Oh, what a difference a summer makes. When VIBE caught up with Pusha T. back in May, he was at somewhat of a crossroads in his career. The Clipse—the duo comprised of himself and his brother Malice—had just announced that they were preparing to release solo albums, but neither had a solo deal at the time and there were no concrete plans in place for their immediate future. Fast forward to Sunday night (Sept. 12) and Pusha on stage with Kanye West at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards performing “Runaway,” the latest single from ‘Ye’s forthcoming album, reportedly titled Dark Twisted Fantasy. Just how did he push his way into this position? We caught up with Mr. Push-A-Ton to discuss the VMAs, the Kanye/Taylor Swift controversy, the making of ‘Ye’s new single and his role as the newest member of G.O.O.D. Music. Yeah, he’s good.
VIBE: Congrats on the big look Sunday. We were surprised to see you take the stage. No one had heard anything about you joining Kanye that night. When did ‘Ye get the idea to perform “Runaway” at the show and when did you find out you were joining him?
Pusha T: [Laughs] I have no idea when Kanye first got the idea to perform the song at the Video Music Awards, but the show was on, what…?
VIBE: Sunday night.
Pusha T: Right, Sunday night. And I was told about it last Wednesday. That’s when I was told I would be performing.
VIBE: That had to take you by surprise. And then you throw in the fact that ‘Ye asked you to perform a new record that nobody had ever heard before—at the VMAs. Were you worried that people might be like, ‘Ummm…what is this?’
Pusha T: No, but I mean, you know what? The record itself is a really big record and a really dynamic record. The hook on that record is catchy and infectious the first time you hear it, so I didn’t worry about the newness of the record at all. I thought it was going to be a great record and it was. To me, I just thought it was really, really timely.
VIBE: Were you a little more nervous than usual when you took the stage?
Pusha T: I was just excited. We had been rehearsing it since I got to Los Angeles [at the end of last week] and every time during rehearsal, we were just like, ‘Wow, this is going to be really crazy.’ And it was simple at the same time. We didn’t have a whole lot going on during the performance. It was just about us. Well, us and the ballerinas. [Laughs]
VIBE: [Laughs] The ballerinas—that’s right. What did you think about the ballerinas? I can’t imagine diehard rap fans ever expected to see a Clipse member performance featuring ballerinas.
Pusha T: You know, it’s funny. You get caught up in Kanye’s visions a lot of times. [Rapping next to a ballerina] is not something that I ordinarily would have even thought about. But when people hear Kanye’s album and see what he’s doing artistically with the visuals as well as the music, they’re going to see that it’s real artistic. All these little pieces that you’re getting in advance are pieces of a puzzle. And once the whole puzzle gets put together, you’ll understand it. So, to me? Yeah, the ballerinas make a whole lot of sense. But I know the story already.
VIBE: In the week leading up to the VMAs, everyone was talking about the Kanye/Taylor Swift incident from last year. Were you aware of what was going on with that?
Pusha T: Yeah, yeah, I was aware of it. But, you know, it was over. I was aware that it was over. It wasn’t anything that anybody from our camp was thinking about. ‘Ye had apologized numerous times and moved on. That was old news.
VIBE: You might have known that, but I’m pretty sure there were a ton of people out there who thought Kanye was going to bring Taylor up on stage.
Pusha T: Aw man, that would have been cheesy! [Laughs] That would have been really cheesy. And Kanye doesn’t do cheesy, man.
VIBE: Did you get a chance to hear her perform her new song, “Innocent,” while you were backstage?
Pusha T: You know what? I watched the performance. I saw it. But I don’t know. I don’t know if it was about him. People say it was, but who knows? It was cool. But, you know, I think we had a great performance, too.
VIBE: “Runaway” seemed to get a lot of love from the crowd. I heard plenty of people bumping the live version the next day, too. When exactly did you and Kanye record that song?
Pusha T: March or April, earlier this year. Whenever I was out in Hawaii… We recorded quite a few songs. He had the record already and was like, ‘Yo, I want you on this record.’ A lot of stuff from him comes from conversation. He’ll talk to you and get a feel for your perspective and your outlook on shit. And later, he’ll be like, ‘Yo, I want you on this. I got a record that that perspective would fit on.’ That’s how he operates.
VIBE: Did he have his parts already recorded when you heard “Runaway” for the first time?
