The Clipse

The Clipse
Since meeting Pharrell Williams and teaming with the Neptunes in 1993, Virginia hip-hop duo the Clipse ― comprised of brothers Pusha T and Malice ― has earned a respectable place in hip-hop. While their first album, 1999's Exclusive Audio Footage, failed to generate much interest, 2001's Lord Willin' entered the Billboard 200 chart at #4, off the strength off the instant-classic "Grindin'." In 2006, the group released Hell Hath No Fury, which spawned singles "Mr. Me Too" and "Wamp Wamp (What It Do)," generating more critical acclaim. On a recent break from touring, Pusha T spoke with Exclaim! about the group's forthcoming album, clothing line, and former manager Anthony "Geezy" Gonzalez, who was charged with leading a $10 million (U.S.) drug ring back in April and struck a plea deal last month.

How do you prepare for a tour?
Oh, man. There's absolutely no way of preparing. You hear me? No way. Packing is gruelling; packing is annoying. Getting everything that you have to get done to be gone for like a month or whatever ― it's like total anxiety for me. I try to do as much in advance as I can, just so I can focus on all the major things like studio work and getting myself together and family situations and things like that before I leave.

Tell me about the album, Til the Casket Drops (out December 8).
It's an amazing body of work, man. I like to call it hip-hop on steroids. It's energy, it's amazing production, soulful, introspective. At points, it's gratuitous lavishness. [Laughs] It's just reflecting and repenting. It's alive. It's life man. The title is Til the Casket Drops and it just explains everything, as far as not stopping our hustle. The passion's not stopping, 'til the casket drops. Period.

Tell me about the production.
Neptunes produced a good majority of the album. We also have Sean C & LV ― they're known for [having produced] a lot of Jay-Z's American Gangster album. We also worked with DJ Khalil and Chin, who's from [Vancouver] Canada. They produced "Kinda Like a Big Deal." I think the newest thing is we worked with producers outside of the Neptunes, and I think everybody played their part. They really stepped up to the plate. Also we have Cam'Ron up there, on a really, really amazing street joint called "Popular Demand (Popeye's)." We got Keri Hilson up there, of course. We've got Kenna on a record called "Life Change." That shit is so deep. Also we have, of course, Kanye West. He really came through in a clutch.

How is your clothing line, Play Cloths, doing?
Play Cloths is the hottest streetwear brand on the market right now. I think Play Cloths has really helped out a lot, in so many ways. It's just another facet to the fan base. It made them hungry for something else besides the music. They show their support at the in-stores that we go to, and the shows and the concerts that we're doing. The music and the fashion bring everybody together.

Have there been any surprises or challenges in running a clothing line?
It's little things. You really want to keep things exclusive and hot, so it's a pretty self-contained hype organization. It's really all about the stores, man ― the stores that you have your line in, and the other lines they carry in those stores. It's just about being amongst the elite and having a product that says as such.

What direction are you trying to take the clothing line in this season?
Oh, man. Yo, fall and holiday are so crazy. We're doing a lot of collaborations coming up soon. The holiday line, I'm totally, totally impressed with. Fall dropped and it sold out immediately. I was at the warehouse the other day and I couldn't even get T-shirts in my size. They were all gone. I think the direction is very clean but very outdoors and branding-driven. It's diversified a bit. It's not just Ts and stuff; we have flannels and cardigans. It's growing.

What's the key to longevity in hip-hop?
I would say just being consistent with your content and being good. And always trying to raise the bar. As long as you're being true to yourself and you're consistent with your content, and you're locked in to your fans, I can't see why you can't be here forever. I'm waiting for the day that you get to see these hip-hop acts get the same runs as those rock guys. I think it's imperative that we grow the music and we grow the culture to something that's comparable to that. Rock is forever, you know what I'm saying?

What the hell happened to your former manager, Anthony "Geezy" Gonzalez?
He just got in trouble.

You guys had split professionally before?
You know, there's not too much splitting you can do with the family. A lot of people have been saying that, but there's not a lot of splitting you can do. We worked out our differences, but fam is forever.