Why Pusha-T Is Starting a New Record Label

Pusha-T spoke with Complex about his new record label Heir Wave Music Group, Virginia rap music, and confirmed he's working on new music with Madlib.

Pusha T

Image via Getty/Kevin Mazur

Pusha T

In late February, Pusha-T announced that he has started a new record label called Heir Wave Music Group. The company, which is based in his home state of Virginia, will concentrate on signing and developing artists from the local area.

Push tells Complex that Heir Wave’s roster will eventually include artists from other regions, but starting the label at home was his first priority. “I have a particular need to build out Heir Wave as a platform and build out a circuit for artists within this region, simply because I feel like it's something that we've never had,” he says. 

In the first phase of Heir Wave, Pusha-T announced his first signee: Petersburg, VA’s own, Kahri 1k. The rapper, who Push describes as an honest and authentic artist, dropped a new project called The Ghost of Pecan Acres via Heir Wave in January 2020. His signing is just the beginning, though. 

Pusha-T outlines his vision of creating a self-sufficient community for emerging artists in Virginia. “My long term vision is to create a circuit in which artists from my area and surrounding areas can put out music,” he explains. “Also, I want to create a community for them to be admired and loved ,and see the fanfare before going anywhere else.”

In addition to Heir Wave, Pusha-T will also remain as the president of G.O.O.D Music. Although they haven’t been as active recently as they were at the start of the 2010s, Push confirms the label will remain in operation as he builds out Heir Wave. “Everything I do at G.O.O.D Music is always a phone call away,” he says. “I just left them. As of right now, we’re just creating. With that being the case, the logistics and things like that aren’t as tedious while everybody's in creation mode. Once it gets to that point, we’ll find the time. We always do.”

As far as new music of his own, King Push confirms that he is cooking up something with Madlib, but that’s all he’s saying at this time. Complex spoke with the rapper about Heir Wave Music Group, Virginia’s musical footprint, G.O.O.D Music, and an upcoming performance with his brother at Pharrell’s Something in the Water Festival. The interview, lightly edited for clarity, is below. 

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Can you share a brief overview of what you have planned for Heir Wave Group? 
Heir Wave Music Group is basically a label that was made in the spirit of an “album artist”—artists who have a story to tell. They have a background for the fan who wants to be fully invested in that particular artist, their whole movement, and everything about them. That’s how we’re picking artists. It’s about authenticity. It’s about pure music, whatever type of music it is. It must be pure.

Is there a story behind the name Heir Wave?
Oh man, I was just thinking of the next kings and queens of the ship.

Is Heir Wave focusing solely on developing and discovering artists in the Virginia area?
We’re centralized there and we’re definitely focused there. I wouldn’t say that’s all we’re going to have on the label, but I have a particular need to build out Heir Wave as a platform and build out a circuit for artists within this region, simply because I feel like it’s something that we’ve never had. People have always known the artists who have made it big out of Virginia. They were always embraced nationally. It was never something I’ve been envious of in other regions. But other regions put out a record and then within, let’s say, their area and a five state stretch, they could have that type of support, whether it be radio, clubs, and the street DJs. Virginia has never really had that. We were just good artists. We put out music and other places would gravitate to it. We would run to those places and our people would see us from afar and they would love it and admire it, but it was never something that we got to start and curate at home. Let’s call it a chitlin circuit, we never really had that.

Brooklyn has drill music right now. Is there a certain sound or music scene in Virginia you can pinpoint? 
I don’t know if there’s a sound of Virginia. I mean, you’re asking me, who came in the Neptunes and Timbaland era, who were changing music at a very rapid rate. So I can’t say that it's a sound. I will say that it's definitely a music scene and a lot of talented artists in this area who are making really great records.

You said all of the artists will not be from Virginia, but is the label set up in the area? 
For sure. I’m sure as we grow, we won’t just pick artists from Virginia. But yeah, the company is based there. Like I said, I have some boxes I have to check off for the area before I move forward.

How did you discover your first signee, Kahri 1k? 
Kahri is somebody who I was hearing about probably two or three years ago. He had a record that we loved. We loved the video for this record called “Pain.” It was super authentic, Petersburg, Virginia. Part of my management team had asked me about it before. They’re from Virginia, like an hour and a half away from me. I wasn’t necessarily in tune to who Kahri was, but the record was strong and the visuals were super strong. It was like what I like to call pain music. I thought it was dope. After that, Kahri got into some trouble and his recording slowed down. He sent a record to another friend of mine named Young Money, and I got that record. I was like, “Man, you know what? I have to go see this kid.” The record was great. So I actually went to Petersburg and had a meeting. He opened his laptop and he had 50 records in there. I said, “Man, let’s just work together. Let’s just start this right now. Let’s just put all the missing pieces together and let’s start moving.” He and I just had this relationship. It was based on this genuine love for what he did and how he works, and it’s been super seamless. I’ve just been living up to my end of the bargain, and he lives up to his.

Can you pinpoint one thing that makes him unique as an artist?
His honesty. He only raps what he really knows. And as a fan of music, he raps those things, whether they're good, bad, or indifferent. You’ll hear something very poignant in what he says. I’ve looked at him and cringed a couple of times, like, “Whoa, you sure want to say that?” That just struck me. He’s the best type of writer. He’s the writer who isn’t afraid to be vulnerable. He’s not afraid to be embarrassed. He’s willing to share his life with you in all aspects. That’s what makes him strong.

