Pusha-T Envisions a Full-Time Music Executive Career After Rap
There's something special about having longevity in music, especially in a genre that moves as quickly as hip-hop. After spending more than two decades in pursuit of rap immortality, Pusha-T has seen it all. Forming the Virginia Beach rap duo Clipse in 1992 (alongside his brother Gene "Malice" Thornton), Push set off on a long and winding path, etching his way into hip-hop history. He went solo in 2010, joining Kanye West's G.O.O.D Music crew. Today, the Daytona rapper is president of the imprint while remaining one of rap's premier lyricists.
Considering that Push has played both rapper and exec roles, 1800 Tequila chose him as an ambassador for the spirits brand's upcoming project, 1800 Seconds, a compilation project featuring 10 songs by 10 up-and-coming artists. Pusha helped recruit unsigned artists like Los Angeles' Tyler Thomas and Detroit's Sam Austins for the project (which drops on Dec. 7), also offering guidance and tips as they created over the course of four days at Los Angeles' Westlake Studios.
At a listening session in New York's legendary Electric Lady Studios, Pusha sat down with XXL to talk about the experience of overseeing 1800 Seconds, the career goals he still has and his plans post-rap.
XXL: How did you get involved with 1800 Tequila?
Pusha-T: My agent, who happened to be my first manager, brought this to me. He knows that I’m super passionate about new kids [and] new energy. I'm really into watching how these kids are doin’ it for themselves. Just totally different from what I did. I came up here and I begged every label head to give me a deal. They don’t even know who label heads are, and its dope. And they can show me a video of them producing some shit in their house.
Why is it so important for you to help give new artists a chance?
If you’re dope, you need opportunity. I feel like that's my calling in this. If I can give you an opportunity or shot, then that’s all you need. I can’t promise you anything but if there's something I hear that I like and I can provide a platform for then by all means come on board.
Was there something specific you were looking for when you came into this?
Not at all. Everyone had some sort of story that drew me in. Some people were all around, like Tyler [Thomas]. It's not any one particular thing or sound. Everyone sounds different. I was sort of testing myself with the different pockets that all these artist lay in. It was just about finding the best in those different sub genres of rap, putting them together.
What kind of advice do up-and-coming rappers usually ask from you and what do you tell them?
With them doing it for themselves [and] because of SoundCloud, they don’t really listen to anybody because they don’t have to. I just try to present them a better way of packaging it. Everybody wants to be a star. The presentation can help them get further and get in front of the execs and corporate sponsors. Be hip to 1800 or Adidas.
You’ve been doing more features lately. How are you choosing them?
Usually, I just have to like the song if it’s a request. I do a lot of EDM features, that's just another part of my business that has a lot to do with my sync business, publishing. My manager put me on to it. We started landing syncs, commercials, movies. Before you know it, I'm doing songs with Skrillex and owning 40 percent of the Arby’s commercials for the past I don’t how many years. Those the only two ways that I consider features.
Younger rappers have a lot of respect for you. When did you become aware of your impact?
Damn, I don’t really know. You know how I know if someone fucks with me? For example, Moneybagg Yo—I was just early on him and I said it. Then they’ll hit me like, “Yo, are you crazy? You just posted my shit” and its like “Yo, this shit dope, this all I ride around to.” Then it turns into him going “I got another dropping, I'ma send it to you.” I’m usually pretty vocal about music in my car and putting it on my Instagram. That’s how I listen to it.
You tend to be vocal about the music you like.
When people think I'm faking—'cause I am faking sometimes—they catch me. My fans are like, “Pusha stop, look at you, who paid you? I hate you, I’m not looking at your page no more.” It’s so wild. It’s the funniest thing. You have that friend who is a rap peer and they like, “I’m about to drop my shit, post my shit!” I’m like goddamnit, are you kidding me? And as soon as I do it, [the fans] are like, “You sack of shit, get outta here, I’m unfollowing you!” They do it all the time. I don’t have a lot of rap friends, but I got people I got good rapport with.
As a solo artist, what do you want your legacy to be?
I want my legacy to be that I did it 100 percent my way. I did not compromise in any shape or form, [whether] who I stood next to or what collective I was a part of. As a solo artist, I gave you the best luxury drug raps that anybody’s ever given. Consistently.
Do you think you’ll ever retire?
I mean, do you retire? I feel I'd be better served in the music industry other than rapping. Like a heightened exec role and really putting people on and seeing through the process.
What's next for you?
New music. I’ll be done totally touring [in] December. I’m not doing nothing for real until I come away with a good 10 to 15 joints. That’s gonna happen all through January, hopefully it don’t go through February. This home-in time gonna be great. That’s what this uninterrupted block is for. My new project gonna be fire.
Is there anyone we should keep an eye out for on G.O.O.D Music?
I like 070 Shake a lot. I feel like Shake is gonna make a lot of noise and it's gonna be a lot of focus on her project as well.
How’s the tour been going?
Tour's been awesome. Touring has showed me that I really know who the fuck I'm talking to. The rooms I've been playing are the rooms I really like to see anyway. This is the coolest 2,000 people—they show me how to dress, what’s hot. This is like the freshest collective before it gets a little too... weird, corny. I love it. I guess the whole point is I have a real good festival history and always do 'em; get my 40,000 fix there and then come here and I'm surrounded by cool.
Is there any exec that already exists that you’d want to have your executive career compared to?
There's a lot of great people but I wish I could've seen a few of the labels that I looked up to really carry it further. None of those subsidiary labels ever took it to like, major. Maybe that’s the first to work towards.
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