We’re living in a Pusha renaissance. The drug-hustle raps that brought fame to Virginia-born Terrence Thornton are still sharp in the memories of many for good reason, yet these slightly time-worn images are slowly being eclipsed by a new era of King Push. Themes that were previously recurring in his work with Clipse seem to have translated for a new generation of listeners, many of whom may not even recognize the full-extent of Pusha’s history.
Today, Pusha T remains in the same avenue, perhaps flanked by a different clique and rocking more Balenciaga than before. He has successfully reinstated his relevance as an artist, while capturing the attention of an increasingly demanding and critical youth market, a market that picks new favorites on a weekly basis. In many ways, Pusha’s formula has remained the same, yet switching some of the players in his circle has brought listeners a more refined product, polishing his appeal overall. Just days before kicking off the “2 Good to be T.R.U.” tour with 2 Chainz, Pusha addressed several headlining topics surrounding his recent studio album and his project with Marcelo Burlon.
Working with G.O.O.D. Music and Kanye West, how did Kanye help crystallize the concept for My Name Is My Name?
That’s really what he did, he really meticulously, with a fine-tooth comb went through every one of my records. I was thinking about it; there are 12 tracks on the CD and I brought him 7, so I sought out what I liked and he brought me 5 more, whether he thought it was something good from someone else or if he produced it, whatever. There was a point where he took my whole music drive away from me and was like “you’re done, I’ve got the rest of this”.
What kind of obstacles arose working under his umbrella as opposed to working in the mixtape format?
I have what you call “Demo-itis”, when you cut a record and you hear it that way all day long, then I just get married to it. If it changes in any way shape or form, it throws me off, and Kanye is the type of person who feels like the record is never done, so when it’s done to me, and when I come back 2 weeks later and he’s like, “did I play you the new version of ‘Numbers on the Board’,” and my second verse ends up becoming my first verse or whatever, that was a challenge. Like other super-producers man, he’s very hands-on and I turn into a student when I work with people of that caliber.
Where did you record the body of My Name Is My Name?
The body of it was recorded in Virginia at Timbaland’s studio, he actually just gave me the studio and was like “just do whatever you want to do,” and I recorded a lot of it in Paris with ‘Ye. We were recording Yeezus and My Name Is My Name simultaneously, so I was in one studio, he’s in the house studio and there was a lot going on.
What was it like working with the DONDA crew in terms of the album art?
These guys got their hands on the pulse of what is cutting edge and if nothing else their taste level is bar none the highest. That’s something I don’t necessarily care about – the album art was something Kanye totally took away from me. I came with an idea and I just wanted it to look iconic, I had pictures of Malcom X, Big Daddy Kane, Muhhamad Ali, Sammy Davis, iconic pictures of these guys. The shots were very stripped down and bare-bones, the title MNIMN sort of screams that same aesthetic in words, so we had a deck mapped out and I showed it to Kanye, and he was like, “let me toy with it for a minute.” So then Kanye and Virgil and Joe, they thought about it and ultimately it was Kanye who was like, “I’m going to get Fabien Montinique to shoot your album, and we aren’t going to show any high-end clothes.” Mind you we’ve been wearing Givenchy all year, Balenciaga all year, so we decided to strip it down, but that was the initial mentality of the deck.
But there had to be something else, so then came the bar code. Kanye just turned everything up a notch, it was crazy because the art side was just as important as the music. Things were taking long, I’m like “I think that’s fresh” and Kanye would be like “send it back.” Finally, I can honestly say when it was done and we did the listening session, it really turned out like an art piece, the best artwork I’ve ever had. He edited the “Numbers on the Board” video for eight hours himself.
What would you say to fans that have not heard of Clipse and only know you through your more recent work?
Man, if you don’t know about Lord Willin’, Hell Hath No Fury, Re-Up Gang, the We Got It 4 Cheap series or Til the Casket Drops, you’re just doing yourself a great injustice and you should probably hear it because it’s some of the best music. I will never be able to write an album as well as Hell Hath No Fury, and as much as I love MNIMN, I just feel like Hell Hath No Fury was so spot on lyrically, if I am able to write that again you guys aren’t going to hear from me.
Has any of your experience from Play Cloths crossed over into your project with Marcelo Burlon?
When Marcelo approached County of Pusha, it was about it being my merch, and I said “Marcelo I really don’t like the term merch, it already puts a stigma on the clothes.” I want this to feel wearable every day, that’s how I wear clothes, and I’m sort of changing my shit up right now, I’m scaling everything down, and the biggest thing in tackling that was to make sure everything was wearable, fresh, functional and just a part of everyday life. That concept made us take it a step further and we’re launching it with Opening Ceremony. Just to drive in the fact that I felt like this needs to be some fresh wearable shit, that connection with Opening Ceremony gives it even more of a stamp of approval.
You have 30 seconds to pick something from your closet, what are your go-to pieces?
In my closet, I’m going straight for Alexander Wang sweats, I’m going for my Asics Gel-Lytes, and any T-shirt man, any shirt from Balmain or UNIQLO, and an Ale et Ange hat.
Interview by Chris Danforth