Leaning on a sticky table in a hotel room stained the color of urine, director Jason Goldwatch scrolls through photos on his iPhone and smiles as he flips the screen towards us. Odd Future’s Tyler, The Creator, stands against a Skid Row storefront in his standard attire: baseball shirt, cutoff shorts, striped knee socks. He has a double, but not–since he did break his foot at last Saturday night’s House of Blues show–for stunts. Nope, his mirror image is Pusha T. of The Clipse. “No one’s poppin’ more than Pusha, or more than Tyler. It’s pretty fuckin’ rad that these fools got together and brought these two worlds together, so the idea was to bring them into each other’s worlds. So when it’s Pusha’s verse, he’s rapping and Tyler’s dressed like Pusha– gangsta shit.
When it’s Tyler’s verse, Pusha’s dressed like a skater. Pusha was even on crutches. We’re tryin’ to bring the rager out of Pusha, and that gangsta street solid shit out of Tyler,” Goldwatch says. “The best videos to me are when I can tell you the concept in four sentences, and you get it, and now we’re both thinking of shit. I take this shit mad personal,” Goldwatch says. “When I get the song, it’s my life for a couple of days. Get a big sack of weed and turn my phone off, and just listen to the song–or other Clipse. This shit’s art to me.” For the “Trouble on My Mind” video, the art is just as much in the destruction as in the creation. The dingy hotel room set will be demolished by a bunch of Odd Future’s crew, including members Taco and Jasper Dolphin, within a couple of hours.
As they begin to trash the room for the camera, Goldwatch repeatedly tells them to calm down, almost like a dad telling his kids to use their indoor voices. Teenage-boy testosterone sucks the air out of the space almost as much as the fumes of fireworks and spray paint do. Pusha T. has disappeared. Tyler’s tricks, like purposefully stumbling off his crutches and into the bedside dresser, are funny to newcomers, but it’s getting late. Pusha’s claim of symmetry might sound like a cheap grab for publicity. But he says he didn’t like the original treatment, and called Tyler to discuss. “I said, if I’m gonna do a record with you, if we’re gonna shoot a video, we need to be causing chaos. And he was like ‘Oh my god! I was thinking the same thing! Aahhh!’ So I said, let’s just tear up L.A.”
They also decided to change the concept to include the doppleganger costumes. “The song, people aren’t expecting it, and I want to show people that I can hop in your world and you can hop in my world, and it ain’t fucking up nothing. It’s gonna be beautiful,” he explains. Pusha says he’s now planning to buy Tyler a pair of Balenciaga shoes, if only because Tyler kept wondering why they named them something so “stupid.” “He said, ‘That just sounds like an ugly name! Man, I don’t want to wear a suit, I don’t want to wear shit like this!’ and I said, ‘Well I don’t want to fuckin’ dress like the Brady Bunch!'”
But if “Trouble On My Mind” (produced by The Nepunes, Tyler’s most loudly proclaimed influence) is a collaboration that’s wholly unexpected, it’s also emblematic of the artistic perfect storm that Pusha T’s upcoming solo EP promises to be: With guest spots from Tyler to Young Jeezy to Kanye West, and with production by The Neptunes and Bangladesh, the record seems less unorthodox and more a summation of the state of hip hop today. “I’m so excited about all of this, I’m just doing any and everything. Why not? This is the first time I feel like I’ve really been able to compete in the game,” Pusha says, citing his time spent collaborating with Kanye in Hawaii as transformative to his creative process.
“I felt like when I first came out, I wasn’t really being competitive [despite the critical acclaim]. I liked being in Virginia and out of the way. I think it’s always the journalists and the other rappers who say ‘Oh yeah, Clipse is the shit. Clipse is sophisticated.’ But when it comes down to do it, you go through so much that that praise just isn’t enough. I need all of it. I want all the perks. Right now, I have to jump in with both feet. I just need more, man. I’m fiending for it now.” Pusha T. performs tonight at the Key Club with J-MO, Scholar Weems, Rambohustle. His EP of all new tracks will be released in August on G.O.O.D. Music / Decon / Re-Up Gang, thanks to menamearenick.