"Reality bites like a Rottweiler/The Givenchy hoodie is top dollar,” Pusha T (né Terrence Thornton) raps on a ghostly No I.D.-produced gem on his forthcoming debut solo album, out this Fall. The line exemplifies his approach to to rap: Talk flashy and expose the harsh truths. He's told press that his first album without Clipse member and brother, Gene "No Malice" Thornton, is inspired by director Taylor Hackford's The Devil’s Advocate, but an early listening reveals that Frank Miller and Quentin Tarantino’s crime thriller Sin City may be just as good of a fit.
Pusha’s yet-to-be-titled set is gritty and somehow even sexy. Cannons blow gloriously on one track as he warns that he’s got "assault rifles in the back like Rambo." On a destructive Kanye West record, he dubs himself the "Hines Ward of the crown lords" before the hook comes wailing in.
A few weeks back at Complex’s G.O.O.D. Music cover shoot in downtown NYC, Pusha was a proud teammate. Between individual and squad shots, he pulled over to a staircase to talk about crew's Cruel Summer album (out Sept. 4), what some of its highlight moments will be, the direction he and The-Dream are going on his solo offering, and adjusting to West’s recording style.
Interview by Brad Wete (@BradWete)
Complex: I sense that the spirit of competition is strong within your team. Do you guys think about what other labels like Maybach Music Group and Young Money are producing and how you can best it when you're in the studio?
I'm still a fan and I’m still in awe sometimes of just being around guys like Common, for real. Because I've been listening to him all my life, he's been nice all my life. It's not even competitive on that type of level with me when I'm watching him.
Pusha T: No. I don't think that G.O.O.D. Music ever considers any of the other labels that are out there. We like the music. We appreciate it. But at the end of the day I think it’s more competitive in-house. You've got guys like Sean, who's like running his little section. You've got guys like Common, who will just rap you out of house and home. You've got guys like myself who, you know… I get busy. You've got Kanye. You've got Cudi in his lane. It's more of a puzzle trying to get all those different characters and all those different forms or rap to mesh well on a record. [To even] find the right record. Ye's got to go through his whole production line process before it's perfect. That’s really what we consider in the studio.
Talk to me about that studio vibe.
You know what, Sean in particularly, he's like a major vibe type of guy. As soon as hears the beat, it starts with these hands like this. [Chops and throws hands around.] From there it's like he just comes with the words and he really pulls you into the mood of it. Common, I'm still a fan and I’m still in awe sometimes of just being around guys like Common, for real. Because I've been listening to him all my life. He's been nice all my life. It's not even competitive on that type of level with me when I'm watching him.
Kanye critiques the hell out of his work and has been known to ask others collaborating with him to revise their stuff as well. How has that process been for you?
As far as revisions go and revising your verse when you're dealing with G.O.O.D. Music, it happens to all of us. I have never rewritten more verses in my life than right now. Being signed to G.O.O.D. it just comes with the territory, man. These guys are perfectionists. I write verses and already think they're perfect. At the end of the day, ‘Ye will come through and be like, “Ah, no. We can do better or we can edit that out.” He's really taught me in a sense of what he's looking for now, so now I sort of got it down to a science so I don't got to revisit it so much. But it's not beyond any of us. We revise stuff all the time.
Is that a humbling experience, having Kanye criticize your work?
It's not humbling because you have to look at who's telling you to revise your verse. I never look at revision or any type of criticism as humbling when it’s coming from a 90-time Grammy winner. You've got to listen to somebody. Music is still a learning experience for me. I came into the game under super producers; I deal with super producers a lot, whether it be Pharrell, whether it be Kanye, whether it be The-Dream. You have to listen to somebody. Me specifically, I have to. I'm a rapper.