Today's release of Fear of God II: Let Us Pray, the long-overdue solo EP/street mixtape by Pusha T, is just the latest peak in a roller coaster ride of a rap career. Along with his brother Malice, the Clipse scored a certified smash single, were dropped by their label, successfully resuscitated themselves on the internet, and were ultimately embraced by the hipsterati. Just as the buzz started to fade, Pusha T was picked up as a solo artist by Kanye West for his G.O.O.D. music label, received a high-profile cameo on Kanye's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and is apparently working directly with Yeezy for the release of his first official full-length.
Pusha's reliance on talented collaborators — something his alliance with West has undoubtedly reinforced — allows him to focus purely on rapping, setting him apart from many other artists in the sing-song Drake era. "As a rap artist, I always thought that the best work comes when you don't have to do anything but rap," says Pusha. And that's exactly what he does on Fear, alongside an endless parade of larger-than-life rap stars and up-and-comers, including 50 Cent, Rick Ross, Diddy, Young Jeezy, Tyler, the Creator, Juicy J, Meek Mill, and French Montana — save a 2 Chainz cameo, it's the epitome of a 2011 rap album given an unlimited budget. In celebration of the release, SPIN caught up with Pusha to discuss feeding off Odd Future's youthful energy and building a G.O.O.D. future with Kanye.
What was it like doing "Raid" with 50 Cent?
I've told people that 50's one of my favorite artists. No artist has done what he's done in such a short period of time, the success he's had. I always wanted to hear 50 with an album full of super-producers. I feel like he's really good, but as artists, as a rap artist, I always thought that the best work comes when you don't have to do anything but rap. I talked to Clark Kent about it, and he was like, "I just want verses. I'm going to make a beat for you, and do everything for you and I want you to make verses." Being a rapper, I can give you the best if I don't have anything else to think about, just that. I feel like 50 would do the same thing. When I heard the "Raid" record he did with the Neptunes, I was floored at the verses. Floored. Just to be a part of that. I chose to [feature a lot of guests]. I just wanted to show the public, because this is my first time coming out as a solo artist, I wanted to show the fans and the public some of the alliances that I've had, some of the people that appreciate my music. The Clipse, we were sort of snobby in regards to working with other people, we never really did.
French Montana's hook for "Everything that Glitters" really stands out on the record...
French is an amazing artist to me. I love what it is that French does. I specifically sought him out. His style is unorthodox. To have French sing, it's like, off-key but on-key? Know what I'm saying? [laughs].
As members of the press, we're contractually obligated to ask what it was like working with Tyler, the Creator.
It was dope to work with Tyler and Odd Future because I like their energy. Their energy reminds me of old Star Trak energy. Those guys are really just doing what they want to do, and a lot of times you don't get to be a part of that energy but one time in your career. You start conforming to the label politics — oh, I gotta do the R&B record, the such-and-such record. It doesn't always happen for you like that. Just to do the record with Tyler like that, it really took me back. Wow, these guys are really doing what they want, and I love to watch it.
This is a project on G.O.O.D. music. How much was Kanye involved in the creation of Fear of God II?
In all honestly, 'Ye wasn't involved heavily in it at all. He definitely gave me the green light and the A-OK on the "Amen" record. I got that from him. But this project was really about me making street music and just getting it out to the public. Uncompromised street music. Just a no-holds-barred onslaught of verses. When you talk about Kanye, you're talking about someone who's a perfectionist, who spends hours on songs, mixes, and so on and so forth. And this project isn't that. This project hasn't been through the creative process of a Kanye West.
What were you hoping to do differently with this record from the first Fear of God mixtape earlier this year?
What I was going to do was just make the records and throw them out gratuitously. Let 'em fall from out the sky, let 'em hit the net, that's what I really do. I make mixtapes. I give them away for free and we call it a day. But then it was like, it might be a little better if we give them away systematically. Then everybody can see what you're trying to do, be able to grab the body of work that you've been putting out here, in some kind of iTunes or CD format. As you notice, I put on damn near every record from [Part One].
Do you see more artists moving in that direction, doing more album-type releases instead of just flooding the internet?
I believe that. I believe guys are doing that because, the internet, you can get anything from it. Records come out every day on the internet. Every single day. And with the amount of show money and hostings and things that come along with releasing music, it's a way to really have your fans locked into what you do. Half the guys that are hot right now don't have major deals. Half the guys doing shows, maybe even more than half that are doing shows don't have major deals. But they do have projects that their true fans can follow. The true fan of Lil B knows exactly what number 4 is on his last tape. The true fan, they know exactly what it is.
Do you have anything else planned with Kanye coming up?
Oh, hell yeah. Me and Kanye are working on my full-length LP. He's executive producing my full-length LP. We've worked on like six songs already, six or more songs. We're also working on the G.O.O.D. Music album, and I've done four records for that already. We're locked in.