On the latest episode of “Drink Champs,” N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN sat down with Pusha T to discuss his new album It’s Almost Dry, McDonald’s diss track with Arby’s, relationships with Kid Cudi and Kanye West, and more.
Born in the Bronx, Pusha later relocated to Virginia Beach, where he would grow up and start the rap group Clipse alongside his brother No Malice. During this time, the pair would get introduced to fellow Virginia native Pharrell Williams of The Neptunes, who would later sign the group to Arista Records. Over the span of their roughly two-decade run, Clipse would release three studio albums before departing from one another following 2009’s Til the Casket Drops.
In 2010, Pusha T was among one of the first major artists to sign to Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music imprint under Def Jam. He appeared on the Chicago rapper’s colossal hit song “Runaway” and debuted his first solo single “My God” the following year. Pusha unloaded his debut mixtape, Fear of God, and its second installment in 2011, introducing songs like “Alone In Vegas” and “Trouble on My Mind” featuring Tyler, the Creator.
However, it wasn’t until the spring of 2012 when Kanye West announced his G.O.O.D. Music compilation Cruel Summer that the musician would propel into commercial success, appearing on the now six-times platinum single “Mercy.” This, as well as 2012’s diss-charged record “Exodus 23:1,” opened the doors for his critically acclaimed debut album, My Name Is My Name. Among features from Kendrick Lamar, Big Sean, Future and others, tracks like “Numbers on the Boards” and “Nosetalgia” helped the album peak at No. 4 on the Billboard 200 charts.
Over the course of his career, the rapper became well-known for his intricate flows, double entendres, and documenting his life in the streets. In 2015, Pusha T unveiled his sophomore effort, Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude, which contained features from A$AP Rocky, The-Dream, Kehlani and Jill Scott, to name a few. The album peaked at No. 20 on the Billboard 200 charts with songs like “Untouchable” and “M.P.A.” becoming staples from off of the project. However, it wasn’t until 2018, when he released his third studio album Daytona, that Pusha would earn his first Grammy nomination for Best Rap Album as well as his first solo RIAA certification with “If You Know You Know.” Though the project was only comprised of seven songs, it boasted heavy hitters like the Kanye West-assisted “What Would Meek Do?” and “Infrared.”
Last month, Pusha T released his eagerly awaited fourth studio album It’s Almost Dry. The project, which arrives after nearly three decades of his contributions to hip hop, spans 12 songs featuring close friends and frequent collaborators such as Pharrell Williams, Kanye West, Kid Cudi, Nigo, and No Malice as well as Lil Uzi Vert, Labrinth, and Don Toliver. The album is joined by previously released singles like “Diet Coke,” “Hear Me Clearly,” and “Neck & Wrist.” It also boasts new cuts such as Kid Cudi and Kanye West’s reported final collaboration “Rock N Roll” and “Dreamin Of The Past.” The latter was initially intended to be used for one of Ye’s projects. With his latest efforts, the Virginia emcee continues to cement his legacy in hip hop.
To help give fans a recap, REVOLT compiled a list of nine facts we learned from the Pusha T “Drink Champs” interview. Check them out below.
1. On working with Kanye West and Pharrell for It’s Almost Dry
Alongside the release of his new album, Pusha T dropped two separate iterations of the project aptly titled It’s Almost Dry: Ye vs Pharrell and It’s Almost Dry: Pharrell vs Ye. The two full-length releases reorder the tracklist for a Verzuz feel, as the living legends go head-to-head on the production front for fans to judge. While speaking on the experience of working with the iconic producers, Pusha notes, “One thing I said about working with [Pharrell] and Ye during this process is I was gonna listen. I was going to follow direction.”
“I came into this game always knowing that the marriage between lyrics and the production made the magic. I never thought I’d rap so good that I could just rap over anything. All of my favorites have a very bad album somewhere because they think they can just rap over anything,” Pusha states. “I really wanted to be produced because I felt like that was one thing about Daytona — I just rapped. I stayed in there with Ye so I could get the hardest beats. When everybody else would leave, I was like, ‘Nah’ — or just so he wouldn’t steal ‘em for himself, I stayed and I took ‘em.”
2. On wishing his fanbase was more like J. Cole’s
On Pusha T’s It’s Almost Dry standout cut “Call My Bluff,” which is produced by Pharrell, the rapper mentions that he desires a cult-like fan base similar to J. Cole’s. “Sometimes I wish my fanbase was more like J. Cole’s/But dope boys gotta be the man like they know,” he raps. As fans know, the two emcees toured together for Cole’s “Forest Hills Drive Tour” in 2015. Additionally, Push mentioned the North Carolina rapper on 2018’s “Infrared.” When asked about the lyric from the song, he responded, “We toured together and that line came from just referencing back.”
