Pusha T. is in popular demand. The Virginia rapper — formerly of the rap duo with his brother No Malice called Clipse — and newly appointed president of G.O.O.D. Music has been on his press run for weeks since launching his new Adidas sneaker (Nov. 13) and announcing that his highly anticipated project King Push will now be a two-part album. The first half, called Darkest Before Dawn, will roll out Dec. 18 while the next installment is due sometime in spring. On a brisk winter night in New York City (Nov. 24), the multi-hyphenate has a warm and pleasant demeanor after doing what looked like two days’ worth of interviews on Twitter. He apologizes for running nearly two hours behind schedule but is the type to get excited over a fancy legal pad and pen in one of the meeting rooms called The Library at the Dream Downtown Hotel. He has some grievances to air out, though.
Directed by Kid Art.
Darkest Before Dawn is what Pusha has described on-record elsewhere as “evil.” While it’s not horror raps fit for American Horror Story, the project finds the pen god born Terrence Thornton dishing out fiery bars with purpose. “I was in a bit of an aggressive mind state [while recording the album] simply because I sort of feel like the last rap superhero,” he told Billboard. “When you look at just the state of rap [now], I feel like it’s a lot of complaining and vulnerability, and rappers being victimized.”
How so? “That’s not the attitude that my favorites had and that’s not the attitude that the greats had when I was coming up,” he explained of his influences, which include Jay-Z and Raekwon. “These guys were really like superheroes to me — they dressed fresh, they rapped fresh. I thought they owned the world. I look at rappers now and it’s like, man, it’s just a sad case of poor business and the artistry is being questioned — it’s just too much.”
One reason for the doubts in hip-hop talent: the prevalent case of ghostwriting. With Drake and Meek Mill at odds and one of rap’s constant purveyors, Rick Ross, claiming that he’s one of the “biggest ghostwriters in the rap game,” Push takes the political stance, citing it as a profession. He emphasizes the importance of lyrical ability in decades past and that it can be a case-by-case situation. “I think Rakim wrote ‘Summertime‘ for Will Smith but I don’t think [Will] was trying to be the best rapper of all time [on that record],” he said. [Note: Smith’s “Summertime” collaborator DJ Jazzy Jeff has debunked rumors that Rakim penned the 1991 hit.]
Pusha’s mission statement, though, is to keep his records authentic. With an All-Star cast of producers behind him for D.B.D. (The Neptunes, Timbaland, Puff Daddy, Kanye West, Q-Tip, J. Cole, Hudson Mohawke and DJ Mano, to name a few), the rapper’s dark vision for the album stayed in tact. “These [producers] are associated mostly with huge records so to deal with these guys and to be able to pick beats and have them make beats for me that were all of my favorites but on the darker spectrum, I was like, man, this is an event within itself,” he said.
On the features side, Pusha beams when he talks about recruiting Beanie Sigel for a verse. “There’s just certain rappers that I hold to a very high writing level, like super high literary pen level, and he’s definitely been one of them [to me] ever since he came in the game,” says Push, who compared Sigel’s 16 to Kanye’s “Through The Wire” due to the physical trauma the Broad Street Bully has been through.
Pusha Ton also said he’ll be dropping a mini-movie to complement Darkest, a Kid Art production that boasted a $100,000 budget courtesy of Jay-Z. Don’t consider the hefty donation from Hov a handout, though. Push’s connections come from years of hard work and an old-school hustler’s mentality. “When you look at society, it’s like a big masquerade even through social media,” says Push, who expands on this sentiment in a D.B.D. track called “More Famous Than Rich.” “I’m from a time, an era and a lifestyle where you can’t really speak on it without really having it. To be more famous than rich seems to be a thing that’s going on right now and I’m not into that.”