VIBE Interview: Clipse Digital Cover Story 'My Brother's Keeper'
When it comes to family matters, Gene “No Malice” and Terrence “Pusha T” Thornton would rather keep their silence than discuss brotherly business with the public. As rap duo the Clipse, the Virginia-bred MCs pushed and pulled their way into the industry, thanks in part to childhood friends Pharrell and Chad Hugo. In 2002, the Brothers Thornton broke through to the mainstream with their cross over hit, “Grindin'," from their debut album, Lord Willin'. It made it to top 40 radio stations despite the fact that the Neptunes sparse drums and snares were polluted with their unapologetic rhymes of big time dealin’ in V.A. Over the next seven years, the Clipse would go on to release two more group albums and a number of mixtapes as their larger entity the Re-Up Gang, which also featured Philly rappers Sandman and Ab-Liva.
After years of dealing with documented issues with record label restructuring and life-changing arrests of their childhood friends, the group known for their thought-provoking metaphors about street life are now in two completely different places in their lives. Pusha T is enjoying rising solo success under the direction of Kanye West, while No Malice (formerly known as Malice) has found solace in God. As a devout born-again Christian, husband and father of two, No Malice is on a new journey to share his own story and word of God.
For the first time in years, Pusha T and No Malice speak side by side on the future of the Clipse.
VIBE: I know there was some hesitation from you guys to do a Clipse cover, but the people needed to see this.
No Malice: I thought it was a great idea from the beginning. I think it ends a lot of the rumors that have been going around. A lot of people might have thought there was some kind of dysfunction between Pusha and myself, which has never been the case. I know the fans wanted to see us together publicly over the past couple of years, but we still work together.
You guys both always said there was never beef, but you know how rumors go.
No Malice: I don’t even get where a beef would come from, or how that was perceived in anyone’s minds. There could never be beef.
Pusha T: Clipse rumors? Everything we’ve done has been so on front street, I don’t even know where rumors come from. Malice, you know of any?
No Malice: I’m so distant from what’s going on in the music world.
Pusha T: I don’t know, Mikey, you got any Clipse rumors?
I mean, there’s everything from Malice doesn’t mess with Pusha anymore because he sins on records [Laughs].
Pusha T: [Laughs] Listen, I don’t even hear that. I may have seen some comments, but I don’t know about that.
No Malice: I’m a sinner [Laughs], so I don’t know about that. I think the real fans know what’s up.
I’ve also heard that you guys still owe Columbia another album as a group.
No Malice: We don’t owe anybody anything.
Pusha T: Nothing.
So at this point, is there definitely going to be another Clipse album?
No Malice: We’re going to continue to talk amongst ourselves and work on putting something together. Whatever we decide, we’ll let the fans know when we’re ready. At this time, it’s still between us.
There was an alleged album title thrown out there last year, As God Is My Witness. Was that from you guys?
No Malice: Like I always say, there’s nothing that I want more than to put an album together with my brother. Pusha has been doing the solo thing for a few years so I’m wondering why all the Clipse questions are coming now. We’ve always supported each other in everything that we’ve done. Right now, we’re doing two different things.
I get it. Was there a duo that you guys tried to emulate or mimic when you were first coming up together?
No Malice: Nah. First, it was just me rhyming, and then one day my brother wrote a verse for this song called “Thief in the Night.” It was the first verse that he ever wrote, but it was so perfect and seamless. Right then and there, we became a group. We didn’t even think about it.
Push, I know you said when you first started recording solo you were almost scared at how much more work it was from doing songs with your brother.
Pusha T: I’m very comfortable now with the whole process. I think it was so much easier as a group because you have someone to take that slack. I can cheat and give you a cheap line knowing that he’s going to come with a fire verse afterwards for the greatness of the song. You can do that in a group. You don’t have to go crazy over every word.
No Malice: Right now, I just have such a different message. I have so much to say, where I don’t only want to write one verse. Now I feel like how I did when I first got into rhyming when it was so new and enjoyable. Honestly, for a while I wasn’t even sure if I was going to rapping anymore. I’m finally just having fun again.
Are you a born-again MC, so to speak [Laughs]?
No Malice: That’s safe to say. That’s definitely safe to say.
Where do you guys see the Re-Up gang in five years, as a group, as a label and an entity?
Pusha T: I don’t really know. I mean, Re-Up was born from the Clipse, so without us recording together, I don’t see Re-Up gang as a whole recording together. Everybody as their own respective entity is going to carry on the same criteria to be under the name. It’s one thing at a time.