Pusha T: He had the singing done on the song. I actually wrote my verse for “Runaway” three or four times. Kanye didn’t feel I was douchebag enough for the song on the first couple verses I wrote. [Laughs]
VIBE: Is that typical for you when you work with somebody?
Pusha T: Never! Never, never, never… There’s no such thing as me rewriting a verse three or four times. Only when you’re with Kanye.
VIBE: I’ve heard he’s hard on himself when it comes to his music. But he’s a perfectionist like that with someone else’s verses?
Pusha T: Oh, he definitely is. It really sharpens you up to work with anybody else honestly. He is such a perfectionist and he’s very opinionated. You will find yourself explaining yourself, and if you can’t explain the reasoning behind the things you’re saying in a verse or whatever the case may be, it might not fly. He won’t let you get away with it.
VIBE: That brings me to my next question: You recently announced that you’d signed to his label G.O.O.D. Music. But it sounds like Kanye’s gonna be a tough boss. Why sign with him?
Pusha T: He showed an incredible amount of passion for me and for my music. We were out in Hawaii for a month and some change. Once that chemistry got rolling, it was like, ‘Wow, we can make some great things together.’
VIBE: When you first went out there, though, you weren’t affiliated with the label, right?
Pusha T: No, no.
VIBE: So just through working together, you both eventually decided you would join G.O.O.D. Music?
Pusha T: Right. That’s how it happened.
VIBE: How does Malice feel about all this? Did you talk specifically about you taking a deal with G.O.O.D. Music?
Pusha T: Yeah, but… It’s a little premature and I can’t talk about it, but… There’s a Clipse album coming, too. [Laughs]
VIBE: I’ve heard rumblings about that on the Internet.
Pusha T: As of right now, my solo situation is where we’re starting at. You also have to understand, Malice is working on his book and things like that [Ed. Note: Malice is currently penning a book called Wretched, Pitiful, Poor, Blind and Naked.] We’re both working on different things right now. But nothing is taking away from the fact that Clipse as a group is still an entity.
VIBE: People are hoping you don’t go a completely different direction with your sound and content. They still want Pusha T from the Clipse, not necessarily Pusha T from G.O.O.D. Music. Do they have anything to worry about?
Pusha T: Nah, I just think you’ll get a lot of my perspective. The dichotomy of Clipse is Malice, who is a really deep thinker and has a conscious perspective at times, and then me, who has a little bit more wordplay and is a little bit more brash. Malice takes the reins a lot of times in an introspective way on Clipse albums. It’s not that I don’t think that way or that I don’t see things that way. That’s just how we operate. So now, you’ll probably hear a lot more of that from me.
VIBE: Do you see yourself fitting in with the rest of the G.O.O.D. artists? You’re definitely coming from a different angle than Consequence or GLC.
Pusha T: I think I fit in damn good. [Laughs] The G.O.O.D. Family is full of artists who are very talented. They’re lyricists, and they got a sense of style with their music and their attitudes. It’s different cuts on a diamond and I’m just one of them.
VIBE: You bring a different perspective than everyone else, though. Clipse are the coke rap kings. There’s not much of that style of music coming out of the G.O.O.D. camp.
Pusha T: It’s funny. We did a cypher yesterday—myself, Common, Big Sean, Cyhi Da Prynce and Kanye. Everybody comes from a different perspective, but it’s still all good. No pun intended.
VIBE: As far as the album, do you have a title yet?
Pusha T: No title yet, just a whole bunch of music. I don’t know [which songs] we’re going to keep and what we’re not going to keep yet, so I can’t say. Right now, it’s about collecting a body of work and slimming it down.
VIBE: Any chance it’ll be out this year?
Pusha T: No, no, definitely next year.
VIBE: People were disappointed that your new mixtape, The Fear of God, didn’t drop this week like it was supposed to. Is it not ready yet?
Pusha T: It’s just that we’re doing something different as far as releasing music. You can tell with the whole G.O.O.D. Friday thing. I stopped putting out my freestyles frivolously. This music is really—damn, I don’t know how else to put it—it’s really good. [Laughs] Too many artists are dropping music haphazardly. Our music isn’t flash-in-the-pan music, whereas a lot of that other stuff is.
VIBE: So, what are you saying? You won’t be dropping the mixtape anytime soon?
Pusha T: It’s going to be put out, but it’s going to be put out systematically. I’m not going to put a date or time on it until we get the format locked in. It might be something digital’ it might not. The G.O.O.D. family is trying to switch things up a little bit, thanks to 85maestro.