Pusha T has his eyes on restoring a certain feeling back in rap. “There’s a certain energy that I’m looking for in music that I don’t believe is there anymore,” he says with an intent look on his face, as he sits comfortably inside Def Jam’s NYC headquarters. “The one thing that I want to establish with this album is making sure that I restore [it].” Despite releasing his well-praised Wrath Of Caine mixtape, the G.O.O.D. Music rhymeslinger has his eyes set on unleashing an “instant classic” on the game, that being his forthcoming Def Jam solo debut, My Name Is My Name. Here, speaking on the LP’s recording process and the progress he’s made since our last interview, Pyrex P chops it up with XXL. —Ralph Bristout (@RalphieBlackmon)

XXL: After weeks of building anticipation, how does it feel to finally have this mixtape, Wrath of Caine, out?

Pusha T: I’m glad that it’s out man. I’m so glad, it’s like a monkey is off my back. I’m glad, I’m on to the next now. It’s like, “Man, now let’s finish My Name is My Name.” I was just saying that I was never gonna put out Wrath of Caine; I was never gonna do a Wrath of Caine mixtape. If the timeline and the scheduling of my album coming out in conjunction with all the music I was dropping and the features I was being on and shit like that was all in line, I wasn’t gonna do it. I was just like, “Man, you go from ‘Exodus’ to ‘Mercy’ to ‘New God Flow’ to ‘Dope Bitch’ to—“

There’s a bunch, man.

It was a bunch of shit that was just linin’ up perfectly and I was at a point in my album where I was like, “Man, I’m at the very last of my album and ’Ye went off. Now it’s time for us to go back in and he went—who knows—somewhere. He’s still in Europe now, so I was like, “Now, it’s either I chill and wait and do this, or I’ve gotta put something out.” Everyone was against me putting out a mixtape. I’ve gotta explain to them sometimes that it’s not the same for me as it is for somebody like him. ‘Ye drop records out of the sky and it’s like, “Aw, man! It’s great.”

It’s like media mayhem.

Yeah—like out of the sky, no prep single, no trailer. Just here—boom. And the shit’s on Entertainment Weekly, etc. At the same time, I was doing so much musically and [so many] verses, so I’m like, I can’t stop the music. I can’t be quiet—it’s just me. I can’t be quiet. Either I’m gonna be able to put out my album and move forward, or I just gotta keep coming [and] at least feed the fans until it’s that time.

Wrath Of Caine  was relatively different compared to your past ’tapes in terms of the execution. This one didn’t have any freestyles and was all original production.

See, I want people to understand, like, this isn’t even the spirit that I do mixtapes in. To me, what a mixtape is—I’m conforming to the present day of what mixtapes are. Mixtapes, to me, were when Foxy Brown was rapping over a Nas beat, or when Jay is rapping over “Who Shot Ya?” That’s a mixtape. Those are my classic mixtapes. If you ask me today what my best mixtapes are, by far the best series is the We Got it For Cheap series—period. It was like, “Man, that style is dated.” People don’t really mess with that because [they] are getting so much new music and people are getting original music, so they don’t really do that. So I’m not conforming to doing this. Now the bad part about that is, people are used to a certain standard of production from me. I’m from The Neptunes’ house—I’m now in the G.O.O.D. Music house. The throwaway beat or, you know, just the average beat, it may sound good, but just to be rapping over, that doesn’t really please my fans. Now, let’s switch it up and say, “Man, it’s trap season.” My real, real fans are like, “I don’t want to hear you over no more trap records.” But, I’m fighting a lot of different battles even in putting out mixtapes that I don’t even know if people really, really think about that. Wrath of Caine—it was gonna have to be something where I could compile the best beats that I could get. I think I made due, man.

There’s a line I got to ask you about on the intro: “I'ma lean till they crown me king of New Orleans.” What did you mean by that?

It’s just a play. [I] still hope that people listen to it and say, “That’s ill that he said it this way,” you know what I’m saying? That line was inspired by my man Spade, he about to come home. I remember, we were going through the old mixtapes and Spade was just talkin’ and he said some shit: “I’m gonna be the first Philly nigga that’s gonna be the king of New York,” and I said, “God damn! Who the fuck says that?” I thought it was the most brashest statement. I was like, “That has to be a line, and I gotta be able to use it in a real rap capacity.” I just thought it was a great sentiment. But he really inspired that—I can’t wait till he hear the joint. He’ll be home in a couple of months, after 9 years, almost 10.

