In part 2 of our talk with Pusha T (@Pusha_T) he goes in on Ye’s creative generosity, the power of mixtapes, records he wishes were in his catalog, the creation of his new album and what’s next for the Clipse. Check part one out HERE
G. Valentino Ball: When you got that call what was your expectation?
Pusha T: I didn’t know. I had no idea. I’m thinking I would go out there, we’ll do a record and I’ll come back home. Man it was nothing like that. I get out there. He starts telling me his vision then I’m like wait a minute. Then he is like “What do you wanna do?” He just let me hear records. So I’m like “I really like that.” He’s like, “Cool. Get on it.” I’m thinking to myself, this could be the biggest record and you’re telling me to pick what I want to pick? There are records on that album that I felt were like huge reords and “Runaway” was one of them. He was just so free. Just like, “Go. I don’t care.” The Hip Hop guy in me heard “ I’m So Appalled” and I have to lay a verse to this. He is like “Go!”. It was just a lot of records. “Blame Game”, that one never came out. “Lost In A World”. He just let me have my free will with these records. I’ve never seen anything like it. I would be like “How many bars?”. He says, “Who cares? I don’t know. Just go. It could be 7 bars. Just go.”. I’m listening to Ross on the intro of a record for like no apparent reason. You dig what I’m saying? It was the most unselfish album I had ever heard of in my life.
G. Valentino Ball: Considering the public perception of Kanye of him being an egomaniac that would strike some as a big surprise.
Pusha T: They don’t get it. People are so wrong that it’s hilarious. They don’t even understand this guy. He’s so unselfish. You know what it is? Kanye’s truth is just not everybody’s truth. And he speaks his truth. Period. You might not agree with his truth but you better damn well know that he believes and stands behind his truth. All that ego shit and all that…. If knowing what you want and standing behind what you believe in is an egomaniac then a lot of people are guilty of that shit.
Kanye West feat Pusha T – Runaway
The Clipse feat Kanye West – Kinda Like A Big Deal
G. Valentino Ball: You have always had the hood and the hipsters on your side as you have gone through it though. When you look at your audience, does it surprise you who’s rocking with you?
Pusha T: It used to. I remember one show in particular. NYC. The Knitting Factory. We Got It For Cheap mixtape volume 2. We did the mixtape and come up for the show. It’s sold out. I mean I was stunned. That made a lot of things happen. It made me say I want to start a clothing line. I was like this shit is so amazing right now. You have to think when we came out with Lord Willin’, I did like every $3000 – $5000 show for every drug dealer in America. Actually not Lord Willin’. When we came out with the record “Grindin”. I did every $3000 to $5000 show for every drug dealer in America. The record took nine months to break. Before that nine month period was over I was in every ghetto in America. Whoever had the money within that ghetto brought me to their neighborhood. I used to go to some places and put on a bullet proof vest. We’d go to some clubs and they had a deadly shooting the weekend before. So my crowd was ghetto. Period. So when I go to the Knitting Factory and see a sea of white kids, pointing at me saying, “Oh my God. You have on the Bathing Ape General Jacket. They only made 4 of those.” Now I don’t know they only made 4 of them. I have no clue. The shit just comes to my house every day. Boxes of the shit every day. Even with NERD, it’s like I’m entrenched in this but I’m affiliated with this. But still it just didn’t cross. It had a lot to do with the mixtapes, the press, internet buzz. All of that just switched my whole demographic over.
The Clipse – Grindin
G. Valentino Ball: During that “Grindin” period you were just rapping for whoever was poppin in that area and his crew.
Pusha T: He understood it. I would go in some places some nights and I would swear it would just be a neighborhood. And when I say a neighborhood I mean its only going to be 50 people in there. And that 50 is slapping each other five saying aw yeah that’s my shit. Saying, “I love that line when you say 4 and a half will get you in the game.” We go to Detroit and they screaming, “What you got it for 12? We got it for 11 over here. You aint grinding. HAHA”. It was the wildest. The people who realted to that record was the wildest part. I’ve never seen anything like that.
G. Valentino Ball: But you have always seemed to have been in two worlds considering the rawness of your content mixed with being next to the Neptunes’ hit making. You lived in all these world. One day you are at a fashion show in Paris the next you are in the middle of Detroit.
Pusha T: Oh yea. I’m in the middle of the ghetto of Detroit or I’m in Tokyo with Nigo. I go from Detroit to getting on a plane to see a man who has a clothing line and has created his own world. I’m sitting in a camouflage Rolls Royces. There is nothing but diamonds every where and this man is giving me any and everything to come perform. Then I come back to performing on the VMA’s with Justin Timberlake to do “Like I Love You”. There was not one world that wasn’t crossed into during that time. I’m over here with the pop kids. I’m over here in the gutter and I’m over here with this street wear fashion culture that’s exploding.
