wanted to make my fans totally happy. I'm really on some other shit. There's a high criteria for me. People look at me like, "Damn, you came from the Neptunes' camp. You came from a group with The Clipse. Now you're solo." People don't wanna hear half produced music from me. I'm with Kanye West. People don't wanna hear that. They want to hear produced major sounding records. I feel like I orchestrated that in my picking of who I work with and so on and so forth, and I did it. I really did it fucking with The Dream, Ye, Wiz, Pharrell.
AA: Is RZA still on there?
PT: The thing is. RZA was...We had a few beats from RZA that we had coproduction from, so I think RZA's definitely gonna make the album. I have so many records from him. I know I'm not going to use all of them. I don't know if he's going to be in the coproduced joints or the ones he produced firsthand.
AA: Is Malice gonna be on it?
PT: No. That's it. No games. The Clipse brand is such a brand to me. I don't want to toy with that at all. I'm not doing that. It's a whole separate thing. We speak about it. We talk about it. We seem to be into it, but he's on his focus. I'm on my focus, so I don't want to get too deep into it. I know for sure it's going to be everything that everybody wants especially after hearing this album.
AA: Nice. So now that Malice is not about coke life is the Clipse vibe the same?
PT: Yeah. I did a record for him the other day that's incredible. When y'all hear it, I think you're gonna be like, "Oh, shit." I don't think it's a big deal. I think Malice has always been the more conscious more spiritual one. Even if you listen to his verses...if you go to Til the Casket Drops. Man, I don't even see what's the difference, but that's just how I look at it. I've watched Big Boi and Andre 3000 be total polar opposites for, like, how many years now? And we brothers, so I'm sure if y'all can accept that, then I'm sure you can accept what we're gonna do. This isn't somewhere where my brother hasn't been. He's been there. It's just a different approach.
AA: Yeah, I read that you met up with Pharrell about the new Clipse project too.
PT: Yeah. We met with him. I talked to Ye about it. Everybody's on deck. Everyone's like, "I'm down." It's basically just getting through this phase of what we're doing separately and moving on.
AA: Any other features on the solo project that you can share?
PT: Nah. Of course Ye's going to be on it. Ross, and not on "Millions." "Millions" not gonna be on my album. The only record that's going to be on my album for sure that you've heard is "Pain." The "Blocka"... that's just me and my mixtape shit.
AA: Wrath of Caine. Mixtape is nice, and I like all the different producers you chose.
PT: Listen. It's so hard. People don't even understand how hard it is for me to make this shit. It's terrible because these aren't even mixtapes I know in the era that I grew up in...These new 12 tracks are all original music. Hodgepodge shit is just not my thing, but sometimes it takes a little longer for me to do it. I'm not into disposable music. I'm not. My fans aren't either. I've gotta beg a little harder. It's hard to fuckin' ask Pharrell for a fuckin' beat and telling him I'm putting it on my mixtape or tell Kanye, "Yo. I need that beat. That's crazy. I need that on my mixtape." He's like, "What? " He looks at me like, "Are you serious?" Like, really beg for that shit. I just lie. I lied. I was like, "I'm doing it. He'll forgive me." (laughs)
AA: You had to make it happen. That sounded studio album status.
PT: It is very much so, but it just doesn't fit in the mold of my album. It is 100% Devil's Advocate. Everything is like the movie. The screenplay. Everything in Devil's Advocate is so beautiful. It has a star A-list cast. It's about the law practices and the beauty of that whole affluent lifestyle, but yet the whole underside of it is dark monsters. Bitches who look beautiful, but are monsters who will kill you and shit like that. That's the album. Beautiful production and working with this guy and that guy. The darkness of it comes from me in my verses. If you think about it, I tried to mimic that time period of all those albums that I mentioned. The Dream. R&B guys made all those records. All the Pop records. It's like the sweet and sour mixture, you know what I'm saying? The sweet and sour mixture mixed with Ye greatness. Money, cash, hoes swag. All that type of shit. (laughs)
AA: The record "Amen" with Jeezy came about because of fan demand. Have the fans still been suggesting collaborations??
PT: Aww, man! Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Hell yeah. The fans don't ever get enough of asking me to work with Jeezy, and actually, me and Jeezy are about to work together as well. Awesome shit. I don't know where it's going to land. Who else do people want to hear me with? People always want to hear me and Jay-Z on a track, but you know how that goes. That's, like, a wish list of mine. Other than that, people say they want to hear me with Kendrick on a record. This is all off of Twitter.
AA: What is G.O.O.D. planning on this year?
PT: My Name Is My Name. Hall of Fame. Big Sean. Cudi as well. Common's about to lock in too. He's about to start working on some movie shit. It's almost done. As far as everything else goes, we're just working together and all supporting each other. Just trying to get it all together.
AA: Anything else you'd like to add?
PT: Yeah. My Name Is My Name. It's going to be album of the year. I don't care what nobody say. Ain't nobody talking street shit like I am. I am me. King Push. All of that shit. Type that however you want to type that part.
AA: (laughs) I'll quote you on that.
PT: (laughs) Nah. It's great. I promise.