It feels like ages ago that brothers Terrence and Gene Thornton–better known by their monikers Pusha T and Malice–released their fourth and final LP as The Clipse, Til The Casket Drops. How long ago was that? Only three years. But in that time the two brothers have gone distinctly different paths, with the younger, brasher Pusha T branching out to a blossoming solo career with Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music label and the well-received Fear of God mixtape/EP projects.
It’s really only been three years, but Pusha’s career trajectory has truly changed. He sat down with us to discuss where specifically that’s led him since he and Malice went on hiatus, and where it’s going to surge onto. He also let on about subliminal disses, his role on G.O.O.D. Music, why he’s not that much of a fan of the Celtics anymore and, oh yeah, his thoughts on that little election that’s happening on November 6.
TSS: Alright, first things first: let’s talk about this single. What were you trying to convey in the “Pain” record?
Pusha T: Oh man. Well first of all I wanna let everybody know that “Pain” is the first official single off my solo album and the basic premise of the whole record is in the hook: I don’t ever feel pain, cuz I done felt too much pain. It’s about being in the streets and embracing all the ills and rolling with the punches and being deep in negativity but you don’t even view it as such because you’re so locked in the lifestyle.
TSS: Gotcha. You’re a veteran in the game, of course you’ve got an excellent track record with the Clipse, but this is your first solo outing. How would you say this one differs from your previous ventures with your brother and with G.O.O.D. Music, and even from your earlier EP and mixtape?
Pusha T: I’d have to say that musically this has been more aligned with a whole host of producers, whereas usually I like to lock in with one producer. Just the task of making it sound like one theme with everybody involved, it was a bit of a challenge. Usually it’s not that hard of a situation. I’d have to say that also not being with my brother there’s a second role I have to take on.
I’ve never been much of a consequential thinker, not that I can’t think that way but my brother has always taken on that role. He’s always had the more consequential rhymes and I’ve always been the more brash and the more articulate, direct and ignorant where my brother is the more thought-out one. So to appease that fan I had to tap into that a lot and that makes it a bit tougher.
TSS: All of G.O.O.D. Music’s releases have sold very well, dating back to almost ten years ago. Do you think that your album can follow those commercial footsteps, despite the fact that your music is usually darker in sound and content?
Pusha T: Oh yeah. I definitely think my project will follow those steps simply because we’re selling an album and we’re selling a lifestyle. We’re not selling Slinkies, man. I believe that even amongst my peers, my peers move units. A lot of my peers, even the ones who do something comparable or parallel to what I do. I think the sky’s the limit.
TSS: [Laughs] If there’s one element about G.O.O.D. Music that you can bottle up and store and use for the rest of your career, what would it be?
Pusha T: The attention to detail. The attention to detail over there is really serious. And sometimes, just when I think we’re going overboard about something, you’ll see the finished product and you’re like, man, I’m so glad we took that last step. But once again that is me in rapper mode. Me in rapper mode, and me being hasty versus just dealing with the life of being the executive producer of the project. So it’s way more detailed in regards to the G.O.O.D. Music brand.
TSS: Now, speaking strictly as a fan, your past two projects, The Fear of God mixtape and EP were both fantastic. They sound like you’ve almost recaptured some element in your music. Would you agree with that statement, and if so what would that element be?
Pusha T: Hmm, recaptured some element from what?
TSS: Let me clarify. I thought you sounded so hungry, like you want it and will tear somebody apart in your rhymes. It’s a real throwback sound to the days before you ‘made it’ per se.
Pusha T: My newfound hunger and my newfound attack of the game is simply because I’m around a host of creative brains and it’s about winning. I can’t be beat. I’m the newest one in G.O.O.D. Music. Who am I to come and not try to raise the bar, especially with all the talent around me. You gotta fight for spots, man.
TSS: Gotcha, that’s dope. It’s always great to see peers pushing each other along and bringing out the best in each other. Let’s shift gears a little bit and talk about the sound of the new project. Who are we looking at in terms of features and producers?
Pusha T: I’ve been working with Kanye, of course. The Dream, of course. Rico Beats, he did some work too. Swizz Beatz. Pharrell. I got a record with Young Chop. That’s on the production end.
TSS: Do we have a title for the album yet?
Pusha T: No, no title yet, but we’re almost there. I’ve also done a couple records with Chris Brown on the album. Chris definitely stepped into my world for them. You’re gonna see a much darker side of Chris Brown on the album. I got a record with Ross that’s gonna be a fan favorite. I haven’t focused on features so much but I’m sure there will probably be a couple more.
TSS: Between Nas’ album this year and Phonte’s last year, Hip-Hop seems to be taking a turn towards more mature subject-matter as our pioneers get older. Does your project incorporate some of those kinds of themes as well?
