Disclaimer: throughout this article, I will frequently refer to Pusha-T as either Pusha or Push because that’s just how it goes. Mr. T is not correct.
Pusha T, King Push, the rapper who allegedly moved kilos of cocaine and ruthlessly revealed to the world the existence of Drake’s illegitimate child, is active again. This time, instead of supplying snow or winning rap battles, he’s taking a benevolent approach (if you take the sale of cocaine to be malevolent — a notion up for debate), partnering with 1800® Tequila as part of a newly founded 1800 Seconds (:1800) program in which a hip-hop legend curates a group of ten up-and-coming rappers to record a collaborative album under his or her guidance. This platform, which aims to discover fresh talent and expose it to the world, is entirely centered on newness and evolution within hip hop. Who are the next stars that will take hip hop to uncharted territory? In recent years, rap has also dealt with a lot of newness, so I hopped on the phone with Push to talk about the evolution of hip hop and his place within it.
I led off with a broad question: how has the genre changed since Clipse was on top? Push explained a trend that many hip-hop historians would agree with: When the genre was fledgling, it was all about artistic presentation, precise song construction and conscious, clever lyrics. These characteristics roughly correlated with the raps dominance on the East Coast. Over the years, rap has become much more feeling based, corresponding with its migration to the south. Today, songs primarily emphasize energy and cadence, making for a sound that you don’t have analyze to appreciate.
I then asked Push a pointed question about his feelings about mumble rap and whether he thinks it has any merit or is simply an underdeveloped art form. (I mentioned the concern that mumble rap is an inaccurate term, and he mumbled that he thinks it’s accurate — I chuckled.) Push, however, delivered this response in quite a respectable and surprising way. Some might’ve expected an old-head diatribe, given the rapper’s affinity for roasting youngsters and reminding everyone of his lyrical prowess. Instead, he praised the new sound and said he really enjoys it as a fan. Specifically, he said he’s been known to go to every Future concert when he’s in the area, choosing to experience the booms and mumbles of today’s rap surrounded by thousands of other fans.
This fandom is especially surprising because Push has looped himself into an exclusive group of today’s most adept lyricists that includes Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole. On “Infared” from his opus Daytona, he raps, “Believe in myself and the Cole’s and Kendrick’s / Let the sock puppets play in their roles and gimmicks.” Interestingly, both Cole and Kendrick have tried to emulate the trap sound with projects K.O.D. and DAMN respectively. Given his outspoken affiliation with these artists, I asked him if he’d ever been tempted to pursue trap.
To this Push explained that he prefers to stay in his lane and stick to what he knows best, emphasizing that he doesn’t want his music to come off as experimental or unsure.
Shifting focus to his responsibilities as the president of G.O.O.D. Music, I asked Push how important it is to discover fresh talent as the head of a record label, a process facilitated and embodied by the 1800 Seconds (:1800) project. He explained that it’s certainly important, but that it doesn’t necessarily have to come from new people. It’s just as important to keep the current members of G.O.O.D. on their toes — even Kanye. He shared a funny anecdote about showing Kanye music he’d never heard before and flaming him for being out of the know. The discovery of new sounds gets competitive between him and Ye, a race to find the coolest stuff first.
Finally, with all this talk of the new, I asked Push if he feels like he’s still growing as a rapper. To this he responded philosophically, explaining that his skill set is concretized, but the elements with which he pairs his skillset change all the time based on his experiences and the sounds he interacts with. To put it cornily, he grows, as we all do, by simply existing in the world.
For more info on 1800 Seconds (:1800), head here.