With the way things are going right now for Pusha T, people would be wise to take note from the title of his recent freestyle over Drake’s “Dreams Money Can Buy” , "Don't Fuck With Me" . It’s clear the Virginia Beach rapper also has things in artistic perspective; whereas his time with Clipse was spent building a lyrical repertoire that honed in on the P’s and Q’s of street life, Pusha T is expanding his brand of rap into different avenues.
This versatility is present on his upcoming project Fear Of God II: Let Us Pray, with Pusha’s collaborations ranging from Tyler, The Creator to Kevin Cossom to Juicy J, all the while bolstering a solo career that’s being aided by Hip Hop elites like Kanye West and Pharrell Williams. Hell hath no fury like a reinvigorated Thornton brother.
HipHopDX jumped on the phone with Pusha T last Thursday (October 20) to uncover the process behind Fear Of God II: Let Us Pray (Due November 8 on G.O.O.D. Music/Decon/Re-Up Gang Records) and its features, as well as what longtime fans can expect to hear on his solo debut due out early next year. Fully aware of the online aftermath caused by his freestyle “Don’t Fuck With Me,” Pusha Ton also clarifies the motivation behind the record and if in fact someone did catch his lyrical crosshairs.
Photo by Jason Goldwatch
HipHopDX: To start off, I think you’d agree with me in saying that Hip Hop in 2011 is not exactly what it was when you and Malice began in the late nineties and early 2000s. But with that said, how does Pusha T hook up with British Pop star Pixie Lott? I never saw that collaboration coming.
Pusha T: I think Pixie [Lott] was doing something a little edgier at the time for her new album, and they reached out. Pixie is large, like super-major, and it was just one of those things where I was like, damn, I’m definitely going to venture out and try my hand at it. I felt like we came up with something good and it was definitely fitting for her demographic.Pusha T Breaks Down Fear Of God II: Let Us Pray's Purpose In Retail
DX: Fear Of God II: Let Us Pray is close to a repackaged version of the mixtape that you put out earlier this year. I felt like with the first version, it had a few freestyles with you going in over different people’s beats, whereas Let Us Pray feels more complete with the tracks you included like “Changing Of The Guard” and “What Dreams Are Made Of.” So was that the original plan, to sort of switch it up and put it out in a retail format?
Pusha T: No, what really happened was I put out the original, but I kept making records. And I get a bit antsy, like me and the whole structural way of doing shit, I’m not with it. I get excited when I make records and I want to put them out and everyone was sort of fighting me on it. That’s why when shit leaks, everyone gets a little bit upset with me because they’re like, “Why did you do that?” But, in all honesty, to me it’s all about the fans and them getting the music. So this was really a chance to put everything together and make sure that we weren’t frivolously leaking records, where it’s like you can catch it on this website but not on that website. You could tangibly just go grab it, the whole body of work done in this little time period.
Fear Of God is sort of like my coming out party. People rarely see me collaborate or seen Clipse collaborate so much with different artists. I wanted to show people that I do have alliances in this game. Lyrically, it’s still street Hip Hop, but at the same time it’s something a little different than what people know me for.
DX: You were talking about it being a bit different, and aside from your dedicated fan base, I felt like there was more here for the casual fan to enjoy or get into. You have the club record “Feeling Myself” with Kevin Cossom, you have the introspective “Everything That Glitters,” and of course you got the street-laced tracks like “Amen,” “So Obvious” and “I Still Wanna.” So would you say this project was about expanding your fan base? Was that something you were conscious of in the booth at the time?
Pusha T: Not really, man. A lot of those records you see getting done are a product of me and just where I am in life right now. I’m always out. I’m always in the club now; I’m always seeing what’s going on. I’m such a fan of so many things that are going on in music, and then damn, a record like “Amen” presents itself. It’s like, how can I not take it? Or a record like “Feeling Myself” with Kevin Cossom, that’s one of the first times that I didn’t feel compromised in doing a "girl record."
For example, you have a record like “Ma, I Don’t Love Her” off Lord Willin’, and as much as I was into that record back then, I sort of attacked it as a "girl song." I know some people don’t like the record at all, and it’s a preference thing. Of course, a lot of girls do like it. But on this “Feeling Myself” record it was one of those things where I really honed in on making one of those records without treating it like ‘one of those records.’ There wasn’t anything cheap about it, lyrically it’s still cocky. Now, it’s like one of my favorite records to perform, and people wouldn’t think that with my background.
