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INTERVIEW OF THE WEEK: Pusha T

Pusha T
Interview by Black Dog Bone
Photo by Nabil


I’ve been following you for a long time. I always felt like you and your brother never got your dues with The Clipse. What do you think?
The music business is a tough business. I feel like if I’m still in it, and I’ve been in it for a long time, for 11 years—I can’t say that I haven’t got my just due. I got opportunities, I’m relevant, I’m strong as ever right now, I’m making some of the best music of all of my peers. Of course my brother, my partner, is not with me right now in the form of The Clipse, but I’m for the team and I feel that our legacy is still growing. When I look at all the greats, when I look at the Jay Z’s and all of these guys it took more than 10 years to become who they are. You see the growth of a Jay Z. You see even a Lil Wayne, to arrive and be the Lil Wayne that catapulted him took 10 years. I don’t look at it like I didn’t get my just due.
I think it can be a blessing for an artist to stay underground while they grow and develop, but still I feel the media should have recognized you more with The Clipse.

I would’ve loved to be recognized more within my Clipse discography. But you don’t cry over it. You gotta look at the greatness and what you’ve created. We definitely have a legacy.
When I first heard The Clipse I didn’t know where to place you. You were not really country and you were not really city; it was hard to categorize you. Do you think that was because you grew up in Virginia?
First of all I was born in the Bronx, but we did grow up in Virginia. Being where we’re from, Virginia is not very very South and it’s not the North either. It’s sort of an in-between place, the Mid-Atlantic. Just recently we’ve been given a region; they call it the DMV for District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia. Even when people say that Virginia isn’t categorized. So we grew up in a world of our own. Now we don’t sound like the deep South. We don’t sound like the New Yorkers. But especially when I rhyme I attract a level of individual who appreciate the lyrical, people who wanna hear rhymes that are articulate and so on and so forth.
I like music that is grimy and dark, and I had never heard anyone do it like you. In your videos you get that feel. Your vision probably shapes your videos a lot.
Usually I do for the most part. My viral videos are always using my concepts and so on and so forth. My most recent “Numbers on the Boards” video, I was sort of taking directions from Kanye West. It was him and a director by the name of So Me, who’s idea this was. I just performed it, but it was him. Kanye sat down for eight hours and edited that video. Kudos to him, man. I’m really glad that it came out that way. I’m not a video director, I’m not a videographer. Really I just know how to rap. Anything that could be added to my raps, I appreciate it.
The is a consistent feel to your videos. They have a grimy look, a dark feel, and it’s not a New York or West Coast look.
Yeah man. It’s a dark feel. The music is dark and I work with people who really understand where I come from. There’s a woman who produces a lotta my videos named Capricorn Clark. She totally understands where I’m comin from and she has her hand on the pulse of how people wanna see me. With that being said, she really married the visuals to the music.
Also in everything you do you have a very angry edge—in the lyrics, the delivery, the way you perform. You always keep that anger in you.
My music is just aggressive. My outlook on life is aggressive. I’m still fighting. When it comes to music I’m bitter a little bit. It’s not because of where I am personally, but around me, like all of my friends are in jail. All of them are in jail right now. I look around at other people and they hang out with their friends and go places. I don’t do that much. I can’t. Mine are all in jail. Not to blame the music, but we came into this thinking music is the way out. Then when you get caught up in politics you have to think about how to survive and keep up your music. You don’t wanna be broke and you don’t wanna appear broke to the public. Because of that a lotta my friends ended up behind bars because of how we started in this game. Yeah, I’m not running with my brother right now. I would much rather be in a group now. I know my brother is in a very spiritual place. His belief is strong and he love where he is, but I’m his younger brother and I am selfish. I don’t know if I want my brother to not be with me right now. When you ask me if I’m angry or where does this edge come from, I have a lotta thoughts in my mind when I’m rhyming or when I hit the stage or when I’m talking about music. Music is not all happy to me. It hasn’t been the greatest in every aspect. I could easily sit here and be like, “I take care of my family and I drive Benz’s and do what I wanna do.” But we’d been doing things like that and I don’t need music to do that. It’s a little more personal with me. I think that personal side comes out as anger in my music.
I like what you’re doing. What you’re experiencing all rappers are experiencing. As a rap artist you have to keep up appearances; you can’t just go get a job in a fast food restaurant.
Exactly. There’s only one way. It’s hard.
You come across as very real.
My reality could hinder me sometimes. You gotta remember that the world isn’t used to my reality like this. They’re not used to it.
How did you get your name Pusha T?
Pharrell actually named me. I wasn’t rhyming. I was the last one out of the crew to start rappin. But I was always trying to get after a dollar, trying to get money, hustling and scheming, doing my thing in one way or another. I would be in the studio with Pharrell and I would leave the studio 3, 4, 5 times, going to make sales. He’d be laughing like, “Pusha Pusha Pusha, how ya doin?!” I’m five years younger than all of them.