What is the process like for discovering and developing artists?
It starts off with word of mouth and staying entrenched in the culture and being social. That’s how I hear everything. My day starts at 6 a.m., and I’m probably asleep by 9 or 10 p.m. I wake back up at like 1 a.m., and then I’m online just looking, searching, hearing. Then I go back to sleep about 4 a.m., and start my day in another two hours. We’re just searching. We’re taking all the music however it comes, but we definitely like to see an artist working. We like to see an artist being productive. That’s the thing we can’t do for you. I have my outlets, I have a lot of different arms that can be helpful to an artist, but I can’t do the work for you. When you come and you’re the greatest rapper out, you tell me all these things, and I see it’s 15 months between songs you put out, that's not going to work. We got to work.

You mentioned looking for “album artists.” Is it fair to say you’re looking for artists that don’t just put out singles that fade out, instead of full-length projects? 
Yeah, that’s what I gravitate towards. I like all types of music, but I just feel that I’m best [at that format]. When people know I’m attached to it, they expect a certain thing from me, and they expect a certain thing from my co-sign. We don’t all have the same taste, but like I said, the purity and the honesty of the music, I think everyone can appreciate that. I feel like as long as you’re honest and pure in your music, that story will be told, and you’ll have a story to tell for a very long time.

How much of a role do you play in the day-to-day operations of the label?
Man, I’m on every call, every day. I’m on the phone with Kahri’s manager every day. I speak to Doug who was an acting GM. He’s in everything. He’s in the promos, digital, the hiring of certain people, and so on and so forth. I speak to him 30 times a day. Right now, I don’t think I can’t be hands-on. It’s not a label that is functioning on all cylinders, so I want to be a part of everything.

What is your long term vision for Heir Wave Music Group?
My long term vision is to create a circuit in which artists from my area and surrounding areas can put out music. Also, I want to create a community for them to be admired and loved and see the fanfare before going anywhere else. That community will consist of the fans, promoters, nightlife and everything else that the area has to offer, schools, everything. I want to engage the community and get in and bring a sense of strength within our community and have the community to be self-serving for us.

Do you feel as though the community in Virginia feels left out of the conversation as far as music goes?
I don’t think they’re left out. I think the conversation in Virginia is always based on a particular individual or individuals, versus it being about the whole area. I think that it has a lot to do with how we are internally. Internally, we don’t have that infrastructure that is self-serving. We make great music, and then it gets brought to the world. People like it, but we never get to really relish in that. When it starts and incubates, it doesn’t get to incubate just in our area first. With that being the case, we’ve never had a real infrastructure, and without having that infrastructure, it makes it hard for new artists to come up, grow, and have their test run through the area. It’s a lot of things that can come with that infrastructure that could help our artists in the long run. And even more important than that, just the sense of community. You should want to support the guy next to you. You see him every day. You know he’s trying hard; you know he’s dope. You should be able to support that on the same platform as the guy four states over. They’re the same people.

How do you plan to balance spearheading of both Heir Wave and G.O.O.D. Music?
Listen, everything I do at G.O.O.D Music is always a phone call away. I just left them. As of right now, we’re just creating. With that being the case, the logistics and things like that aren’t as tedious while everybody’s in creation mode. Once it gets to that point, we’ll find the time. We always do.

So G.O.O.D Music will still be active while you’re working on Heir Wave? 
Oh, for sure.

Is there pressure to see Heir Wave live up to the legacy of G.O.O.D Music? 
No, it's no pressure. Heir Wave is a label that is near and dear to my heart. It is something that must happen because it's pushing music from my area and this sense of community forward. 

I notice that you deleted everything from your Instagram except two posts. Does that mean anything about new solo music? 
Yeah, I definitely deleted everything. Certain things I couldn’t delete just for business reasons. I think I was in a space with the death of Pop Smoke where I wanted to carry my page better. It wasn't fun anymore. I wanted to clear all of this out. I just really wasn’t feeling it at the time.

So it was more of a mental cleanse than alluding to new music?
When I’m going to drop music, I’m just going to tell people. It’s not a big thing. We’re not doing big secrets. It’s not really a game. When I drop it, I’m going to tell everybody, “Hey, I’m about to drop and I’m about to tear your face off.” And that’s what’s going to happen. I’m not being cryptic.

We recently interviewed Madlib and he said he was working with you on some new music. Is there any truth to that?
There’s a lot of truth to that.

Is there any update that you can give us on that?
That there’s a lot of truth to that. Of course there is.

What can expect from Heir Wave Music Group this year?
Right now, we’re focusing on Kahri 1k. There are a few more artists in the pipeline, but we’re prepping them to get ready to present them to the world. Kahri 1k’s The Ghost of Pecan Acres is out right now. Go check that out. 

Is there anything else you may want to talk about? 
You know what? I do want to say this. I’m super excited about performing on April 26 at Something in the Water Festival with my brother. I haven’t performed with my brother in 10 years. Clipse will be headlining at the Something in the Water Festival, Pharrell’s festival in Virginia Beach. It’s a big time for the town. This particular year is great for me, because I’m getting to do something with my family that I haven’t done in a long time. I think the energy that festival is bringing to the area is also helpful and synonymous in what I’m trying to do with Heir Wave. It’s actually a week long this year. It’s tech, job fairs, health and wellness, and of course it's music. There’s just a lot of information and a lot of opportunity.

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