DX: Another record you did, “Trouble On My Mind” with Tyler, The Creator, I would say is arguably the best track on Let Us Pray. But in that same vein, I don’t think people fully realize how crazy it is to have a collaboration between Pusha T and Tyler. What was that recording process like?
Pusha T: It was a record that he had done with Chad [Hugo] and Pharrell [Williams]. I was already doing records with Tyler, [The Creator that] you’re gonna hear them really soon. Me, him and Hodgy [Beats]; I’m a fan of Hodgy also and just that whole movement. But I heard the record and I was like, “Tyler, what’s this?” He said, “Something I didn’t finish but it needs to be done.” I was like, “Give me that shit.” [Laughs] So I took that record and added my pieces to it. A lot of my demographic wasn’t really into Tyler like that, and a lot of his demographic might not have been that into me. I felt like we were merging the worlds when we got together on that.
DX: You mentioned there’s a track between you, Tyler and Hodgy that unfortunately didn’t make the cut for Let Us Pray, but it’s gonna be released later?
Pusha T: Yeah, that’ll probably be released in like a week or two.
DX: Now, you’re a rapper who’s very respected, and whenever you put out a track, whether it’s a single for an album or a mixtape record, people listen. I wanted to say that first and foremost. With that being said, though the song is not on the new project, your verses on “Don’t Fuck With Me” have caused a lot of commotion on the web. I think you’d agree with that.
Pusha T: Yeah.
DX: And a few individuals were referenced, one of which is believed to be Drake. Would I be correct in saying that?
Pusha T: No, you’re not.
DX: Okay –
Pusha T: Wait, what do you mean? You mean people are referencing them?
DX: No, no, no. I’m saying you referenced people on the verses.
Pusha T: Naw, I never referenced Drake. I never referenced anybody in particular on that track. Never. That’s not what happened. People have turned it into the "Drake Diss." People have taken apart the verses and started to put the lines with rappers they think are targets or whatever, and that wasn’t the case. Like, that’s not what this is at all. So I just sit back and I watch it. But it ain’t nothing to me, man.
I watched the same thing happen when Drake put out his version of it. I actually love what Drake did on it initially, that’s why I did it. And Drake said something in regards to, “My favorite rappers either lost it or they’re not alive.” And everybody was trying to put together at the time, “Man, who lost it?” or “Who are his favorite rappers?” People are getting caught up on the original and on mine and who’s calling out who. But it’s just amazing music. And just as a rapper, I’m listening to everybody getting in their cocky stance. Like when you hear my verses, that’s me saying, “Ain’t nobody fucking with me,” and I really feel like that.
I love where Hip Hop is right now because I feel like everybody’s rapping, everyone. And I don’t want people to cheapen the “Don’t Fuck With Me” freestyle and say it’s a diss to somebody like I’m sniping. I’m way too good for that. I’m way too good to do some old crazy shit, like, at least let me have an album coming out tomorrow! [Laughs] You know? Don’t do me like that, don’t cheapen my work. It was just me gettin’ in my bag, and when I say gettin’ in my bag I mean really just getting into my cocky rapper competitive spirit. I feel like everybody does it man. Like I said, I watched the same thing happen when he put his version out, so it is what it is.
DX: I completely understand that. I think the one part of the song that people latched onto when it came to the whole "Drake/Pusha T" friction was the line where you say, “The swag don’t match the sweaters.” Now, Drake has been infamous for wearing, well I wouldn’t say flamboyant, but definitely his own style of clothing. They felt that was in some way, shape or form toward Drake.
Pusha T: And that’s crazy because the last time I seen Drake he was at the Billboard Awards and wearing some type of high fashion suit. I don’t really know Drake’s dress code like that, man.
DX: So for the record, Drake was not referenced.
Pusha T: Not Drake, not Drake. Not [Lil] Wayne, I heard it was Wayne, I heard it was J. Cole. Like I heard so many different people man, I’m not shootin’ man. Matter of fact, I don’t want to shoot anybody that’s making good music, okay. The few motherfuckers who ain’t making good music, I’ll shoot them. But not the ones making good music.
DX: You said there were no shots on the track, but there’s one more person I want to bring up because apparently they felt some way about it, and that person is Ambassador Rick. Does that name ring a bell to you at all?
