Pusha T doesn’t have any time to waste. He knows all too well that none of this lasts forever. Though he’s been resurrected as a solo artist by the G.O.O.D. Music family, P has lost a lot along the way. He’s enjoying the fruits of his labor, yes, but at what cost? He started out chasing the hip-hop dream with a cast of friends and of course his brother. These days, his day-to-day support system comes mostly from phone calls.
“When it’s over, it’s over, and we can look at each other like, 'We had a run!’ But I ain’t going to cut the run short if we eating off me right now,” Pusha tells VIBE about his current success. “When it’s all over, we can just give ourselves a round of applause and have no regrets.”
The Virginia hustler only plays the game on his own terms, but to those that know the real Pusha T, his attitude is why he’s loved in the streets. “Terrence really be out here. You might see him in pictures with Kanye in Paris on Monday, but he’ll be in Virginia on Tuesday,” DJ Punisha explains while showing VIBE around the tiny downtown area of Norfolk. Pun has his finger on the pulse in the V.A. club scene and occasionally spins for Pusha during local shows.
We drive by the projects where the Clipse shot their “Grindin'” video, Mac Arthur Mall—where P owns a streetwear boutique Cream—and an infamous, now-closed nightclub formerly owned by the Clipse's former manager Anthony “Geezy” Gonzales who's serving time on drug charges. It takes no more than 15 minutes. “Geezy was a real good dude… I met him from working in his club, through a promoter friend of mine. That's really all I knew him for,” DJ Punisha tells VIBE.
Pusha’s ties to his old stomping grounds run deep. Liked an aged oak tree, his roots are fused into the dirt of Virginia. No one complains when he arrives an hour late to set. It’s all business for No Malice’s younger sibling. He comes straight from the baptism pool to sit down for the interview, still soaking wet. “You want to change first?” I ask him. “Nah, let’s just do this. I’ll just change when I get home. I don’t live far,” he replies. P isn’t capable of forgetting where he came from. He never left.
VIBE: Witnessing the baptism scene was powerful, man. What did you think think when we first pitched the idea to you?
Pusha T: When it comes to my brother and the church, I just know it’s something he’s truly passionate about, so I don’t question it. I just see him growing in so many ways. I’m definitely seeing another step in his life. When it comes to the music, we’ve always called him “the voice of reason.” His mentality has always been from a consequential, conscious, Christian way of thinking. He’s the one who speaks with common sense, principals and morals. From the very beginning, it’s always been there. To me, it’s been a gradual progression, but a true fan shouldn’t be shocked.
Were you baptized as a kid?
Yea, of course.
Even with your brother on a different path in life, I know you still get asked every day about the next Clipse album.
I hear it all the time. When it comes… if it comes… it’s going to be right, and that takes time. I’m not going to rush the process. That brand means too much. We aren’t going to compromise anything.
Here’s a story to just let you know how serious it is. The 10th anniversary of Lord Willin' was last year and we had 20 shows lined up in every major market. $20,000 a show, The Clipse haven’t had an album out since 2009. Right before it was time to head out, Malice told me he didn’t want to do it. It was like a week or two before. We talking 20 days tops to make $400,000
How did you feel about that?
I just let it go. This isn’t something I’m ever going to debate with him. Coachella, I asked him to come out and do some records with me. And he was like ‘Man, alright, but which ones?’ And to me for that big of a crowd, records like “Keys Open Doors” must set off life [Laughs], and he chose not to do it, but I don’t worry about it. I just respect it and take it in stride. It’s just where he is right now, and as long as he’s at peace, than I can’t be upset. This is my brother, I would never want him to not be at peace, especially on my account. It’s the music game and I don’t particularly love it. When it comes to his beliefs and morals, I’m not going to say anything. You could just hear it in the music on Til The Casket Drops, “Life Changes.” I wasn’t shocked or anything at all. The strength that he has is what’s shocking.
So, I know your solo album is pretty much done.
The album is done. Right now, I’ve just been making revisions here and there. It’s just a production thing. Some of the records haven’t been through Kanye’s full process. That’s what I’m waiting on. He actually took my hard drive and all my files.
At any point did you think about moving your date up to June 18 to drop with Kanye?.
I wasn’t really worried about him and June 18. I look at it like Ye does exactly what he wants to do in regards to his music. He’s taking major risks on this album. You can hear the brashness. It’s aimed on a worldly, political, cooperate level. But my album by far is the best hip-hop album of the year.
That’s a big statement.
Nah, it’s a real statement. I posed to Kanye ‘If you don’t make the date, we should definitely drop on the same date.’ And his campaign being ‘I’m only competing with myself. I’ve reincarnated myself for the 7th time, Yeezus.’ Everybody can’t be a part of this conversation. I was recording my album at the same time in Paris so I felt what he was doing the whole time.
What do you say to the critics that want to hear you rap about different subject matter on this album from what we’re accustomed to from Pusha T?
I think that’s what the title of my album is about. By now, you should know what you’re getting with Pusha T. I’ve been in this game since 2002, and my name says it all. You know I’m only moved by a certain style of rap. Not that many other styles move me. You have to really be a rapper’s rapper for me to like it.
There was a time when you couldn’t shake the coke rap title, and then you kind of embraced it.
Coke rap is such a pigeon-holy title. If that’s all you take it for, you’ll forget the parallels in the verses to regular life. Now, Trap rap is the biggest thing going on. With the Clipse gave you all the elements and fundamentals of hip-hop with the theme that everyone is embracing now. We did it much better.
The Re-Up Gang mixtapes are going down in history, man. I still listen to them in my car, and the Hell Hath No Fury album. I tell people all the time that I’ll never make another album like that one again. Never! If I can make another Hell HathNo Fury, I would be going to jail. I don’t even want to be able to that. If I was able to write like that again, I’d have to be in the space where I’m going away… I’m guaranteed to be out of here. That’s one of the best albums ever made to me.
Better than My Name Is My Name?
Listen, let’s get off all this street shit and everything else. A great rapper has a curated album by one of the greatest producers right now, period. My album is one of the greatest… I put my album up against anybody’s.
From any time period?
Well, I’m such a fan, so my album isn’t as good as Life After Death. Purple Tape, I ain’t got one of those either. This ain’t Reasonable Doubt yet, but I’m a get one of those. I’m getting there. But I took a lot of those influences from all those great albums. I was the best student that I could be to give you the best album with My Name Is My Name. This album is everything that is missing in rap right now. And, I actually think rap is good right now. It’s better than it’s been in a while.