Pusha T: I feel like my rhymes are pretty mature.
TSS: Don’t get me wrong, I mean it in the sense that guys like Nas, Kanye and Jay are now rapping about their daughters and to their unborn kids on projects like Life Is Good and Watch The Throne.
Pusha T: Oh yeah, I think that only comes with age, man. If someone shows their maturity through their children or through their relationships it’s because your attitude is changing. And that reflects from one album to another.
TSS: How would you say your career has changed since you signed to G.O.O.D. Music and how does it compare to when you were on Star Trak?
Pusha T: See, I don’t know. I’m with one of the hottest producers in the game now, and I was with one of the hottest producers in the game then. And that’s just real talk. Wasn’t nobody hotter than Pharrell then and ain’t nobody hotter than ‘Ye right now. And of course, by association, you have all eyes on you because of that but I’ve seen it all before. I’m just grateful that I’m here.
TSS: Do you see a specific role for you at G.O.O.D. Music? The reason I ask is because on “New God Flow,” your verses came off to me as kind of carving you as the soldier of the label. The enforcer almost. Like you’re the guy people have to deal with if they come messing around. Would that be an accurate conclusion to come to?
Pusha T: That’s what I think you should’ve gotten out of it. Just to set the stage for that record, I only write on what’s personal to me. There was actually a Birdman interview, I forget what article it was for, where he was saying Kanye does his thing, but G.O.O.D. Music ain’t all that and yada yada. But what I’m saying is no one is exempt. The same way that people talk, I am going to talk. I’m not one to be talked about and I’m not one to be put in a mix of your comments and then let them not be responded to.
TSS: Slight understatement.
Pusha T: And I put words together really well. I just want people to understand: don’t play. You can play, but just know who you’re playing with. And the thing is that’s a conversation I never even had with ‘Ye. There’s not really a whole lot of imagination that goes on. It’s like if you vibe into a certain emotion or time period or specific instance, you have to tap into all of that. And it’s annoying when people do it through interviews versus doing it through music because I feel like this is a creative sport. I don’t even have ill-will towards anybody.
I don’t even hate these people. This is just about who can be the most creative through music. Outside of music, I don’t care. I just feel like I hate when people have interviews where they say terrible things or snide things when musically you’re not even good. You don’t even make good music.
TSS: Alright, as we wrap up this interview I want to pick your brain on a few random topics. I know that you’re a Celtics fan. Do you have any thoughts on Ray Allen going to Miami?
Pusha T: I don’t watch basketball anymore.
TSS: Word? Why not?
Pusha T: Basketball is like musical chairs and it’s cheap.
Pusha T: And let me clarify. It’s not that I don’t like it or I don’t watch it anymore. I only watch it now for the sport of it. I’m not a passionate franchise person like I once was. The musical chairs and the lack of honor and the lack of teams sticking together and sticking it out.
TSS: Lack of loyalty?
Pusha T: Yeah, lack of loyalty. I don’t really understand it. Like, you can’t tell my father anything about the Magic-era Lakers. Magic, Worthy. They stuck together and they had such a passion that you couldn’t question who the leader was. And now it’s like people leaving even after they get winning records with teams. Like we getting to the playoffs and we out. And we already got rings with these same guys. I can’t watch that. Like I said, not that I can’t watch it, I just don’t watch it the same passion for a franchise.
TSS: We got a big election coming up. How involved are you in politics and what do you think about Obama and Romney?
Pusha T: I feel like the election’s gonna be great. I feel like Obama is definitely the man and the man we should be putting in office again. I feel like the fact that Romney is even being considered with all of his evasiveness and his tax past and his background and his history and family stuff. I think it says a lot, like why are we even considering this man? I think it’s a testament to how classy Obama has been. He could really dig into all of Romney’s policies but he hasn’t. I think Obama has been very tasteful, when others would not have been at all.
TSS: Tell me about that Kanye “White Dress” record and that soul sample that he used. Do you think that sound is gonna make a comeback or it just a flash in the pan?
Pusha T: I don’t think it necessarily went anywhere. Especially when ‘Ye does it, that shit is like sliced bread. That shit don’t die. You want to hear it, but you want to hear it done right. But there are only a few people who can do it right.
TSS: Alright, last question: are we ever gonna hear another Clipse album anytime soon?
Pusha T: Aw man, I’m totally with it. Me and my brother discuss it. He’s been down with it. It’s just about when he’s ready. Right now I’m focused on my solo project, but after that I’m totally open to it. I’d love to work with my brother again and I think we’re definitely gonna have another one. I’m sure of it.