Pusha T is one of the most unlikely people to be advocating for any presidential candidate, especially Hillary Clinton. He knows that and it’s not something he’s taken lightly throughout the whole process of helping the first woman to be elected to the White House. Politics are a whole new arena for a guy who was once a drug dealer in the ’90s, but it’s a space that he feels is right for him right now.
“Politicians never have tried to be next to anything edgy,” he told Vulture in a new interview, “They’ve always shunned all type of energy that could come back to haunt them. But it’s a new day.” That new day includes him rallying up support for Clinton on social media and making a big appearance with her running mate Tim Kaine recently.
He gives the credit for his change to one person: President Obama. The shift started to occur when the rapper was first summoned to Pennsylvania Ave for the “My Brother’s Keeper” program back in April and a later invite to Obama’s birthday party. The president’s words inspired him to become involved and more politically and socially active than he’s ever been. He said, “[Barack] was like, ‘Don’t just focus on the presidential candidacy. You need Congress, you need local, you need everything.’”
He continued, “He was like, ‘We really got to dial in on these other platforms.’ So hearing him say that, I was like ‘Oh, okay — bet.’ I’d never really looked at it like that. Or I was fine just leaving it up to others. But he was like, ‘We have to be on the ground level, we got to go out and talk.’”
Part of that talk for Pusha meant getting involved with the Clinton campaign with the help of Karen Civil. As a result, aligning with her also caused a lot of people to question how a guy who has spent the past decade rapping about the drug dealing lifestyle could get involved with a political family that sent a lot of street hustlers to jail in the ’90s. It’s something I, too, questioned and wondered how he could offer up his co-sign. For Pusha, the answer is multi-layered.
What has changed is he’s changed. He’s not the fresh-faced 20-year-old he was when he first entered the music game. “I’m 39 years old, man,” he said. “At some point, you have to acknowledge what’s going on in the world and what your place is in it.” For him, his new position is one he hopes fans can understand. He wants to rap about all the same drug dealing adventures as he has previously, but he also wants to be able to talk about the things that matter most to him, like criminal justice reform in conversations with Clinton and Kaine.
Above all, he decided to back Hillary Clinton because she and husband Bill admitted the 1994 crime bill did intense damage to the black community, including the lives of people very close to Pusha. “The length of time that so many of my friends have gotten, nonviolent first-time offenders for drugs, is ridiculous,” he said. “So I have a super-personal connection to that.” The Clintons admitted to their role in the legislation and she vowed to fix it. With that, he was on board to help with the presidential push.
The problem with that is rap fans have a hard time separating the person from the artist. By stumping for Clinton on hopes that she lives up the talk about change within the prison system is a big bet for Pusha. He’s risking his invaluable street cred in exchange and has to deal with people referencing her pandering to minorities using him as a puppet. By trying to become politically active so quickly and on such a large stage means he could get left looking like he got played if changes don’t occur. Furthermore, he has to understand having a foot in both worlds doesn’t cancel out anything. Since he hasn’t slowly transitioned like Jay Z, he’s offering a harder sell, similar to his brother No Malice, who left behind cocaine rhymes for more spiritual material. He’s now Pusha T, the activist.
But he’s banking on Clinton and taking her at her word. “I can’t dwell into the inner workings of her mind,” he said. “But the fact that she’s speaking on mass incarceration, I decided I’m going to support her and I’m going to make this my issue that I see through.”