Q&A: Pusha T On Working With Tyler, The Creator, His Neptunes Bias, And The Virginia Melting Pot

Kanye West's favorite Clipse brother, Pusha T, drops his new EP Fear of God: Let Us Pray today. Released on 'Ye's GOOD Music label, the project includes collaborations with Tyler, The Creator, Young Jeezy and Diddy, as well as the label boss himself on "Amen." In the run-up to the EP's release, Pusha T took a timeout from shoveling down some Chinese chow at a Midtown spot to trace the links between the Odd Future and No Limit movements, recall his days playing shows for local drug dealers around the country, and explain why he might not be that keen to work with Large Professor these days, despite "Looking At The Front Door" being his favorite song of all time.

So how did your collaboration with Tyler, The Creator come about?

Tyler was something I stumbled across 'cause he had done the record with Chad and Pharrell ["Inside of Clouds (Remix)"] and I heard it and thought it was an amazing record. Me and him had already talked prior. He'd sent me a record he wanted me to do. So I did that, and asked him to do this one for me, like we did a little swap.

In the car earlier you said Tyler had sent you some more beats and you were waiting for him to respond to your emails. Does that mean you're looking to work with him some more?

Yeah, for sure, there will be more music from us two in the future. He's sent four beats.

When did you first hear Odd Future?

I think about a year ago was when I sort of got hip to the whole Odd Future campaign.

What did you think of it at first?

Damn man, those kids are really just on their own shit! I have a soft spot for people who just find their own cult followings. The biggest era for music for me was the Master P/No Limit era, the Suave House/Tony Draper thing. Just all of that independent, okay, it's not really moving or making a lot of noise where I'm from, but if you go a few states over it's like the biggest thing in the world and these guys run their own show. And Odd Future give me that feeling on an Internet level. To see their shows and how many kids are out there and the Free Earl campaign and all of that—it makes you feel like you're a little bit not in-tuned! I'm looking at the shows and like, Damn, you guys are so into it, where was I at?

How did you get into the Master P stuff?

I was introduced to the Master P stuff 'cause I live in Virginia and that's a huge military town. So much people would come in from elsewhere and he had so many influences on the south, so from people coming in the army, that's where I was exposed to it. This was like the big thing, and then a few of my boys would go down to conventions like How Can I Be Down? and be like, "Yo, Master P had this bus!" And I'd hear stories about this bus with No Limit rags all thrown out of the window. That's the old school of just word of mouth and making impressions and the street team aspect of just building something and that shit really traveled. And when the music hit and traveled it was huge. I actually ended up running into P in about 2000 and he was about to sign the Clipse.

How did that come about?

We had tons of talks. I did a record with them, called "D-Game." It was on Silk The Shocker's album, I think. That was just good, good times. [Note: The song is on the 504 Boyz album Goodfellas; a remix appears on Silk's My World, My Way album.]

Why didn't you sign to No Limit?

We just decided not to take it.

Did you get any flack at home in Virginia for liking the No Limit stuff?

No, people were openminded. People don't understand, man, I don't think you can say what's real rap. No Limit isn't the type of rap that I grew up on, but there's a lot of things I never thought I'd love in rap. Once you finally get to see it and understand and see it in its element—I never thought I'd like the hyphy movement until I went there. You see how passionate they are and you can't deny it. I mean I've always been playing be east coast hip-hop rules, ha ha. New York hip-hop rules that was just the metaphors, the similes, the attitude and so and so forth. So to appreciate it is one thing, but I could never be it 'cause I was never from there. Those guys have an organic thing.

You grew up in New York for a bit, right?

Yeah, I was born in the Bronx. I didn't even live there long, but my brother was such a rap fanatic that him and his cousins... I could remember like living in Virginia and coming to the Bronx to meet up with them. My brother shaped all of the dos and the don'ts and the good and the bad of rap. I was watching TV and MC Hammer had this video on, like with the hammer pants blooming and he was bouncing across the stage, and I was like, "He's the best!" My brother was like [snaps fingers], "No, he's the best performer, not the best rapper." He differentiated a lot of that to me.

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