Kanye West‘s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy recording sessions are the stuff of legend. Holed up in Hawaii following his controversial outburst during Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, Kanye sought to win back the public’s affection with the help of a murderer’s row of musical talent.
As detailed in Complex‘s 2010 Project Runaway story, JAY-Z, Nicki Minaj, Rick Ross, Kid Cudi, RZA, Q-Tip, Raekwon and Pete Rock were among the A-list names who joined Kanye in paradise to work on his fifth album. They indulged in lavish breakfasts, basketball games and round-the-clock studio sessions that abided by strict rules such as “no pictures,” “no tweeting” and, most importantly, “no hipster hats.”
A newly-solo Pusha T also played a key role during Kanye’s star-studded rap camp, delivering memorable verses on MBDTF standouts “Runaway” and “So Appalled” while guesting on several G.O.O.D. Fridays cuts including “Christian Dior Denim Flow,” “Looking for Trouble” and “G.O.O.D. Friday.”
But according to his longtime manager Steven Victor, the Virginia Beach MC almost quit those Hawaii sessions and never came back. In the latest episode of Noah Callahan-Bever’s YouTube series, IDEA GENERATION, Victor revealed Pusha T at one point refused to return to Honolulu out of frustration over Kanye’s slow pace of recording.
“Rick Ross called Pusha and was like, ‘Yo, I’m in Hawaii with Kanye. He wants you to come out to Hawaii and work on his album with him,'” he recalled. “There’d be periods where we would be in Hawaii for like two or three weeks and no work would be getting done. So for someone like Pusha, it’s like, ‘What is this? This doesn’t make sense.’
“We were supposed to go out there one time and he was like, ‘Tsk. I’m not going, man. This ain’t it.’ I was like, ‘Nah, we have to go! [Kanye’s] process is his process.’ He was like, ‘I’m not going.'”
Looking to figure out a solution, Steven Victor boarded a flight to Hawaii without Pusha T. After landing, he bumped into Kanye West while buying essentials in the early hours of the morning.
“I’m walking across the street and there’s a car flying down the road and I’m like, ‘Who’s this?’ Zoom!” Victor said. “And then I’m like, ‘Fuck! That looks like Kanye’s car!’ The car brakes and starts reversing and I’m like, ‘There’s no way this is this dude, right?’
“He brakes up and he’s like, ‘Oh, hey man. Where you going?’ I’m like, ‘Back to my room.’ He’s like, ‘Where’s Pusha?’ I’m like, ‘Aww man, he’s on a flight. He’ll be here tomorrow.’ And he’s like, ‘Oh, why’s he not here?’ I’m like, ‘He has a stomach virus. He’ll be here tomorrow.’ He’s like, ‘Oh, cool! We’re playing basketball; you want to come?'”
It was during their car ride on the way home from basketball that Steven Victor and Kanye West hatched a plan to sign Pusha T to Kanye’s G.O.O.D. Music imprint.
“We’re talking and he’s asking me questions about the Clipse and so on and so forth,” he said. “I’m like, ‘Yo, we should X, Y, Z.’ And he’s like, ‘That’s a great idea.’ So I get back and I call Pusha and I’m like, ‘Yo, I just had this conversation with Kanye. Ye wants you to come out here ASAP so we can figure this out.'”
G.O.O.D. Music had competition from other labels for Pusha T’s signature, especially after news of him working with Kanye in Hawaii spread. But for Victor, G.O.O.D. Music was the best deal on the table.
“There was more to it because someone else was trying to sign Pusha,” he said. “Pusha was taking it more seriously than I was, because for me, I was like, ‘Ok, that makes sense financially. But creatively and long-term, I think this makes way more sense.'”
Pusha T has since released six projects on G.O.O.D. Music — including 2018’s Kanye-produced, Grammy-nominated DAYTONA — before being appointed the label’s president in 2015. Victor also joined G.O.O.D. Music as Chief Operating Officer, signing acts such as Desiigner, 070 Shake and Valee.
During his own interview with Noah Callahan-Bever in 2017, Pusha T revealed he originally had more than half a dozen verses on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
“[Kanye] was like, ‘I like how you rap. You can write to anything on this album. If it’s great, it’s great. If it’s not, it’s not. But, you know, you can have it all here. Take it,'” he said.
“So all of these records, I am writing verses for … It got to the point once I realized that he was really letting me do what I want, write to his whole album, to everything I thought was great, I skipped basketball every day, I stopped eating breakfast with everybody.
“That turned into seven verses, which got trimmed down to two: ‘Runaway’ and ‘So Appalled.’ Which was fine; two outta seven is great.”
On the album’s sixth anniversary in November 2016, Pusha T shared a heartfelt Instagram message thanking Kanye for the life-changing opportunity while reflecting on his experience working on “one of the greatest Hip Hop albums ever.”
“Thinking back on it, it really was all a set up,” he wrote. “You were setting me up to be the solo artist I never saw myself as. So on the 6th anniversary of MBDTF and as the President of your label G.O.O.D. music I wanna say thanx for the endless opportunities you have brought me.”
Revisit My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy below.