Pusha-T is the best rapper alive, at least as far as 2018 was concerned.

In the factors we measure to determine this honor—acclaim, skill, impact, and a general command of the zeitgeist—Terrence takes the crown. With DAYTONA, he made a compelling case that a thoroughly entertaining and complete body of work could be compressed into seven songs. No one could top the album’s marriage of intricately crafted yet accessible bars with equally arresting production, and zero filler.

Pusha-T started declaring that he had the rap album of the year as soon as the project dropped. As reviews from critics and listeners alike poured in, very few people disagreed, and that was before he stopped the culture in its tracks with one of the most talked about diss tracks since, well, “Back to Back.” A win is a win is a win, and Pusha took the W in a beef with the most popular rap artist in the game. Then he rode that wave into the fall, as age only strengthened DAYTONA’s replay value.

Now, Pusha has been rewarded with a Grammy nomination that even he himself never suspected possible. The ceremony is Sunday, but the award is beside the point. Pusha knows these politics are paradox, after all. But the acknowledgment? That’s the bow on a year in which the rarity that is Pusha—purist technical values amid a sea of pink-haired rappers—was proven as a commodity worth celebrating and a brand worth believing in.

To honor the occasion, Complex spoke with Pusha-T for a definitive recap of his past year, which touches on the craft that went into DAYTONA, the aftermath of its release, and where he plans to go next.

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