Pusha T Through the Wire

Pusha T Through the Wire
In the latter half of the summer, and before the fuss and fight over his album release date, Exclaim! has the chance to chop it up with G.O.O.D. music spitter Pusha T. As we reported in July , Pusha is more than certain his debut album, My Name Is My Name, will be album of the year. With the album October 8 release date upon us, the anticipation has remained strong, if not stronger than before, and Pusha T explains why, discusses his favorite tracks off the album and talks about working with Kanye West.

What's been your biggest challenge since signing to G.O.O.D. Music in 2010 and embarking on a solo journey?
My biggest challenge since 2010 is trying to let my old fans know that I can't just come out and drop an album, you know? Like, my real fans that have been following me since the Clipse and the Re-Up Gang, you know once they heard about the signing they were like "Ok, it's time that you drop an album!" And it's like, "no, there's a whole preliminary thing that I have to do as far as exposing myself to new fans," and as well as, you know, getting people accustomed to hearing me solo-wise. Like, I had to sort of re-tune some of my fans because they only wanted to hear me with my brother. It's been sort of tough, but I think everyone's ready now.

Would you say that it's almost as if you're a freshman to the game all over again?
Well I'm not gonna say that, that'd be cheating. That'd be like me being 16, playing like rec league basketball, you know what I'm saying? Or with some 11-year olds, I can't do that. But you know, I treat it like such. My work ethic is like such. I treat it like I'm new. I treat it like it's about putting out mixtapes and multiple features, and just being heard like I'm new.

As someone who's gained respect and veteran status deserved in the game, was there a reason why you decided to release Fear of God [originally] and Wrath of Caine as free mixtapes, as opposed to selling them?
Oh, I mean I don't necessarily know anything other than that. I guess I could've sold it, but I don't really have time for all the politics that go into that. I'm gonna get money, that's gonna come, but I'd much rather just get the music out to the people. By getting it out to the people, tours come… numerous tours come, shows, appearances, hosting. I treated it with videos and things like that, so it was more so just about getting out to the people and the public eye. All the politics by selling it just slows things up.

Could you explain the idea behind My Name is My Name and where the concept came from?
My Name is My Name came from the show on HBO called The Wire, and it was said by the character Marlo Stansfield. He was a young, brash drug kingpin who was in competition with older guys. He was the new one, but he wasn't following any rules. He was reckless, he did his own thing, he didn't care and he had his own money. And he has a strong hold on the public and the clientele, and he was just letting everybody know he was in direct competition with them. When it comes to the actual My Name is My Name album, man, I gravitated towards this character, number one. Number two; it was also speaking to people who have so much to say about Pusha-T's content. Man, I've been in this game since…my first album came out in 2002. And it's like man, you know what you're getting from me at this point. I've been around this long, and if you have something to say about this content, then it's like my name is Pusha. Get over it after 11 years.

What can we expect from this album, features, production and content alike?
This is the purest rap album that's gonna come out this year. This is just rap... this is rap, this is hip-hop at its best. This is production at its best. My time in the game has afforded me to work with certain guys, under certain conditions that normally you just don't get. Like I can just hit up Swizz and be like "Yo, I need a beat!" Or you know, the Pharrell sessions and so on and so forth. Even my first time working with people like The-Dream… man, it was like the best experience ever. So, this album it's like, you're definitely gonna get the best of the best on this album. 100 percent the best of me.

What role has Kanye played in your career, especially having been executive producer on Wrath of Caine and now My Name is My Name?
Oh man, you know, just to never compromise. More so than anything, Kanye… the best part of him being a part of this music is that you can just totally be yourself. Like, I'm talking about doing exactly what you wanna do, sound how you wanna sound, don't compromise that, and then let him build around that. He'll bring out some of the colours that the public may need to see. But as far as I go, he just wants me to write the hardest verses every day. That's all he wants.

Being in Toronto, with such a heavy West Indian influence, it's only right to ask what your relationship is with the Jamaican culture and whether this is a characteristic of the new album.
Well that was the colour of Wrath of Caine. I haven't really ventured into that world for My Name is My Name. I treat these projects as special… like, each one of them. I treat mixtapes like albums as well. They're very manicured, very focused. So when I do things like go to Jamaica for Wrath of Caine and shoot videos there and have [Jamaican dancehall artist] Popcaan and those feelings and artists on the music, that was just my way of adding another colour and texture to my music that represents the hard edge of hip-hop. I feel like at this point in time, and when I did it, I felt like people must've forgot that when you bring hip-hop and reggae together, there's magic that's made. I was really, really, really happy with that. I think that marriage prepped a lot of people for what's to come.

Do you have a favourite song on the album thus far?
Ah man, my favourite track on the album… I'm gonna say my favourite track on the album, that means a lot to me, it's called "S.N.I.T.C.H." The acronym stands for "Sorry Nigga I'm Tryin' Come Home." I don't even know if I want to talk too much about it, but it's just about… you know, you hear a lot of people talk about their life in the street, and what they do, what they dealt, what they done, and how well they done it and how great they are — but a lot of people don't deal with a lot of realities of it. I feel like this is the realest track that people are gonna hear this year.

What would you want your fans to take away from this project?
They should definitely take away that Pusha T is here to stand the test of time, and I'm gonna do it my way — uncompromised. I'm here to be the best, like THE BEST. Some people are really good at what they do, but they don't harness the energy. I feel like I harness the energy of the golden era of hip-hop with all of the new and current appeals, and I don't think a lot of people do that… they lack something. I think I have it all, I think I should be crowned.