Now you have an album set to arrive soon (My Name Is My Name), how do you separate which production is album-worthy and what goes onto the mixtapes?

Man, production these days is very hard to come by. Half of the reason why I had to put out a mixtape is because I did not find that last few beats to the album fast enough. Now mind you, I’m going in. I been in with Swizz Beatz, Just Blaze, Pharrell; I got beats from all of them, I got records cut, all these records. But I’m still missing like a three-, four-piece. So it’s like, “What am I supposed to do now? Just throw some joints on it?” Nah. I gotta wait it out, I gotta see if I can find some diamonds in the rough. I gotta dig deeper.

How do you go about “digging deeper”?

Just start going into the archives of what’s hot, who’s hot, who is it that understands really what I do. I gotta start trying to find producers like that, who aren’t always just on the A-list radar. It’s tougher—I still don’t have them finished. But [dropping this mixtape] bought me a little more time, and I’m happy about that.

Are you going to link with Kanye soon?

I’m about to go to Paris and get with ‘Ye so, hopefully once he hears the whole body of what [I got] right now, I think we’ll be able to put the rest [of the album] together.

You mentioned Swizz, Just and Pharrell. Who are some of the other people you reached out to?

I compiled some more beats from No I.D., Don Cannon, Nashiem Myrick and Carlos Brody.

Wow, Nashiem and Carlos of The Hitmen?

Yeah—I went back. That should even tell you where I’m at with it. I’m trying to dig into people that aren’t even on the radar but have been a part of greatness.

They’re responsible for some classics.

Nashiem Myrick and Carlos Brody, brother, that’s like the grail. To me, that shit means so much just to be able to get music from them. But that shit takes me back to my Neptune “Grindin’” days because what people don’t know is, when we were making “Grindin’” and making those “Cot Damns” and making those record, the Lord Willin’ album shit, Pharrell was like, “I gotta crush ‘Benjamins”’ or “I’ve gotta crush—” just different records that all of these guys were a part of, Nashiem and Carlos. They were part of all this shit that he’s fighting. “I’ma fight them, I’ma be better than them, I’m gonna be better than this kid.” “Puff gonna cut me up for this one.” This is young Pharrell. He may get a placement here and there, got N.O.R.E on the rise, but still striving and looking to the co-sign from the Puffs of the world and the executive producers of the world. So these are the people that they’re trying to beat up musically. That’s how those records were made. Mind you, 2002 is when Lord Willin’ came out. So all that greatness, everything before 2002, all that great shit, “Money, Cash, Hoes,” all of it is the motivation behind why a lot of that music was so great production-wise.

What are you seeking to prove with this album?

The one thing that I want to establish with this album is making sure that I restore that feeling. There’s a certain energy that I’m looking for in music that I don’t believe is there anymore. And I think that’s that music that you’re really frontin’ to; music where you get in your car you roll down all your windows—it could be cold outside. You’re riding past the fuckin’ club line twice. You get your car washed because of the CD you’ve got in your car—that energy is what I’m trying to bring back. I think that there’s a lot of good music out there. I feel like I listen to more music in my crib and I think that albums be good but they’re records that I listen to in my crib. They’re not the same records that I’ll listen to in my car. And that’s just the realness of it.

What are some of those records?

Let me tell you something. I’ve got this CD that I just made, that I had my DJ make, and it’s only three songs on the CD. It’s Foxy Brown and Sizzle, “Come Fly With Me,” “Get Money (Remix)” from Lil Cease, Kim and B.I.G., and it’s Faith and Big, “I Remembe””. That’s three songs on one CD. Outside of that, I’ve got an iPod full of shit, but if you’re talking about recent times that makes you front—Young Jeezy, Thug Motivation makes niggas front. Rich Forever makes niggas front if you’re talking about now, that mixtape. Not much else makes niggas front and be like, “Man—I’m shittin’ on y’all niggas in my car.” That doesn’t happen. That’s not to say albums aren’t good, that’s just to say that that energy isn’t out here. That’s the exact energy that I’m trying to focus on right now.