Clinton Sparks feat The Clipse and Pharrell
G. Valentino Ball: Your history with mixtapes has been incredible. What was the importance of the We Got It For Cheap series and even now with the Fear Of God for you?
Pusha T: Mixtapes are the things that kept us alive. There was a certain level of thought, a certain level of artistry that always went into the mixtapes. With me, the mixtape is everything. You can see it now. I’m shooting videos for everything on the mixtape. I don’t care. It all means that much to me. I want you to see it that much and I want you to really understand it. I don’t know any other way to look at it. The mixtape is the core. It’s the foundation of Hip Hop. It’s where the talk begins. And you don’t want to talk to end there.
G. Valentino Ball: Part of what made those special was your ability to take over songs. Even now there are people who hear those beats and think of your verses.
Pusha T: See that’s how we can up on mixtapes. What has pained me more than anything else with this Fear Of God thing, is when I hear somebody tell me there are too many freestyles on the fucking tape. It makes me want to cringe. Like, “What era did you grow up in? Where were you at?”. My mom would send me to the store. I’m not supposed to be driving the car by myself. I would go to the store and get whatever she wants from the store then I’m driving to Norfolk (Virginia). I’m going to Norfolk State and I’m getting a DJ Clue tape from off the bootlegger. Period. On that mixtape I’m listening to the Lox, I’m gonna hear Jay Z rapping over “The Symphony”, I’m hearing Foxy and I’m hearing Nas rap over a throwback Boogie Down Production beat. That’s what’s on my mixtapes. I don’t know what mixtapes everyone else got. Within that mixtape I’m gonna hear two exclusives. And then I’m going to watch BET or MTV or whatever and see that DJ Clue got beef because he played the exclusive and Puffy wants to beat him up and kill him. That’s what I know. That’s the mixtape world. This new shit? This I will give you 25 records that are throw away records and call it a mixtape and you are supposed to be satisfied? That’s bullshit. 25 original records that are subpar. That’s not a mixtape to me. That’s not hot. Some people get it right. A lot of people don’t. So when someone tells me, “You got too many freestyles on your shit”. No, no, no. We are from different schools, sir. I’m not from what you from. I’m from something else. Mixtapes for me were about competition. For me there was nothing like hearing Jay Z rap over “The Symphony”. Or hearing Big rap over somebody else’s shit. Cuz they were all competing.
Pusha T x Kanye West – Funkmaster Flex/Hot 97 Freestyle
G. Valentino Ball: OK so that opens up the door. There seems to be a resurgence of lyricists in the forefront of the game. Who are you competing with?
Pusha T: I feel like competition is everyone. All the guys I listen to in my car. I sit down and say to myself, “God damn I wish I made ‘Killin Em’ by Fab.” Pisses me off to no end. I wish I made “Mafia Music” by Ross. I wish I made “Can’t Tell Me Nothin”. I have a Jay Z catalogue. I wish I made “Money, Cash, Hoes”. I wish I made “Allure”. (Laughs) I remade Bun B’s “Cook It Down” because I wished I was on the original. I listen to these guys and I’m striving. I’m striving for those kinds of records in all different capacities. When I say I wish I made “You Be Killin Em”, dog I wish I made a COUPLE of records Fab made. I look at the energy that people have with it and I love it. I wish I could add “Mafia Music” to “Mama I’m So Sorry” and “Keys Open Doors” that would fit perfectly.
Pusha T – Cook It Down
G. Valentino Ball: Given that that’s your thought process, what are you looking at for your new album? What’s the title by the way?
Pusha T: We don’t have it yet. We don’t have the title and we don’t have the art work. I was just talking about that yesterday. I don’t know. I’m like 5 in. 5 that I love but I still cant find a title.
G. Valentino Ball: Is the theme of the album starting to reveal itself from that 5?
Pusha T: Of course it’s the street. But I fucked around and made a record called “I Could Have Died” and the verse is about regretting an abortion. I don’t know where this shit is coming from. I can’t wait to hear the critics now. Like I said, I’m around new energy. I’m pulling from different places now. That’s not a record that you would out of the blue think you would hear that from me. I can’t even give up too much man. That might have been too much. When we talk about this we talk about it like its in a black box. I don’t even get to take the records home.
