Seemingly low first-week sales, and a mixed reception from critics, hasn’t deterred one-half of the Thornton brothers, Pusha T, from touting the inarguably impressive performance of his big brother Malice throughout Clipse’s new album, Til The Casket Drops.
“That was good!,” Pusha exclaimed to HipHopDX recently when Malice’s clever quip regarding the business of music and its affect on Hip Hop from TTCD selection “Showing Out” was recited back to him. “That was so fuckin’ good I was pissed! I was pissed. ‘Common loved her, I wish I never met her / They slutted her out, it’s nothing left to treasure.’ I was sick! When he said that – Yo, sometimes when we be like putting down these verses…Like I don’t hear what he does, he don’t hear what I do. He’ll go somewhere and write, I go somewhere and write. Boom, we come back, we drop it. Dog! When he said that I was so tight! And you know you can’t go back and rewrite. You can, but ya know, that ain’t fair. But I was so tight! I was pissed.”
Echoing a similar sentiment of disdain for the game, Pusha himself shines brightly on the opening track from the twosome’s first post-Jive Records release, the appropriately-titled “Freedom” . Prior to declaring that his “critics finally have a verse of mine to jerk off to,” the younger Thornton laments that music for him has become a “self-made prison” that’s “poison to family and friendships.”
“I’ve lost friends behind it, I’ve lost love behind it, family’s been torn behind it,” Pusha explained of his arousing verse. “The business of it isn’t always the friendliest… I just feel like that the music business puts a strain and has put a strain on relationships, a ton of relationships of mine.”
Clipse’s critics are sure to be excited to learn the meaning behind Pusha’s eyebrow-raising remark on “Freedom” regarding the industry’s affect on him: “Pompous muthafucka, just look what them Jews made me.” Even with brother Malice’s previous observation on the stellar steel-pan drum driven single “Wamp Wamp (What It Do)” from the group’s critically-acclaimed sophomore outing, 2006’s Hell Hath No Fury, that his wamp wamp “cools to a tight wad, the Pyrex is Jewish,” Pusha insisted in his discussion with DX that the duo is clearly just engaging in clever wordplay and refute any suggestion that Clipse is Anti-Semitic.
“You know what it is?,” Pusha asked rhetorically. “Everybody’s like so – It’s so funny how everybody gets so uptight about this racial stuff. Like, damn man, do you understand what just happened with us and Obama’s Fried Chicken? Did you hear about that?”
Controversy engulfed Clipse recently for choosing the location of the in-the-news restaurant in Brooklyn as the backdrop for the video to their standout new single “Popular Demand (Popeyes).”
“It’s fuckin’ crazy!,” Pusha decried of the hubbub. “And all it is - To me, Obama’s Fried Chicken was nothing racist about that, it’s just the fact that he was elected President and in celebration that chicken shack or whatever it was changed its name to that. Whoopty-fuckin’-do. But [it’s] the same thing [as the ‘Jews made me’ line]. Jewish people, I mean, like they don’t run the record industry? Like what, I can’t say that? I mean, I don’t know that a lot of…ya know, c’mon! It’s their business!”
Pusha clarified his position and added, “But it’s like yo, look what they made me. And I’m saying that I’m – It’s like pompous, like yo they have created…I’m in this industry and they’ve created me and this industry and look how arrogant I am. Like you sorta gotta take it in the whole context of the – not just that one line, you gotta sorta take the full [line] before it and the two after it. But it wasn’t a swipe at Jewish people, man. I love Jewish people.”
While Pusha’s “Freedom” lines are currently courting attention, it’s Malice’s grown-man musings on Til The Casket Drops that are sure to peak the interest of listeners for years to come, maybe most notably Mal’s admission on the aforementioned “Popular Demand (Popeyes)” that the elder Thornton brother is responsible for the affect his words have on Clipse’s youngest fans: “I fathered this / If I misled any kid that’s fatherless /That burden’s on my soul as long as I exist.”
