An in-depth 2 part talk with Pusha T (@Pusha_T) on flying solo, fond memories of breaking “Grindin”, the size of Kanye’s ego, his relationships with Kanye and Pharrell, inside the creation of MDBTF, records he wishes were his, the duality of his life, the creation of his new album and what’s next for the Clipse, the growth of his audience and importance of mixtapes.
Terrance Thorton is something like a walking paradox. Known better as Pusha T, he’s a heralded Hip Hop lyricist who you can catch rocking in the club to rap purists’ pariah Soulja Boy. He’s a platinum hitmaker that’s committed to feeding the streets and internet new freestyles. The veteran Grammy nominated MC who’s getting a newcomer’s acclaim after his work on Kanye West’s latest album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Having gained respect for the literate drug game inspired anthems of The Clipse, his group with brother Malice, Pusha is now set for the solo spotlight. While on the verge of releasing one of the more anticipated solo debuts in Hip Hop on Kanye’s G.O.O.D. Music, he decided to appease his fans with 8 entirely new tracks on Fear Of God 2 on G.O.O.D. Music/Decon Records to continue the energy from his mixtape. Life might be good right now for the Virginian. And that is a welcome change.
The past couple of years haven’t been rosy to say the least. Friend and former Clipse manager Anthony “Geezy” Gonzales was sentenced to 32 years in prison after being found guilty for drug trafficking. Gonzales took the entire weight of the charges and was sentenced to the federal minimum of 32 years. Gonzales’ sentence was a heavy blow to Pusha’s inner circle. Add to that Malice’s decision to take time off to explore a career as an author along with questions of their breakup being constantly asked and you do not have the make up for easy times. Yet even with turmoil Push seems to be taking it all in stride. That cool demeanor will serve him well as his star is sure to reach new heights with his untitled debut solo album slated for a November release.
Now with G.O.O.D. Music calling Def Jam its home, Pusha might be in the precisely right place at the right time. In the first part of our two part interview he spoke via phone about how he started bleeding Celtic green, the effect of his label drama on his crew, what NBA player balls like he rhymes and his relationships with Kanye and Pharrell.
G. Valentino Ball: How does a guy from Virginia end up being a diehard Celtics fan?
Pusha T: Because I never had a team. I have been a major player supporter. I’ve always been an Allen Iverson supporter, of course. But I was always a (Kevin) Garnett supporter. By the time he came to the Celtics, it was a wrap. I was done.
G. Valentino Ball: You will get love when you come to Boston. Anybody screaming Celtics gets that.
Pusha T: (Laughs) To all my Celtics fans, we will be back. I’m not going to go on rant about the Perkins trade. I’m not going to do that today. Understand I’m with yall. I have said not one other team’s name since they been out the playoffs. Kevin Durant wears Play Cloths (The Clipse owned clothing line) all the time, I’m still just leaving it alone right now.
G. Valentino Ball: You would go in on Twitter during the playoffs.
Pusha T: I just went crazy. I would go in on two types of people, whoever was going against my team. Any of those fans, I hate those fans. That’s just that. I hate you during the series but we can be friends after. But I also hate people who say anything about music during my playoff time. I’m watching TV and you’re asking me about a fucking beat. I don’t care. That’s not the time to bother me. That’s probably why we lost.
G. Valentino Ball: Cuz you weren’t able to watch the game?
Pusha T: They (Celtics) couldn’t get my full attention. They couldn’t get my full attention. And that last game people were just being assholes. Just hitting me for no reason. But its cool.
G. Valentino Ball: So we can expect to see you at some games this season?
Pusha T: Definitely. For sure. I’m waiting to see what the season brings. Cuz we got some holes and we got to figure this shit out.
G. Valentino Ball: So since you are a player supporter, what player plays like you rap?
Pusha T: I would have to say someone like (Russell) Westbrook. I feel like he is a super threat. Super threat. Does everyone look at him as a major major threat? No. He is not the first name to come out of people’s mouth. And I feel like I’m the same way. I feel like I’m a threat but I’m still under the radar.
