Many of you have done albums with other labels. What’s the difference when you put out a G.O.O.D. Music album?
Common: ’Ye’s perspective is “We’re going to make the purest music, and make it reach. There ain’t no limitations to where you can reach.” So, like he said, it’s about quality.
Sean: Ain’t nobody perfect, you know what I’m saying? But we’re probably the closest motherfuckers to it. [All laugh.]
I don't know how other people live, but I know right here we represent honesty and realness. —Kid Cudi
Pusha, you worked closely with Pharrell on those first two Clipse records. How has it been putting together your solo album with Kanye?
Pusha: ’Ye has always got a million things going on, so once I got a great body of work done, I flew out to London and I played it for him in the middle of his clothing sweatshop. [Laughs.] We played it for four days straight. He’s like, “Man, I love this. I don’t like that. I’m going to redo this beat....” It’s the best thing in the world, because he’s going to tear your shit all the way down, and then build it back up. It doesn’t get any better than that.
You’re all very talented, very different artists who make very different music.
Q-Tip: And the thing about ’Ye is he’s able to see the common thread through everybody. It’s good that niggas see that—niggas like us forming like this. Especially in rap music, you hear a lot of motherfuckers talk about getting their own shit, in an individual sense. But everybody needs somebody, and what we represent is community.
What does it mean to have Kanye West involved in the production of your album?
Cudi: He knows what he’s talking about. It’s crazy how insanely smart he is—it’s frustrating at times. When I’m playing him stuff, he usually likes it. [Laughs.] But I remember there was a time when I played him something, and he was like, “Turn it off. That was terrible.”
We were in Hawaii, working on 808s & Heartbreak. That was when I first got on board, and I was doing hooks, and I was just trying to find my place. One day, I got to the studio early, and I was like, “I’m going to make a beat.” Then he came in, and I was all excited to play it.... He made this face. I was like, “Oh my God. I want to make sure he never feels like that about anything that I ever make again.”
Common: He was the first producer that I had that was like, “Man, change that verse.” or “Nah, that line is weak. Hell nah.” [All laugh.]
Cudi: But that’s what it’s about, man. And I didn’t feel bad. I was like, “OK, back to the drawing board. I bet that nigga won’t say that again.” I don’t think he’s shot down any song I’ve played for him since.
Kanye tears your work down, then builds it back up. It doesn't get any better than that. —Pusha T
Kanye is well-known for his ruthless pursuit of quality. He doesn’t accept less than 100 percent from himself, and he certainly doesn’t from those around him. Do you feel pressure?
Tip: I don’t feel like that because, like you said, he understands what the talent is—it’s on par with his. One thing that we all have in common, Kanye included, is that we all want to be great. We all have that drive. Kanye channels it—he’s the nucleus. But at the same time, it’s collaborative. He’s open to whatever it is. If there’s pressure, it’s just to do outstanding shit. And that’s more of a drive than a pressure.
Cudi: Luckily, everybody has their own vision. No one is lost. A lot of artists get lost. They drop an album, and then they go fucking blank. But everybody here sees their career 10 years from now. I don’t think anybody is seeing their career year to year, like a motherfucker working check to check. Everyone has their own vision, so there’s no pressure.
John Legend: There have been plenty of artists signed to artists’ labels that haven’t had nearly the kind of success as the head of the label. Even with G.O.O.D. Music we have artists that have done very well, and we’ve had artists that haven’t. Being attached to Kanye is only going to get you so far. You’ve still got to have the records, the talent, and the artistry to carry it on your own.
Common: If you’re forming a business, you go get people that can do their jobs well, and you don’t have to micromanage them. Like Cudi was saying, we all have a vision of our creativity for years to come. This is going to sound crazy, but it’s something to think about—Big Sean might have been 2 years old when my first album came out.
Sean: Yeah. My homie put me on, though.
Tip: He wasn’t even born when my first album came out. [Laughs.] Damn.