“I been on tour with J. Cole and when I was out there, I would do my set, watch his set, maybe even go to the afterparty with his crew or whatever the case may be. The energy around him was all praise and they were just happy. It felt like college energy. People were just happy to be around them,” he recalls. “I was likening it to when I go out and when I do the afterparties. It kind of [becomes] a dangerous thing because you got those who love you on some, ‘Yo, I rock with what you’re doing’ and then it’s always the ‘You know I’ll kill a nigga for you’ [fans]. It’s a different energy and then that gets a little dicey.”
3. On his relationship with his former manager Anthony “Geezy” Gonzales
The opening track on Pusha T’s new album, “Brambleton”— named after Brambleton Avenue in Norfolk, Virginia — is a deeply personal cut. The track details his relationship with his former manager Anthony “Geezy” Gonzales. In 2020, prior to the song coming out, Gonzales did a tell-all interview with VladTV. According to the businessman, Pusha’s 2013 track “S.N.I.T.C.H.” put his life in danger while in prison. In the newly released record, Push compares his relationship with his former manager to that of JAY-Z and Dame Dash, who split apart in 2004 following Roc-A-Fella being sold to Def Jam.
“The song itself was just for me, describing the relationship I had in the streets. My former manager was on Vlad not too long ago. After seeing the interview, I was like ‘Damn, you described us in one way.’” Pusha later expands, “It was a couple of things where I was like damn man, I never would see someone that I’ve been so down with and trenched with never down talk or try to downplay me. Wherever we stand right now, I would never do it.” He later explains how Pharrell helped him turn the emotions he felt throughout that experience into a song.
“I wanted to make that record because it speaks to loyalty and being loyal and understanding the idea of a team. Back then, when all of the street shit was going on, I always looked at it as a team,” the musician adds.
4. On Kid Cudi and Kanye West collaborating one final time on “Rock N Roll”
A few days prior to It’s Almost Dry hitting streaming platforms, Kid Cudi took to Twitter to announce that “Rock N Roll” would be his final collaboration with Kanye West following their most recent falling out. Cudi and Ye have an extensive relationship, with the latter signing Cudi to G.O.O.D. Music in 2008 and the two coming together for their joint album Kids See Ghost. Cudi, who departed from West’s label in 2013, has previously made up with the “Power” rapper numerous times. According to Push, however, Kid Cudi said he’s done for good this time.
“Cudi’s my brother. Whatever it is that he had an issue with, he’s going to stand on that. He was the last person cleared on the album. I’m in the studio doing radio drops and he called me. I’m like, ‘Bro, please!’ I heard after a while … I’m wondering what’s the progress with the album because the music’s been done. I’m trying to figure out what’s the date going to be and I can’t get these answers and nobody is saying nothing for a long time. Then, it finally had to come out that it was Cudi and I was like, ‘Damn,’” Pusha recalls.
“He ended up calling me and telling me how he felt and telling me how he was going to clear it. And it’s never nothing about me, but he was like, ‘Yo, this the last one with me.’” Later, Push stated that he had a music video planned for the song and hopes to still put it together — even if the rappers are in separate rooms.
In regards to the tweet that Cudi sent out, Pusha notes, “Cudi fans are rabid. Soon as he do something or says something, they go crazy.”
5. On reuniting with JAY-Z on “Neck & Wrist”
Two musicians widely known for their infamous “coke raps,” JAY-Z and Pusha reunited once more for “Neck & Wrist” off of the latter’s new album. On the track, Push makes references to HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” the Netflix original “Narcos,” and late comedy legend Richard Pryor. Hov spits bars about Faizon Love’s attempt to discredit him, The Notorious B.I.G., his formerly incarcerated friend Emory Jones and more.
“I just e-mailed it to him,” Pusha tells N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN. “That’s the only reason I call him when it comes to music — because I wrote a second verse for it, it just didn’t hit how I wanted it to hit. Like I said, I only reach out to him musically when I feel like the song needs an uptake. ‘Neck and wrists don’t lie’ and I know he’s going to say twelve things that I can’t say. It’s other artists who could’ve been on it, but they not gonna say too much that I can’t say.”
Prior to that, Push and JAY collaborated on Kanye’s 2010 song “So Appalled” alongside the likes of Swizz Beatz, RZA, and CyHi The Prynce. They also teamed up on their 2016 smash hit “Drug Dealers Anonymous.” The track was filled with references to their past and Internet-worthy moments such as Tomi Lahren calling Hov out and the “Damn Daniel” meme.
