With just two major label releases over the course of five years and one legendary unreleased album from 1997, Clipse’s career spans across a decade and a millennium. They redefined hip-hop and defined coke rap before Jeezy was moving keys, but around the same time T.I. was just starting to get his trap on. They have, up until recently, been a canvas for arguably the biggest production duo in hip-hop and with their new imprint they plan on continuing the masterpiece that is Clipse. Pusha T, one half of Clipse and one fourth of the Re Up Gang, talks deals, movies and his favorite Clipse song.
“When P gets excited about a new song, he will hit me and be like, ‘Come to the studio right now, if you don’t get here within five minutes, I’m calling Jay-Z.’”
Format: So how did this new deal with Columbia come about?
Pusha T: When we put out Hell Hath No Fury, we were already talking to Jive about letting us go. Us being there wasn’t good for both parties. As soon as they let the project go, there was flurry of offers from different labels. Hip-hop from Columbia hollered at our manager, Tony Draper. He took a flight to Houston to see us and was like, ‘Are you guys free? Is it really true?’ Rick Rubin was totally interested. They knew the history. They knew the ups and downs. They started selling us on them trying to win with us, so on and so forth. But truth be told, we were on the phone with Interscope until the last minute on some eleventh hour shit. It was us, Jimmy Iovine and Pharrell. They were trying to get it done, but when we told them what was on the table with Columbia, Jimmy and P were like, ‘Your deal is better.’ P said, ‘You need to sign that deal.’ So we are no longer with Star Trak, but the Neptunes are still going to be involved with the new project. We will always be cool and there were definitely no hard feelings.
Format: Clipse’s first album, Exclusive Audio Footage was supposed to come out in 1998 but never saw the light of day. If you look around, you can find it on the Internet. Will it ever come out? How has Clipse changed since then?
Pusha T: The content of the Clipse hasn’t really changed since 1998. Nothing has really changed. It’s still coke rap, but we didn’t call it that back then. It was just life. Now, I guess, there’s a whole genre of it. But it was Neptunes produced and it was definitely pushing the bar, musically. It was a very theatrical album. It was a little more movie-esque than our other two albums.
Format: The Clipse has always been known for its a-typical sound; from “Grindin’” to “Mr. Me Too,” you guys have never dropped a typical single?
Pusha T: It’s a product of being next to the Neptunes. We’d be in the studio with Pharrell and Chad and – insert big name artist here – and these artists are asking for something that sounded like something else. Then it would often turn into a screaming match between Pharrell and the artist. Then it would calm down a little and Pharrell would get really sarcastic, like telling Chad to ‘Throw me that snare’ or ‘Pull up that one drum kit,’ you know, really sarcastic. But you know, the music business is so like that, everything references something else. At the end of the day, Pharrell and Chad would always throw the juice on it and make it bang. The fact is, though, Pharrell and Chad are weirdos with hits. You know, like mad scientists. They have a rep for making hits, but how can you not let them create? They flooded the market with certain sounds, because artists were asking for those sounds. That’s not innovative. The stuff they will be remembered for is the really innovative stuff. When P gets excited about a new song, he will hit me and be like, ‘Come to the studio right now, if you don’t get here within five minutes, I’m calling Jay-Z.’ When you get that call, you know you got to move fast.
“Nigo has shown us a lot of love and we like to show it back.”
Format: So what are The Clipse up to right now?
Pusha T: Just winding down on the tour. Recording Re Up Gang album shit. Expect a new single in 2008. As far as features, we are going to finish the album ourselves. Personally, I don’t want to put anyone on the album. Re-Up needs to be branded. People need to understand what we do as artists. If you look at the artists outside Re-Up that we’ve shared tracks with in the past, it’s people like Jay-Z, Justin Timberlake, Jermaine Dupri. These people are legends not our peers.
Format: You guys were on the Bape, BBC, Ice Cream shit very early for obvious reasons, but never made a big deal about it.
Pusha T: We still rock BBC, Ice Cream. It’s really a support thing, first and foremost. Secondarily, as I said in a line a long time ago, ‘When you create the mold, you can break the mold.’ When we want to stop rocking it, we can, because we started it. I don’t care if people think it’s played out. Nigo has shown us a lot of love and we like to show it back.
Format: Can we expect any Clipse clothing collabos?
Pusha T: No collaborations. Those guys got it on smash.
Format: What does the Clipse mean?
Pusha T: Came from full eclipse. We wanted to cast a shadow over the industry.