Pusha T: You know what, naw. That name doesn’t ring a bell to me.
DX: Okay, because he seems to think you guys have some sort of past relationship that might have gone sour, and he put out “Fake Love,” a/k/a the “Pusha T Diss” track. That means nothing to you?
Pusha T: Naw, that don’t even mean anything to me either. I’m from Virginia man, and I’m not into embarrassing my town. I’m not into that. I feel like, I feel like… [Laughs].
DX: I hear you laughing on the other side so I know something’s going on here.
Pusha T: [Laughs] I feel like this. In all honesty, we’ve come a long way in my city. And when I say my city, I really mean that. Out here, we’ve come a long way musically to be accepted by the bigger cities, the bigger Hip Hop hubs, so I’m not gonna get into anything that’s gonna be an embarrassment to my city. Everybody knows, as far as this whole Virginia thing goes, I rep this to the fullest. I’ve been doing it out here for a long, long time. I’ve been holding this place down everywhere I go. When they ask for the face of "VA," there’s a few names that they’re gonna bring up. And mine is definitely one of them.
DX: That’s a good way of putting it. Moving on, your debut album is expected to come out early next year and you’ve said that there’s been about a half a dozen records completed or at least closed to being finished. What kind of differences, if any, are you taking with this solo album compared to making a Clipse album?
Pusha T: You know what, the biggest difference that I’ve realized and recognized myself personally, is the fact that everyone looks at my brother as the introspective one, which he is. And he’s really good at that. Whereas I’ve been labeled as the braggadocios, arrogant one in the group; just outspoken, loud and brash. And I don’t think people have been giving me a chance to like…I mean, I’ve been thinking too, man. [Laughs] I have a clear perspective that’s not always arrogant or cocky. I know how to express sense a lot, and I think people are gonna see that on this debut album. I have a perspective on a lot of things, from the two sides of the street life, to my perspective on women, really anything goes. You’re gonna hear a multitude of different lanes, and it’s all cohesive.
DX: If I read correctly this album is Re-Up Gang/G.O.O.D. Music/Def Jam working all together. With that said, in the past you have dealt with label hold ups. Is that any concern of yours going in?
Pusha T: No, I can’t worry about that. All I can do is do what I’ve been doing and that’s just keeping my music flowing and having the people anticipate it. And whenever they’re not hearing an album, they need to be hearing freestyles, they need to be hearing something from me.
DX: Has a title come to mind for that project yet or are you still working that out?
Pusha T: I’m still working out the title. I feel like I’m just trying to find the perfect title, and I could have easily gone in the realm of the Clipse saga of album titles. I’ve thought of so many great ones, but I feel like this should be something different.
DX: With The Neptunes and Kanye West being obvious contributors, who else have you been working with on the production side?
DX: It sounds like you found a lot of chemistry with some of the producers you worked with on Fear Of God then.
Pusha T: Hell yeah. But you know what it is, those guys understand the foundation and the fundamentals of the streets. They give me that canvas to be able to say those things, and people hear it and understand the passion and the lyrics. Those beats are just open enough that you can enjoy it.
DX: Yeah. Also you had several features on Fear Of God and you talked about that being something you consciously wanted to do –
Pusha T: You know, it’s funny man. It’s an EP so to me I just felt like the doors were open to do whatever I choose. Like, I can do whatever I want. It was just a freedom to be able to man, and to let the world know that a lot of people have that type of respect for me musically. It was almost like they were ushering the solo project in. Like hey, we co-sign this. I really can’t even describe how simple it was. I’d be like, hey, I need a verse. “Hey [Diddy], scream on this for me real quick,” and then it’s done. I feel really blessed.
DX: So then on the feature side is that something you’ll be doing as well on the solo album or is it going to be just straight Pusha T?
Pusha T: Naw, I feel like I’ve gotten that feature bug out of my system. I feel like now, when it comes to the album, it’s gonna be where everything is super tailor-made for myself and that person. If there’s a feature or two on there, it will definitely be super fitting.
DX: Speaking on Kanye from earlier, and this will be the last question, he just recently announced a G.O.O.D. Music album will be coming out next Spring. Have there been any records done for that project that you’re aware of?
Pusha T: I did four.
DX: Can you talk about those at all?
Pusha T: I’m not really gonna say anything because I don’t know what’s gonna be kept or whatever, but I myself have been on four records.