6. On Nas not being featured on It’s Almost Dry being his biggest regret
Among the star-studded features that appear on Pusha T’s new album — Don Toliver, Lil Uzi Vert, Nigo, JAY-Z, Kanye West and more — the Virginia rapper’s only regret was not being able to secure a Nas verse. Later in the interview, he reminisces on sending over a record with an open verse for the hip hop icon. However, due to the timing, it didn’t make the project. “I felt like he would’ve killed it. It got quiet, I didn’t hear from him for a long time. I gave it to him so long ago, then I ran into him at Cote,” Push recalls. “I’m like, ‘I still want you on this record … I still want you to be the last verse and that’ll be the surprise on the album.’”
“It just didn’t happen man, it did not happen. Biggest regret of the album,” he emphasizes. Push notes that his goal was to be among the first artists to have Hov and Nas on the same album since their musical reconciliation in 2021.
7. On being a major label artist
In 2010, Pusha T signed to Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music imprint under a joint venture with Def Jam Records alongside notable names such as Big Sean, Kid Cudi, Teyana Taylor and Q-Tip, among others. While many of the label’s biggest artists would eventually leave due to fulfilling their contractual obligations or internal issues, Pusha remained at G.O.O.D. Music for a little over a decade. Fast forward to 2015, he was appointed the record label’s president with record executive and manager Steven Victor announced as COO.
In regards to whether artists should sign to a major label or remain independent, Pusha shares, “I don’t have a problem with a label as a partner, especially if you don’t have the arms you need to facilitate everything you need to be as an independent. I’m speaking on this because I’m from a place where independence never happens. I’m from Virginia, we never had the infrastructure.”
“There is no wrong or right and I’ma tell you this: I don’t know. I’m not mad at either one though, to be honest with you. If you got the arms to be independent, then it’s go, you should. If you don’t, you can be just as successful on a major,” he shares. Furthermore, the Virginia native founded his own label entity Heir Wave Music in 2020, signing Petersburg rapper Kahri 1k as his first act.
8. On dissing McDonald’s in an Arby’s commercial song
Among his several notable accomplishments, Pusha T wrote McDonald’s signature “I’m Lovin’ It” jingle in the early 2000s before his career took off. However, as the rapper has mentioned several times in the past, he didn’t get paid as much as he should’ve. He received a whopping $1 million with no royalties despite the jingle being prominent in the company’s branding 20 years later. Thus, earlier this year, Push decided to partner up with fast food competitor Arby’s for “Spicy Fish Diss,” taking aim at McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish sandwich. The diss track reportedly produced $8.2 million for Arby’s and the rapper owns a percentage of the song, which serves as a major step up from his previous deal with McDonald’s.
“I’m proud of it all. [Steve Stoute] didn’t get us jerked, we was like 20-years-old. Shout out to Stoute though because he brought me and my brother in on the ‘I’m Lovin’ It’ campaign and from those raps came the catchphrase,” Push notes. He also shares that at that time, he knew nothing about residuals, however, the money he was paid was a large sum. “The check was looking crazy, and I’m thinking it’s a little two-month joint. That [jingle] lasted twenty years. It might still be going on.”
In regards to working with Arby’s, Push states, “I’ve been with Arby’s for a minute because me and Skrillex did a record called ‘Burial.’ The ‘We got the meats’ at the end of the Arby’s commercial — I own 40 percent of that record.” He continues, “It just made sense and everything I was going through beef-wise since then. That’s why it’s really important to get the right people at these corporations because they know what’s going on culturally.”
9. On being GRAMMY-nominated alongside Nipsey Hussle and Cardi B
Pusha T’s 2018 studio album Daytona earned the musician his first Grammy nomination for Best Rap Album. The full-length project was nominated alongside the likes of Travis Scott’s Astroworld, Nipsey Hussle’s Victory Lap, Mac Miller’s Swimming, and Cardi B’s Invasion of Privacy, which ended up winning for that year. Later in the interview, Pusha recalls the 61st Annual Grammy Awards, stating “I’m super proud of that. I remember vividly being at the Roc Nation brunch with Nipsey and us high-fiving and laughing.”
“Just being at the Roc Nation brunch, we’re giggling, laughing, high-fiving like, ‘Yo, we Grammy-nominated, we’re in the same category. They done fucked up!’ I remember discussing it with him and just being happy with the category itself. I felt like they really got it right. Cardi B ended up winning that year and I get it,” Pusha points out. “At the end of the day, it’s who they pick and who they think performs the best. It was something that I don’t think any of us could be mad at. Cardi won, she deserved that.”