“…we are talking about a quarter billion dollar black man in the `70s. This movie did not do that justice.”
Format: What’s your favorite record you’ve ever done?
Pusha T: Wow. Nobody has ever asked that before. I’d probably have to say “Momma I’m Sorry” or “Keys Open Doors.” Records like that. They got the demon in them. Certain records are big records. Certain records are reaction records. There’s nothing better than doing that raw ass record. That’s the fun record when the audience understands what you’re getting at.
Format: You saw American Gangster, what’d you think?
Pusha T: It was alright. To me, this movie should have been Scarface. I needed three hours. I needed to know more about Bumpy Johnson. All I got was that he died and that Frank was his enforcer. Also, the progression wasn’t clear. One minute Frank is dealing a half a key of heroin and then next minute he’s overseas. I didn’t see the rise to power. I didn’t get to see his enemies either. Yeah, he shot Tango on the street but I didn’t really know who Tango was. I needed nothing about Richie Robbins marriage. And we needed to expound on heroin coming on US planes and in soldiers’ coffins. I mean, come on. Drug importing on US Army planes? I want know more about that! I think this movie needed to be done like Spike Lee’s Malcolm X. That movie was detailed but also epic at the same time. And how did Nicky Barnes not play a bigger role in the movie? The movie itself, for what they did, was captivating. However, we are talking about a quarter billion dollar black man in the `70s. This movie did not do that justice.
Format: Have you seen the Nicky Barnes documentary?
Pusha T: Amazing.
“And we needed to expound on heroin coming on US planes and in soldiers’ coffins.”
Format: Are you familiar with Black Mafia Family in Atlanta? You think Meech warrants his own movie some day?
Pusha T: Familiar, of course. I mean, I didn’t know him or anything, but I definitely think it should. He’s not guilty yet and hopefully he doesn’t end up being guilty, but I can tell you the accusations alone warrant a movie!
Format: Any movie roles on the horizon?
Pusha T: Haven’t done any acting, but I am definitely interested.
Format: Who chose the first single off Hell Hath No Fury?
Pusha T: “Mr. Me Too” was our choosing. A lot of things went into Hell…so much drama, controversy, bad blood, negative energy. It was like we wanted to let the public have it. We had the outlook that nothing was going to work anyway. By this time I had burned all the bridges. I had said everything wrong, I was not a diplomat. There’s a way to handle everything. I fucked it all up. But I did it. I said it. It happened. At the end of the day, we felt like it was never going to work. Our true fans will get it. They will love it. There’s no way with this hiatus and all the talk that we could come out with a celebratory album. It would have been a lie. Let’s address the industry shit. “Wamp Wamp,” that was a second single, it was more along the lines of ‘Fuck it, we have no support, let’s cater to the fans,’ we had to keep the energy up since we got shows. It was the definition of east coast club feel, to me.
“The fact is, though, Pharrell and Chad are weirdos with hits. You know, like mad scientists.”
Format: What are you feeling right now outside of Clipse?
Pusha T: In general, I really like that show First 48. American Gangster on BET is amazing. Alicia Keys. Kanye’s “Good Morning” is my shit and I think Kanye has record of the year for “Can’t Tell Me Nothing.” To me, that is one of the most inspiring records ever made. Devin the Dude is hot. Jeezy is hot. Z-Ro from Houston. I’m very interested in what Plies’ next album looks like. I think he’s got it.
Format: Why is it so hard for hip hop artist to break out of the DC, Maryland and Virginia? The area has produced R&B acts for years, but you and Missy Elliot are the only rappers to be successful out of Virginia. And Wale is the only dude out of DC and Maryland.
Pusha T: I could be wrong about my philosophy, but here it goes. My area is sort of like a melting pot for so many things. We haven’t been able to define a sound. Every other region has a sound. I think Virginia doesn’t have a defined sound. There’s good music here, but there hasn’t been one sound that made everyone say “YO”…it’s just been individuals. As far as Maryland and DC, there’s a lot of competition with Bmore club and go-go. I go to DC and I want see the go-go shit. A lot of places, hip-hop is that energy. I think it can also be that energy for DC, but it’s competing. Ultimately, we as artists are going do what we do, as long as we are creating, we are doing our job. It’s time for the radio stations to zone in and say, ‘Oh shit, this is from hometown area.’ I go to Atlanta and I’m hearing signed and unsigned artists on the radio. It needs to be like that everywhere. The gap is steadily closing.
Format: Anything else?
Pusha T: Re Up Gang Records is the next movement.
More Info: http://www.clipseonline.com