60 Rappers In 60 Days
The VA boys are making the album you’ve been dreaming about. The Clipse are ready to get what they deserve. After years of being acknowledged as hip hop’s most lyrical duo, the brothers Thornton want more. Til The Casket Drops (Re-Up Gang/Columbia), their third album (on their third record label), drops this summer and they’re taking calculated steps to make sure they win big critically—and commercially. VIBE caught up with Terrence “Pusha T” Thornton, 32, and Gene “Malice” Thornton, 36, to talk about how they’ll sneak in those slick rhymes, when the rap game got real, and why your favorite song isn’t on their radar.
VIBE: The Neptunes handled most of the production on your last two albums—what’s changed?
Pusha T: I think that this album was just about growth and catering to the fans. I think that a lot of people wanted to hear us on other production. I think that was the biggest thing. I think people love the Clipse but [we’d] always hear, “Yo, we wanna hear y’all on such and such and so and so.” And it’s a growing point for the Clipse. It was like, Damn, let’s venture out and make every part of this album an event. There’s a couple features on the album that aren’t just family-oriented. We worked with different producers. Everything just needs to be different and eventful.
V:It sounds like you’re tight-lipped about who you’re working with. Can you let a couple secrets out of the bag on the production end?
P: On the production end you got Sean C & LV…DJ Khalil…Swizz Beatz. You got The Neptunes. You got Nottz. On the feature tip, we got Cam’Ron. We got Kanye West. That’s what’s etched in stone as of right now.
V:Is there any attempt to dumb down for radio play?
Malice: I attribute the catchiness to the producer. I think the catchiness and what’s been successful for us is the producers. I think it lies within the hook and the beat as far as the catchiness. I think that’s how we even slipped in the game with the content that we had at first. Like with “Grindin,’” the beat was catchy, the hook was catchy, and then once the listeners could vibe offa that, we snuck in and said what we wanted to say. I do believe on this album it may be, on the lyrical side, a little more catchy, but we stay true to good lyricism.
V: What are a couple of catchy joints off the new album that you feel “stay true to good lyricism”?
M: The first single with Kanye West [“Kinda Like A Big Deal,” produced by DJ Khalil and Chin]—that really bangs. I think the streets are going to love that and definitely eat that up. I also believe, I don’t know if this is going to be the official name, but it’s a song that we have called “Life Change.” That’s going to be huge.
V: Who produced “Life Change”?
M: It was produced by The Neptunes. Really, we have what you would call a great problem to have because we have quite a few singles to pick from. I don’t know if I could even make up my mind outside of those two. It’s a great problem to have.
V: Is there any that you can name, T?
P: I think the record with Cam’Ron is going to be amazing. “Popular Demand” was produced by The Neptunes. With Cam, that’s just gonna be incredible, causing that street hysteria. I think that’s going to set it off and prepare everyone for records like “Champion,” which is also produced by The Neptunes, and “Life Change” and things of that magnitude. I don’t like to look at albums in the sense of singles. I like to look at them as one whole motion picture, one whole movement. The idea of selling singles, when you’ve created this amazing movie or body of work, it sort of cheapens your brand to me.
V: What are some things that you’ve learned after 10 years in the game?
P: You just have to work harder than every component of what’s supposed to make this shit work. You yourself. If you’re not going to do that with the way that sales and everything is, no one’s going to do it for you. People are not passionate about this anymore and they’re scared. People are losing their jobs as far as the industry goes. You have to put 200% into all of this. At one time you could just kick back and relax and not know about such and such and so and so, but not today.
V: Was there a particular moment when you realized that rap is more than just showing up to the booth?
P: I would have to say for me, it [was] watching lyric-driven hip hop turn into something that wasn’t as respected anymore. I came up in a time when the lyric was everything. Today it doesn’t mean anything. In ’96 and ’95, everyone talked about what Nas, Big, and Jay-Z said. That was the talk. It wasn’t, “Did you hear how hot that beat was?” or whatever the case may be. It was about what was actually being said; the way the words were put together. So when I realized that, it was like, Damn. You get entrenched and engulfed in what’s going on—you gotta step out so you can know, just so you can know and play off of what’s going on and add your twist to it.
V: You really are the last of a dying breed of lyricists.
M: Yeah, I think it’s been that way for a little while now. I would say being into hip hop as early as I was, I thought that’s what it was always about. And when it steps outside of that—as far as entertainment—to me that’s why I’m not even as interested in hip hop anymore, ’cause I used to really listen to hip hop and I could tell you at one time who was who and compare this one to that one. But now there’s nobody I’m checking for. If there is something good out there, somebody’s just going to have to introduce me to it or I end up bumping into the video [while] TV surfing or [I hear] something on the radio. But right now what’s going on in hip hop and, of course, I’m not saying that it’s bad, but as far as what inspires me or what excites me? I am very much out of touch with what’s going on with hip hop. Thanks To Eclectic_E.
Clipse – Till The Casket Drops (2009) (Ocotber 20th)
Producers & Guests: The Runners, Swizz Beatz, Rick Rubin, Sean & LV, Justice League, Dame Grease, The Neptunes, Danjahands, DJ Khalil, Reefa, Boi 1-Da, Keri Hilson, Kenna, Cam’Ron, Timbaland, Scott Storch, Freeway, Nottz
– Kinda Like A Big Deal feat. Kanye West (DJ Khalil)
– Popeye aka Popular Demand feat. Pharrell & Cam’Ron (Neptunes)
– Wretched Pitiful Poor Blind & Naked feat. Pharrell & Kenna (Neptunes)
– I’m Good feat. Pharrell (Neptunes)
– Eyes On Me feat. Pharrell & Keri Hilson (Neptunes)
– Life Change (Neptunes)
– Champion (Neptunes)