Pusha’s well-received mixtape “Wrath of Caine” hit the interwebs last month and has been generating buzz among connoisseurs of straight-ahead street-hop with guest verses from rap heavyweights including French Montana, Wale and Rick Ross.
Drafting off that much blogged-about effort, Pusha will meet up with the Louis Vuitton Don in Paris in late February to lay down at least six tracks for his debut solo album (on West’s G.O.O.D. Music imprint), “My Name Is My Name,” due out later this year.
“Me and 'Ye are going to lock in for nine days to create the heavy reality dark-side to my album,” said Pusha, speaking from Washington, D.C., where he was promoting his mixtape. “We’re gonna get to the heavy truth. The super, super dark portion is what I’m about to create.”
Paris has served as creative muse to West before, being the mythic locale of the breakout song off his "Watch the Throne" collabo with Jay-Z. And the City of Light is as likely a place as any for the reinvention of Pusha (government name: Terrence Thornton), best known until now as one-half of the sibling coke-rapping Virginia duo Clipse with brother Gene “No Malice” Thornton. For more than a decade, the two have been recipient to many of the most trailblazing beats produced by the boundary-pushing, platinum-plus production team the Neptunes.
But Pusha’s decidedly turbulent worldview these days can be traced directly to the creative fracture with No Malice caused, in large part, by his brother’s turn away from Clipse’s signature glorification of crack-dealing and toward organized religion.
Until the Thornton brothers hit the mainstream with their major label album debut, “Lord Willin’,” in 2002, hustling cocaine covered their overhead (with Gene hailing by the MC name “Malice” in those days). "We didn't do it 'cause we had to -- we come from a good home," Malice told the Guardian UK in 2007. "We did it 'cause we wanted to be the flyest and freshest and, you know, the sharpest."
But in 2011, after a bout of severe depression, creeping paranoia about contracting AIDS and with the release of his memoir “Wretched, Pitiful, Poor Blind & Naked,” Gene Thornton repudiated the trife life to devote himself full time to Christianity.
Going the solo route has forced Pusha to branch out lyrically to deliver the self-reflective storytelling that Malice historically brought to their group efforts.
“In writing this album, I think I might be rebelling because I don’t have my brother here,” Pusha said. “He’s been the more ‘conscious’ member of the group and spoke more from a voice of reason to give you a reasonable understanding of why the things we present are as they are. He was so much better at that than me. But with him not being part of my solo project, I had to take that on.
“I’m trying to show people I have a point of view that’s not always so brash. I’m speaking introspectively about street life or family relationships -- even him and his take on spirituality.”
And even with “My Name Is My Name” being one of the year’s most hotly anticipated hip-hop releases, Pusha and No Malice are already making plans to regroup as Clipse, and the two have begun discussions with chief Neptunes songsmith Pharrell Williams about that project.
“Me and him talked to Pharrell about a new Clipse album. The title is tentatively going to be ‘With God as My Witness’,” said Pusha. “People look at Clipse and [No Malice’s] spiritual outlook and think it's incompatible with what we’re doing as a group. But to me, this isn’t that different to me. Look at ‘Lord Willin' " -- we put Jesus riding in the back seat on our album cover!”