No Malice: I will say this. I don’t like no other rappers. The only rappers I like is Re-Up gang. I don’t think there’s no better writer than Ab-Liva. I don’t think there’s no better writer than my brother, and I don’t think there’s no better writer than myself. I don’t enjoy none of that stuff that’s going on out there. The kind of rap I like comes from the Re-Up Gang, lyrically. The kind of rappers I like come from the Re-Up Gang. One thing you can count on from the Re-Up Gang is the realness. We come from an era where you had to really be living the life that you were rapping about. Even though my content and Pusha’s content is different now, everything we’re saying is still true. To me, that’s the hip-hop that I enjoy.
What’s each of your favorite Clipse albums?
Pusha T: Hell Hath Have Fury
No Malice: Lord Willin’
Would you guys ever entertain doing a Lord Willin 2?
No Malice: Nah, I tend to think the sequels never come out as good.
Pusha T: Nah, I think Lord Willin might be easier than Hell Hath No Fury, but I wouldn’t even want to go that route.
No Malice: It was two different kinds of emotions. The first one, you’re hungry and you know you’re about this get a record deal. You got these rhymes saved up and everything. But Hell Hath No Fury was built on a completely different energy. It was anger, frustration, the label let down, personal stuff, everything. It wasn’t just sitting back being creative. It was real life.
When and if you guys do get back in the studio, will the creative process be a lot different?
No Malice: We never wrote our rhymes together or anything like that. We would call each other a lot of the phone and say our verses, but the rhymes were written in our comfort zones, so no.
Pusha T: That’s how we did it every time, song for song. We would get the beat, write to them separately.
Are there any Clipse songs that you guys really regret releasing?
No Malice: I can’t think of any…
Pusha T: Uh, yeah there’s a few on Til The Casket Drops that I wouldn’t have dropped [Laughs].
Which ones specifically?
Pusha T: The joint with Keri Hilson…
No Malice: There isn’t a record that we put out that I didn’t like, but that was one of those records where we were trying to cater to what we thought fans would want to hear or a specific audience wanted. The recipe has always been doing what we felt. I guess Til The Casket Drops, we were trying to reach something. Lyrically, I love it, but that record was strategic. It was the radio song.
Pusha T: You don’t regret but you just look back on songs and realize even radio songs need to be executed the right way.
What about a favorite verse from each other?
No Malice: There’s too many, way too many.
Pusha T: Mal’s verse on “We Got It For Cheap” was really, really good. He was so hot on that joint, so angry on that joint, everyone was catching hell. Hov heard it and said, "Oh, he’s got something on his mind. He’s got something on his mind for sure."
But even with all the seriousness and truth you guys put into your verses, the Clipse still had fun. Especially on those We Got It For Cheap mixtapes. Like putting Lauren London on a skit during that time period…
No Malice: That was all him [Laughs].
Pusha T: That’s my homegirl, man.
It was like this guy knows “no chill.”
Pusha T: I just asked for a skit. She said what she wanted to say.
Well, something that was all No Malice was his book. Wretched, Pitiful, Poor, Blind and Naked. Pusha, do you ever think about writing a book?
Pusha T: With my patience, I couldn’t even do it. I tell everybody all the time, that was a Malice stunt, something he know I can’t do. To sit down and write a book, chronologically, from thought to thought, it’s impossible for me. I just couldn’t do it. I ain’t got it in me.
No Malice: I would have never written a book myself. That book came to me. It was my experience. Nobody wants to put their life out into the open like that. I was too busy being cool and even when I was touched by God I would have loved to kept it to myself, but I knew without a shadow of a doubt that this was something I was to share with the same people that was supporting me for all this time. It wasn’t something I chose to do. It was something I had to do. Why would I write a book? I didn’t want to write raps at that time. It’s very near and dear to me.
Do you feel like you owe the fans another Clipse album?
No Malice: I can answer that easily. I don’t feel like I owe anyone anything. And whatever I've given to the fans that supported us, I appreciate all the support. I really do. I hope they enjoy the art of the Clipse and I can honestly say, not even from a fan perspective, but from a world perspective, when I was at my lowest point in life. My very lowest, there was no one to call on but God. And I’ll be very clear about that. There wasn’t a woman, a gold chain, a Porsche there wasn’t nothing that could of have helped me feel better but God. So I know I don’t owe anyone anything. Even with the Clipse albums, it wasn’t that I owed the fans, it was just me showing my art with them, and I would love to that again sometime. Be clear though, I love the fans.
Pusha T: I don’t owe nobody nothing. This game is horrible.
No Malice: I really love the fans because they got it. They understood what was good about the Clipse. The same things that we enjoyed, from the intricate writing, the perspectives, and even the fashion. The people that liked what we liked, those are the reals fans. They still support me now and I really appreciate them. I mean it, I love my fans. Genuinely.