“Generation lost,” picked up Pusha after having that line from arguably the most powerful rhyme of ’09 recited back to him, “They saying they can’t teach us / The answer’s in the Lord like ‘Saturday Night Fever!’ Now, hold on, because ain’t nobody said that line [back] to me yet. How do you not mention ‘The answer’s in the Lord…’ When you see John Travolta what is he doing in that movie? He’s pointing to the sky in that suit. ‘The answer’s in the Lord like Saturday Night Fever. Tell them boys get the line, understand the line. It’s like, he’s phenomenal! Yeah he blacked out, [Malice] blacked out on that [one] too.”
But does the younger, and at times less pensive penman, share his brother’s feeling that Clipse are personally responsible for the affect of the coke raps on the young and impressionable?
“Yeah I feel like we definitely were very [influential] to the resurgence – ‘cause [there’s] always been street Hip Hop,” Pusha replied when asked. “It started in the streets. Trust me, Melle Mel, I’m not trying to take any credit or anything away from any of these guys who pioneered this, I’m just saying that we definitely started the resurgence with ‘Grindin’,’ with that type of honesty, with sitting on police cars counting money in the hood, [but]like it was a bit much. I definitely feel like I have a responsibility to, if nothing else, tell both sides of the story. And that’s it. Like, I’m not saying I can save a kid or save anybody. I don’t know what I can do. I know that you’re not just gonna hear me say, ‘I got the hoe, I got the bitch, I got the money, I got the car, I got the jewelry,’ without telling you that, ‘They took my family in ’09 / Let’s slow grind / When the time’s given we’ll unveil the goldmine.’ Like I’ma tell you, you gon’ know, I lost and I won.”
Poignant poems from responsible reality rhymers doesn’t seem to be enough though to satisfy some observers of the Virginia duo. When asked about the mostly critical review of Til The Casket Drops that was included in the December 2009 issue of Spin magazine, Pusha was both accepting and admonishing of the critique of Clipse’s sonic makeover.
“I mean, I think so,” he said in agreement with writer Thomas Golianopoulos’ overall impression of TTCD as being a decidedly more commercially-accessible effort. “I think the record has that, but you gotta remember though, who is this Spin guy, number one? And number two, this is the same guy…and the people who think like that, they don’t wanna hear us do nothing! They want a album of twelve ‘Keys Open Doors.’ That’s what they want from [us]! I can’t do that every time. So I’m sorry. I’m sorry Spin magazine.”
“And if I could do that again,” he added, “I would probably really be in jail. That’s the difference between me and the rapper that they love. Because the truth of the matter is, our shit be a little bit realer than everybody else’s. So they might wanna be happy that I am in a different space. ‘Cause it take us – Dog, we listened to Hell Hath No Fury, me and my boys listened to it, and they say things to me that I’m not gonna say in this interview, but they say things like, ‘Yo, you know I forgot you really rapped back then.’ [Laughs] They tell me they forgot I was rapping! That’s how different – That’s the difference between – Can’t no Spin man tell me nothin’.”
The “startling” shift in direction from Clipse’s stoic sophomore full-length and its off-kilter soundscapes that’s referred to in the Spin review was punctuated by the summation that “Breezier doesn’t always equal better.”
One observation Pusha doesn’t dispute in Mr. Golianopoulous’ review of Clipse’s new album is that, “Throughout, older brother gets the best of his carefree little sibling.”
“I can go for that!,” Pusha jubilantly conceded. “Fuck it! Listen man – You know what it is? That’s always a running competition. There’s always a [debate like], ‘Oh shit, Pusha’s better than Malice, Malice is better than Pusha.’ There’s always a fuckin’ – One guy listens to it and he hears A, another guy listens to it and he hears B. I personally feel like Malice came so fuckin’ correct on the album, but I think the album was – this is his album. This album was like this redemption, this fuckin’ – Ah, you know how he just gets deep on you sometimes? And he just gives you this like perspective? And then he’s so wicked with it that he’ll tell you how he sends mixed messages while talking about something else. Like, he’s wicked with it. But I think, ya know, hey man, I appreciate [the accolades he’s receiving]. Ain’t nothing like losing to your brother. I can lose to him anytime.”
Til The Casket Drops is available now in stores and online from Columbia Records.