G. Valentino Ball: That’s interesting considering you have been signed to one of the biggest hitmakers in music. Then add what you do as MC’s. You look at the game and feel like “Yall are letting that go and we can’t rock out?”
Pusha T: Not necessarily. The funny thing about it is a lot of what people compare us too and say you guys are better than, I like it myself. I like these guys in some capacity. I’m a big go out and party guy. You will see me rocking to all of the shit. Any and everything. When it comes to Clipse, I can’t ask for more from The Neptunes. Lord Willin’, a million sold. I can’t say anything about that. When we had that lay off with the label drama and all that, I feel like that was our time to mash the gas. You come on the heels of what we just put out and we would have been good. But we never came on the heels. A few stumbling blocks. It’s been a fight back. But luckily we have had true fans who have always championed us. We had our Clipseters as we call them who kept us rocking.
G. Valentino Ball: How did that lay off touch you and the people around you?
Pusha T: I feel like that lay off had a whole lot to do with some of the incarcerated people who were part of this team. As far as my manager, I speak about shit like that on records like “Blow”. During that lay off man, things got crazy. It was about surviving. And there were repercussions to that.
G. Valentino Ball: Sounds like for you that its still tough to deal with. That’s a real sore spot for you. Do you feel almost responsible? Like a survivor’s guilt?
Pusha T: Not so much responsible. I just feel like, “Damn, man.” You bring people into this music game, right? We all came in it together. We all had the same understanding of it. We thought it was the greatest thing ever. First thing we ever put out? Platinum album. Boom! When you are new into the game you do not understand the politics of the game. And so for politics to ruin something that you are creating and you think is so great and turn it really ugly. So much so that it the thoughts are like, “OK fuck it. We know how to survive out here. And we gonna survive out here.” It’s like music has never been what’s made me. You just sort of go to where you are comfortable. And on top of that we’re not people to complain. We are doers. Like “This shit aint working out? I still have to have.” It’s a sore spot because I know that the people who are in it (the music business) with us, we weren’t trained or schooled on that part of the music game. So we learned it. Like on the job training.
The Clipse feat Pharrell – Mr Me Too
G. Valentino Ball: At this point in your career you are working less with Pharrell. People sometimes are quick to assume some kind of riff. That’s not the case, correct?
Pusha T: Never. Not at all.
G. Valentino Ball: How do you strike that balance between maintaining your friendship and relationship with Pharrell and at the same time forging this new working relationship with Kanye?
Pusha T: I think both of them start from a very genuine place. I tell people all that time I wasn’t even rapping when I met the guy. Me and him were literally riding bikes and mopeds. I wasn’t rapping. I didn’t give a fuck or care anything about rapping. My brother was rapping but my brother was with Timbaland. Pharrell was like, “Go get your brother man. Tell him to come with me.” So its like a very genuine thing with me and P. It was good because I wasn’t into music at all. I sort of bridged the gap between two worlds. (On one side you had) this super extra creative guy. And I had another set of friends who were into the world totally. We would just all clique up. Man, we were just one big happy family. There was so sitting around dreaming about music (for me). That shit just happened. Now Pharrell, he lived it. He lived music. Then with Ye, he’s a fan of the music. I see him he is rapping all of the lyrics. He is rapping all of the lyrics to Hell Hath No Fury. I would see him and he’s like “That shit was crazy!” Ye would be like, “I’ma get on ‘Kinda Like A Big Deal’ for you.” OK. “I’m hopping in the video. Let’s go.” And he’s Kanye. He can beat me up for budgets and all that. It’s never worked out that way. Then he started working on MBDTF and Ross called me like “Yo. I don’t know what you doing but you need to get out here.” Ye gets on the phone. “Yo man you know I love your shit. I think you need to come out here and be a part of this. It’s going to be great.” This just happened like this. Like I said two just very genuine relationships.
Check back for Part 2 of Killer’s talk with Pusha T. Follow us on Twitter @KillerBoomBox