With the Pusha T–No Malice duo Clipse on a seemingly endless sabbatical, Pusha has reincarnated himself as a solo dynamo — and he is arguably the breakout lyricist of Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music cadre. Vulture hopped in a cab with the Virginia-born rapper earlier this week, just after the release of Cruel Summer, to talk about the meaning of “white frost,” how he discovered buzzy upstart Chief Keef, and who he’s been meaning to stalk on Twitter.
Interviewer: Do you check Google and social media to see what people are saying about you? Some artists claim that ignorance is bliss.
Pusha T: fu-k yeah I do. I want to see what you’re saying about me. I want to see where I stand within … ’Cause all these people have a voice; they represent something. You gotta know what people are saying. People are lying if they say they don’t [check].
Interviewer: Isn’t it maddening when people are negative?
Pusha T: Hell no. No man, because nine times out of ten, unlike myself, they wouldn’t say that if they saw me. Me? I would say everything. It can’t ever make me mad, somebody who sits behind a computer and you know, hides behind it.
Interviewer: My favorite lyric in “Mercy” — or in rap in general this year — is yours: “That white frost on that pound cake/so your Duncan Hines is irrelevant.” I really want to find the right circumstances under which to use that line.
Pusha T: This is so funny because people don’t even understand. A lot of times, I just get caught up in street lingo. Talking outside with your homeboys, type sh-t. So it’s like, Two door preference/Roof gone, George Jefferson [means] two-door car, the roof is off. That white frost on that pound cake is that white paint job on the top of the seats …
Interviewer: Oh! I thought “white frost” was a cocaine reference, not part of a car metaphor.
Pusha T: Noooo. Everybody thinks it’s a coke reference.
Interviewer: There’s a lot of debate around Chicago rapper Chief Keef [G.O.O.D. Music remixed his song “I Don’t Like”]. His controversial image aside, many older hip-hop fans feel removed from his teenage rhymes and blame the new generation for the so-called decline in real hip-hop.
Pusha T: That’s a lie. First of all, I am solely the reason that there’s a Chief Keef remix [on Cruel Summer]. I am. I saw him on Worldstar[HipHop.com] and I never click Worldstar rappers but the picture for some reason drew me. It was for “3Hunna.” So I clicked on it and I called [manager Steven] Victor and I said, “Victor. I want to sign this kid. Go online and check this kid out. It’s authentic.” That’s what I like about him. This isn’t Nas at 16. Like c’mon, understand for a minute. He didn’t call me back, so I called him back like, “Yo! What happened?” He said, “Oh, I thought you were joking!” I said, “I hate you for this.” He said, “Listen man. We have other stuff to deal with. They have, like, guns and stuff. What’s wrong with you?” I said, “Fine. Whatever.” I do a little research and say on Twitter, “I like Chief Keef.” The backlash I got was crazy, or other people were like, “Damn! I love him.” I started realizing that this guy is a child [he’s 17]; he looked older in the video. More research. I go on his Twitter and people are like threatening his life. I’m like, “Oh, this is some gang sh-t. Chicago sh-t.”
Interviewer: So Keef never reached out to you on Twitter?
Pusha T: No. Fast forward to I’m in New York finding beats for my album. Me and Ye are … everybody from Chicago happened to be in the room at this time. I was like, “Yo, what’s going on in the Chi man? Y’all ain’t fu-king with Keef?” They were like, “What? You like Keef?” Ye was like, “Who is Chief Keef?” I go to the computer, plug it up to the big speakers and he [Kanye] says, “Oh my God. This is incredible. This producer is incredible. I love it as a whole but this producer is incredible.” I was like, “Yo, for real, he’s a young kid from Chicago. We should probably just do a remix, throw him a bone.”
Interviewer: Have you spoken to Keef since?
Pusha T: Never.
Interviewer: Moving gears, what’s going on with your solo album?
Pusha T: I’m just doing records, man. It’s like 80 percent done. Me and Dream created a crazy musical bond; Dream is my man. Me and Swizz got some great sh-t together. I found one [song] from Pharrell I’m really excited about. Just Blaze — I was just in the studio with him and I’ve been begging to get in the studio with him. Literally, I’ve been stalking him. Certain people I stalk.
Interviewer: How do you stalk them? Twitter?
Pusha T: Twitter. I find myself seeing who he [Just Blaze] speaks to.
Interviewer: Oh my God! You’re a lurker. Not that I would know from experience, but …
Pusha T: [Laughs] Of course.
Interviewer: Is there any artist or producer who you’re stalking but has been elusive? Now would be a great time to shout them out.
Pusha T: Oh yeah. You know someone I’m gonna Twitter-stalk? I tried to but she don’t tweet enough? Missy. I just went through a whole begging ordeal with Timbaland and I just did a record for him today so he said, “For sure. I promise you. I can get you on this. Blasé blasé blah.” And I’m sure he can.