Following rescheduled phone calls and pencilled-in meetings from New York City to London to Amsterdam, we finally catch Pusha T when he’s back home in Virginia Beach, the city where he was raised after his parents moved from the Bronx when he was young. A scroll through his Instagram feed throws up posts from Berlin, Copenhagen and Stockholm, where the recently appointed G.O.O.D Music president has been performing, having meetings and inspecting European streetwear stores, but right now it’s 9AM and the early-rising rapper has just finished up at the gym.
“Success looks like longevity and being able to provide, being able to be a chameleon and change with the times. To be relevant in so many different times without compromising yourself. Success looks like Pusha T.”
It’s a hefty statement, but one that can’t really be denied. While Pusha, born Terence Thornton, has avoided the celebrity scandal that would be required to place him on the front of the gossip magazines, to music fans he’s up there with the best of them. After breaking through in 2002 with the timeless syncopated table-beating rhythm of ‘Grindin’’ as one half of The Clipse with his brother Malice - and bringing street credibility to Justin Timberlake’s debut single ‘Like I Love You’ in the same year - he went on to release two LPs produced entirely by The Neptunes at the height of their career. After their third album, ‘Til The Casket Drops’, The Clipse went on an indefinite hiatus, but Pusha would go on to enjoy the next leg of his mammoth career as a solo artist under Kanye West’s G.O.O.D Music imprint. In a genre where you’re lucky to get to album three without completely losing relevance, Pusha has consistently continued to win, maintaining his integrity and sounding as fresh as ever. By his own definition, there’s no doubting his success.
With a traditional mid-Nineties come-up that involved physical demos, meetings with record labels and eventually a shelved debut album - 1999’s Neptunes-produced ‘Exclusive Audio Footage’ - Pusha’s experience breaking into the music industry is a far cry from the kids of today, who can record tracks in their bedrooms and transmit them straight to the palms of their fans. It’s something he watches with fascination, verging on obsession, as he scrolls through social media feeds, forums, blogs and apps on a hunt for the next big thing. His foresight has been proven time and time again. In 2012 he was slated by fans for enlisting Future for the hook of his Kanye West and No I.D.-produced single ‘Pain’, whereas in 2016 even Ariana Grande seeks after a Future hook. In the same year he played Chief Keef’s ‘I Don’t Like’ for Kanye West, which would result in a monster remix that would take the track (and Keef) from hood famous to international infamy. It makes sense therefore, that when Kanye West wanted to enlist a president to sit at the helm of his G.O.O.D Music label, someone who could find new artists that could enjoy a lasting career, as well as ensuring the existing signees continue to thrive, Pusha T was the only man for the job.