Rappers are known for their braggadocio, but even by industry standards Pusha T is ambitious: In the next six months the New York rapper will release not one, but two albums named King Push. (The first, which came out Thursday, is technically titled King Push: Darkest Before Dawn – The Prelude.)
Formerly of the rap duo Clipse, Pusha T broke out as a solo act with a pivotal verse on Kanye West’s 2010 song “Runaway” and with his 2013 debut My Name Is My Name, which featured appearances from the likes of Pharrell, Kendrick Lamar, and 2 Chainz.
Pusha also bolstered his resume in November, when he became president of G.O.O.D. Music — the label founded by West that’s home to John Legend and Big Sean. Now a more consummate businessman than ever, the rapper recently decided to package 10 songs as Darkest Before Dawn as a precursor to the long-gestating King Push, which is due out in April. “These are dark, sinister records,” Pusha tells EW. “Darkest Before Dawn is a compilation of 10 records which I feel like represent what I love in hip-hop and how my core fan base loves to hear me.”
Despite its designation as a prelude, the album is as lavish as you’d expect from a hip-hop king, featuring contributions from A$AP Rocky, Timbaland, and West himself. Pusha spoke to EW about his new music, what G.O.O.D. has in the works for 2016, and his love for the Notorious B.I.G.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did Darkest Before Dawn come together?
PUSHA T: The producers on all of these records are specialized at making hit records and chart toppers. But when I work with them, we dialed in to their discographies and extremely hard records [they did] for artists. I was explaining to most of the producers [that] whereas the records that they’re known for [are] top 5, top 10 records or whatever on the chart, those darker records in their discography were the highlight of their career to me, and I wanted to be a part of it.
A song like “Untouchable,” which Timbaland produced, is a darker sound than you normally hear on his hits.
Right — and there’s something that goes along with that as well. When these producers get with me, they wanna experiment and do unorthodox records, because that’s what I’m known for: unorthodox music, unorthodox production choices. They wanna have the hardest record. They want that Internet rabid fanfare that happens when I put out a record. Something that’s more organic driven than sending that record to a radio station.
How are these songs different from what you’re putting out next year?
The songs next year are just a bit more socially driven. Hardcore hip-hop is what I’m known for, but [King Push] is just a bit more broader. [Darkest Before Dawn] is very streamlined.
“Untouchable” features a great Biggie sample. What’s your relationship with his music?
Biggie is my favorite rapper, for sure. No other artist has impacted me that much. Biggie is still… no one has ever made a double album that great, still to this day. [Life After Death is] still the number one double album I’ve ever purchased. I haven’t seen that level of artistry yet.
What was the inspiration behind Darkest Before Dawn, the short film? How does it relate to Darkest Before Dawn, the album?
Darkest Before Dawn, the short film, is basically the film of a man who faces the darkness when his back is against the wall and just about how miracles come in all forms and even in your darkest times it comes. It was an awesome visual that just goes with the sound that I’ve created. And being in the music industry you face these types of evils. [In] the music industry and just being in the world, in the street culture, you’re faced with that all the time.
You’re now in control of G.O.O.D. Music. What’s your vision for the label?
My vision for GOOD Music is just carrying on with the tradition of putting out high-quality music, high-quality art. G.O.O.D. Music is entrenched in the culture of hip-hop. It’s entrenched in the culture, period. It’s an event when we put out music, it’s an event when we roll out these albums, and it’s an event when we put out these sneakers. Whether it’s myself, whether it’s Kanye, it’s an event on the fashion side. Kids want the G.O.O.D. Music ensemble, you know? Kids who don’t understand it are like “Oh man, you’re dressing like them.” But it’s a whole aesthetic, and a whole brand that comes along with that. It’s just about keeping the fans engaged and making sure that the albums get out there on time and that the fans get to see G.O.O.D. Music as a unit.
You’ve obviously got a big 2016 lined up for yourself with the albums and upcoming tour, but can can you share any details about other big projects coming up on G.O.O.D. Music that you’re psyched for?
I think the world is psyched for the new Kanye album. I can’t say when that’s coming, but you know…
Have you heard it?
Yeah — and it’s incredible. He’s just super meticulous about the messaging around his album, so I don’t want to get into it too much. There won’t be much warning, I’m sure. It’s gonna drop out of the sky.
Sean, of course. Big Sean has been working to finish his album. He’s well into it. I think that’s something definitely to look forward to.
2015 has been a massive year for hip-hop. Is there an artist or album that was your favorite of the year?
My favorite rap album of the year, all-around rap album — I couldn’t escape Sean [and his album Dark Sky Paradise], whether it was “Blessings,” whether it was “I Don’t F— With You,” “One Man Can Change the World,” I couldn’t escape what he did. I think he made the most well-rounded album. Visually he killed it, his tour was phenomenal. Set design, all of that. He really sold it. That’s what I’ve really been on.