“I don’t ever think that lyric driven hip-hop go out of style,” says a goaded Pusha T. We’re talking about his latest single, “Pain,” a record that sounds as dark as Keanu Reeves and Al Pacino’s 1997 flick The Devil’s Advocate with Push blanketing his verses with lyrical gems that’ll have many rewinding it back like a DJ. The record, which finds Future crooning a sinister hook, will serve as the first official single of P’s forthcoming Def Jam solo debut and he can’t stress that enough. “That’s the biggest thing that I want people to get across,” he explains to XXL, placing strong emphasis on the words first and official over the phone on this rainy Monday afternoon in NYC. “This is the first official single off of my album. This “Pain” record really embodies the whole mood.”
How fitting is it that this record comes as the aforementioned flick, which he previously explained will embody the soundbed of the album, celebrates it’s 15th anniversary this week? The new single arrives as the Virginia lyricist enjoys quite a run this year. His Rico Beats-produced “Exodus 23:1″ sent shockwaves within the blogosphere, an appearance alongside The-Dream for the crooner’s “Dope Bitch” record made for one of this past summer’s dope offerings, “New God Flow” continues to be mentioned in the ‘best rap record of the year’ conversations and, well, we can’t forget the release of Cruel Summer.
So with that in mind, XXL talked to Ziplock P about a number of topics including “Pain,” his untitled debut, aligning with The-Dream, lyricism and his affinity for wrestler Ric Flair (Woooh!).
So “Pain” will serve as the first single off your Def Jam solo album, right?
That’s the biggest thing that I want people to get across, this is the first official single off of my album. This “Pain” record really embodies the whole mood. [I mean], just in the chorus, “I don’t never feel pain, cause I done felt too much pain” that’s the whole theme to the whole album. I just want people to really dial in and take notice to this record as such. This is the beginning to the trilogy right here.
This record reminds of the mid-to-late ’90s era rap singles where we had hardcore singles like “Shook Ones” or “Renee.” Plus it sort of captures that “Devil’s Advocate” theme you previously mentioned in a past interview.
The thing about these records—and records on the album— are when I even came up with the “Devil’s Advocate” comparison it was mostly because I felt the soundbed, whether they be dark or a little more lighthearted, was so beautiful and the verses were so brash and so harsh. So like, it was a juxtapose of the two. It reminded me of the movie, I had Keanu [Reeves], Charlize Theron, I got Al Pacino and at the end of the day, she’s changing and I’m seeing demonic images in her body and she’s acting in the dark side of the law firm—that’s how I viewed the album.
So this is poised to be a real dark album.
I feel like that is the whole album is like the sweet and sour in that comparison. Not everything is as dark as “Pain.” The reality that I’m giving off in the verses, whether the song is lighter than “Pain” or not, is all in reality and my reality is a little darker. Even if we’re celebrating. I don’t think people are going to be let down at all. Not the purists of the Pusha T fans. I brought everyone into my box. I brought Chris Brown into to my [world], The-Dream is in my world with this. The suspects that you may feel, you’re going to be surprised by those guys.
You mentioned The-Dream, now a while back you spoke on “taking the student role” when you first entered the studio with him. How has the chemistry built since then?
It’s awesome man. Dream, melodically—see the problem with rappers like myself, cause that’s how I view myself as a rapper and writer, sometimes you get caught up so much in the literature that you forget about these song’s values. Sometimes you write so good that you forget about other important elements that makes a song just that, a song.
Elaborate on that a little bit.
Like, what makes a song really tap into someone emotionally. Just because you’re so—me personally I dial in to just trying to make sure I smack the hell out you with my line. [However,] sometimes it’s overkill. Dream will point that out and be like, “Pusha but I got that, I got the point when you said this. You wasted three more bars on something that you already slapped me for. You’re abusing me now. [Laughs] In all honesty those other three bars could’ve tapped into a whole other emotion. It could’ve took the record elsewhere.” So, when you got people who will master that, people who write records and will master that, the student role is the best way to describe it. That’s what the fuck I turn into, I have to because he pointed it out like a teacher.
And he’s paying attention.
Hell yeah. Dudes like Dream, you gotta pay attention to what the fuck they saying. He makes some records, and to know Dream—he likes all the shit I like and we both born in 1977. He taps into people’s emotion. He makes the biggest records you know, that are on radio right now. He makes the records and he taps into a wide variety of people.
That says a lot, especially after the initial skepticism from folks when it was first announced that you two would be working together on this. But that seems to have ceased now with records like “Exodus 23:1″ and “Dope Bitch.” The same thing happened with the artwork for “Pain” released.
Yeah man, they’re skeptical. As soon as this record said “Pain,” people were like, “It got Future on it? Why you do that?” People don’t always understand the vision. People don’t see things as I see things. Like, Future sounds eerie and scary to me. I don’t hear Future the same way that people hear [him].
Even with records like “Turn Off the Lights,” “Same Damn Time” and/or “Parachute”?
Melodically, he’s in the club and I hear him and rock to those records but there were records that I hear from him that have a darker overtone to ‘em. So I’m like man, there’s something eerie about this guy, it’s just depending on what he’s saying. Now when you throw a record like “Pain” and got him on there in that trancing tone he got—talking about [sings chorus]— that shit is borderline seance/witchdoctor/The Serpent in the motherfucking rainbow. That’s what I hear. So I watched people immediately jump to conclusion and it’s like man, Ya’ll don’t even fucking know. But it’s okay, we call it down here: You gotta let them sleep. You just let them sleep and when you striking with the record then they’ll wake up. Don’t ever wake’em up before then because that means you’re putting them somewhere they don’t belong.
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