What were you called before you were Pusha T?
I had a nickname before that. I was born on Friday the 13th, May 13. My mother used to call me Terror. My mother called me “Terrance the Terror”. When I first started rapping I was still running around and doing my thing, so I just adopted Terror. Terror is my name! That was it, boom. As I’m rappin and doin my thing more, at the same time I’m getting outside more. I’m hustling and doin my thing. That brought up the name Pusha. From Pharrell’s perspective it was like they were rapping and doing their music, but I was really out there running around. That’s how he got the idea to call me Pusha T.
What month were you born?
May 13.
Where were you when this all was going on?
I was in Virginia the whole time. I lived in Virginia my whole life. I was born in New York, only lived there for my first 2 years. When people ask me about New York, I only have memories of going back there to visit. My grandmother and family lived in New York through my whole upbringing, but I lived in Virginia. I would spend my summers in the Bronx and Harlem, cause my sister lived in Harlem. But in Hip Hop people are so quick to ridicule you act like you’re fronting. So I’m careful to deny, or don’t own up to my New York past. I don’t want anybody to be getting confused. I like to make that clear.
The fact that you’re from Virginia has given you a different sound and a different look. It’s a blessing. Your crew were some of the first to come out of Virginia.
You had Missy and Timbaland. You had The Neptunes. You had Mad Skillz. Before those guys you had Teddy Riley, who was from Harlem but moved to Virginia. When he moved to Virginia he built his studio, and he was the one who basically discovered the Timbalands, the Missy’s and The Neptunes. And Teddy Riley was bringing Michael Jackson to Virginia, Jay Z to Virginia, Bobby Brown to Virginia. He’s not from Virginia, but he lived in Virginia.
A lot of unique and creative artists have come out of Viriginia.
I blame that on the fact that Virginia is a major military town. In Virginia you get so many different influences when it comes to music. Like I’m in Virginia, I’m on the East Coast, we’re heavy on Jay Z, heavy on Puff Daddy. But we also were very huge on the Master P era, the Hot Boyz. We also knew about the Bay Area music. Because had so many people in the military and they would bring these different influences to the area. Another genre that was really heavy in my area at the time was the Houston Rap wave. Slim Thug and Paul Wall, that was really big. People wouldn’t believe how big that was in Virginia.
You’re affiliated with Kendrick Lamar too.
Yeah. Kendrick Lamar’s on my album. Future’s on my album. Pharrell’s on my album, Big Sean, 2 Chainz, Kanye West, The Dream. Man! Rick Ross. My album, that’s a whole ‘nother story. That’s the album of the year. I’m listening to it right now. I made a CD of it yesterday and I’ve been rockin it all day.
Is it all finished?
I actually made the CD for Kanye and I wanted to show him how I see my album to be. We’ve been goin back and forth about records. I put a CD together and I’m sending it to him, and that’s what’s in my pocket right now. I want to show him what I want it to be.
I feel like you’re going to be the next big thing. You’ve got the talent and Def Jam is backing you up. And you’ve got a great connection with Kanye.
Me and Kanye have a mutual respect for each other. I respect his work and I respect his vision, and I respect his production. He respects me as an artist, as a lyricist. He respects my work. I think we really feed off each other when it comes to music and inspiration. As a student, because I’m a student when it comes to dealing with people like Ye. These guys are super producers. I came up under super producers with The Neptunes. Kanye West is a super producer as well. You’ve gotta learn and sit down. You don’t talk all the time, you gotta listen. I think that has opened me up to having a more universal ear for music. Put up “Numbers on the Boards” right now, to be able to write that record right now, that says so much. That’s not what’s being heard right now! That’s part of his vision, that’s part of my vision. That’s going against the grain and trying to be unorthodox and still be credible and still have the fundamentals of Hip Hop.
That record has a very African element to it—real tribal and primitive. It seems like Kanye West is listening to a lot of tribal music.
He listens to all types of music. All types of music.
How did you come up with the title of the album, “My Name is My Name”?
“My Name is My Name” comes from the show “The Wire”. There was a character on “The Wire” named Marlo Stanfield. He was an upcoming kingpin who was competing amongst all the kingpins. He played by his own rules. He was very aggressive. All he wanted was respect. And one of his catch phrases was “my name Is my name”. I gravitated toward Marlo and at the same time I thought it was a good phrase. People always have so much to say about my content and what I rap about, but I been here for 11 years now. My name is my name. You know my name is Pusha and that’s what you get from me. So you don’t have to listen at this point. But I’m not changing.
I haven’t heard this album other than the single. You have very sparse drums on some of your previous tracks. Does this album have that same feel?
The album does definitely have that feel to it, that very unorthodox, strong, “the rhyme takes over everything” type of feel. I think people are going to be really happy with this one.