How Pusha T Reinvented Himself by Not Changing at All
Terrance LeVarr Thornton, better known as Pusha T, is a 39-year-old rapper from Virginia Beach, Virginia. If the name looks unfamiliar, you may be more acquainted with his former rap group, The Clipse, which consisted of Pusha T and his brother, No Malice (Gene Thornton).
The Clipse were one of the biggest names in rap in the early 2000’s and for good reason. Pusha T and No Malice had a sound like no one else in rap at the time. While they have never received proper credit for it, I believe they perfectly blended the best of New York-style rap and southern rap. Their persona was that of Brooklyn, but their music had a bounce that was in tune with rap scenes like Atlanta and Houston. Both rappers were genuine lyricists, but a lot of their success could be attributed to musical heavy-weight, Pharrell Williams, who produced most of their biggest hits.
In 2010, the Clipse parted ways. Rap history tells as that breaking up a rap group usually doesn’t work out for either party, but this was a difference case. In this case, the breakup would gift the rap community with something we didn’t even know we wanted (needed?).
“Wow, I didn’t know selling drugs could sound so sophisticated” were there words I uttered to myself the first time I heard Pusha’s latest project, Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude. I tried to think about the last time I heard someone rap about drugs with this level of eloquence and intelligence, until I realized the last time I heard rap like this was when Pusha and his brother were still a dynamic duo.
While Pusha’s flows, lyrics, and subject matter remain the same, something has been changed. Actually changed is a bad word, I should say something has been added. What 39-year-old has added to his repertoire is something that goes overlooked rap music a lot and that is branding.
When you think about rappers like Drake, Kanye West, and Jay-Z, you don’t just think about their music. You also think about their brand, their image, and what it means to be a fan of these artists. Pusha T has taken the idea of having a solo rap career and morphed it into something much more profound than just selling records. He has carved out his own path, both as an artist and as a businessman.
Between being named President of G.O.O.D. Music Records to endorsement deals with Adidas, it is clear that Mr. Thornton is about a lot more than just drug talk these days. Under his leadership, G.O.O.D Music has released some of their most acclaimed albums and have made marquee signings that have revitalized the record label. He has brought the same energy to Adidas and their EQT line, which he has helped with creatively and from a marketing standpoint. Did I mention he even has his own clothes? In 2008, Pusha and No Malice teamed up to create the streetwear brand Play Cloths. Business halted for a bit due to Pusha prioritizing his other ventures, but the brand returned this year with a strong spring collection.
I have a hard time comparing Pusha T to any other rapper in the game. There is this maturity to his words that rivals that of someone like Nas, yet he still raps with such hunger and aggression that you would think he still had something to prove. His ear for music is just as mature as is words. He frequently collaborates with the likes of Kanye West and Pharrell, but he is also known for working with younger rappers and producers. The Virginia Beach mogul has even developed his fair share of crossover appeal over the years. Sonically speaking, his music is just as expansive as it is focused.
While some rappers are a walking metaphor, Pusha T is more like a walking oxymoron; raw and refined.
Here’s a playlist of some dope Pusha T tracks curated by yours truly. He’s been releasing a lot of music lately, so if you like what you hear, keep your eye peeled!
*NOTE: The Spotify playlist is missing a few tracks off of Pusha T’s Wrath of Caine mixtape and “Drug Dealers Anonymous” featuring Jay-Z, which is a must listen*