G. Valentino Ball: You can’t take your own stuff home?
Pusha T: I can’t take my own records home. I don’t get to take my records home. I leave my records there. I come back and my records are different. Musically. His music process is different. When I work with Pharrell I come in and the beats done, hook is there. I put the verse on it. Pretty much that’s how it is. My shit with Kanye? I lay verses to skeletons. He’ll be like do you like this beat? I love it but the part that I love is this. He tells the engineer take 8 bars of this and loop it and let him rap over that cause he loves that. Now that might have been the hook of the song but it doesn’t matter. He’s like do that. That’s what you love so you go with that. Now when I leave, now he starts constructing because he feels like he got the best cuz that’s the part that I love the most. When I come back, I’m not going to recognize the song until my voice comes on. Beat drops. Oh shit what’s this? Then my voice comes on.
G. Valentino Ball: So there has to be a lot of trust to create like that.
Pusha T: Oh Yeah. DJ Clark Kent. He is one of the guys that I call up & say listen to this verse and leave it on his answering machine. He’ll call me back like “Oh my God, what’s wrong with you?”. Clark is one of those guys for me. Clark is the person that told me that you don’t need to do anything but rap. That was music to my ears because I’m lazy. (Laughs) I don’t want to be a part of the production process cause I’m not even a production guy. I’m not that good of a production ear. I pride myself in my pen. Luckily I have been blessed to deal with producers. I will take a verse, leave it with Kanye and sleep very fucking good at night. I would do the same with Pharrell. Whatever is going to happen by tomorrow is going to be better than what just happened. That’s what they do. The trust thing? Like who wouldn’t trust this guy? You cant act like his body of work is some weak shit. Like if I’m going to be comfortable and turn my back I’m going to definitely turn my back on him. (Laughs)
Pusha T – Can I Live
G. Valentino Ball: You working on a solo project naturally sparks questions about you and your brother. Especially with his writing his book. You say the line “Malice found religion.” How do you make a Clipse record given where he may be at mentally and make the Clipse record that people are hoping for?
Pusha T: Malice is that good. First off, Malice has always been the more conscious of the two. Always been the one who delves a little deeper. Me I’m going to punch line you, be really brash, whatever. Malice has always said something deeper that took a little more thought. Or a perspective that was a little more thoughtful and grown up. So I have no worries about anything like that. He calls me and says I’m ready to start long live the caine. You are? You ready? Then Liva is like “He’s ready to do Long Live The Caine. I hope you ready. You know how he do.” He’s not gonna sit in the studio with us. He’s not going to do none of that. He’s going to have beats. He’s going to lay those fucking verses then be like ok now yall catch me. (Laughs) it’s a process. Malice is in his own world and that’s just what it is. But he is amazing with his world. He will thrust his world upon you and you have to be great and play catch up.
G. Valentino Ball: At the end of the “Blow” video, I saw the “Long Live The Caine” coming soon. Whats the story with that?
Pusha T: My whole thing is while I’m doing this and Malice is doing that, we keep the Re-Up Gang brand alive and kicking. That’s a way for Liva Don to be heard. Ab-Liva, whatever you want to call him. I have a few names for him (Laughs). And a few new artists too.
G. Valentino Ball: Who we talking because anyone with you has a certain expectation.
Pusha T: Its two really good ones. Just paperwork wise I can really say. But they are good.
G. Valentino Ball: At this stage in the game people would expect that you would be looking to bring people under your wing. Did that ever occur to you when the idea of going with G.O.O.D. Music came up?
Pusha T: It was just a great opportunity. Plus anyone involved with knows that I’m going to do my own thing anyway. Just point me in the direction and you don’t gotta bother with me. I feel like I have my own thing going on anyway to an extent. Not to the extent that I would fool myself and say I am in the position to flagship everything cause I’m not. Comparing what I could do on my own to what a good music could do. Naw I couldn’t do that.
G. Valentino Ball: Who’s producing? Kanye is executive producing. Is Kanye producing the whole thing?
Pusha T: I got some records from him already. I got some records from Bink Dog actually. I got some from Hit Boy. I’m going in with Pharrell as well. Some joints with Bangaladesh. That’s where I am right now. I mean Ye is really putting on his executive producer hat on so I’m not going to know until we have that sitdown.
G. Valentino Ball: Great title by the way. I feel like some cats will miss it.
Pusha T: Yeah I felt like it was a great play on words. It’s the best of both worlds. The whole Big Daddy Kane thing. One of the best rappers in Hip Hop.
G. Valentino Ball: Now if you get Kane on it that would be a crazy.
Pusha T: (Laughs) That would be amazing, right?