“The power’s in my hair,” raps Pusha T on the song, “I Don’t Like” off the GOOD Music album, Cruel Summer. He uses the comparison to the biblical story of Samson to defend criticism against him still rocking braids in 2013. While Samson’s power was actually in his hair, Pusha T’s power is in his name. “Everything is Pusha T,” screamed Kanye West at the “My Name Is My Name” album listening party in New York City during a drunken rant. “This nigga the heart of the muthafucking culture,” Kanye continued. Kanye rants are new to no one. But he usually rants about himself. Kanye’s outburst in support of Pusha made us realize how important his name is and his importance to the culture. Kanye repeated Pusha T’s name over and over as if he needed us to remember it. But we’ve known his name for quite some time now. Through Pusha T, we’ve seen the true evolution of a hustler. Hip Hop has always been influenced by drug dealers. In the 80’s, rappers pulled their style inspiration from drug dealers. During the 90s, drug dealers were becoming rappers. By the early 2000s, it seemed as if being a drug dealer was a criteria to becoming a rapper. You couldn’t rap unless you were once some huge kingpin. The idea was to make it out of the drug game. The natural evolution seemed like it was to transition from a drug dealer to a businessman. But Pusha T has always represented a sort of raw inspiration. He had no plan on making out of the streets lyrically. The street essence that has always inspired Hip Hop is what Pusha T has always been committed, what he embodies. Throughout his career, Pusha T has delivered rawness in every aspect of the culture, from music to fashion. Just as Hip Hop has grown and transformed, so has Pusha T and the rawness he is committed to pedaling. Very few artists are able to transform themselves to stay relevant and also be committed to what they set out to do when they first started. While most artist change, Pusha T has truly evolved.
In 2002, Pusha T and his brother Malice were introduced to the world as The Clipse with their legendary song, “Grindin.” A minimalistic beat consisting of hard drums and a few sound effects from The Neptunes allowed Pusha and his older brother to spit one of the most compelling cocaine raps ever heard. The song opened with the line, “I’m your pusher.” Since then, Pusha T has been our pusher. He’s taken the drug dealer persona to a higher level. In every one of his verses, he has embodied the essence of the street hustler. Along with her verses, Pusha has been pushing the culture to new heights, defining what cool is in music and fashion. It wasn’t just lyrically – Pusha T became a trendsetter. We were drawn to his style, his lyrical delivery, everything he was pushing to us.
Rappers have always had an influence on what the mainstream wears and says is cool. Rappers have pulled their inspiration for what is cool from underground culture, hopping on what trends are cool. Pusha T has been at the heart of underground culture since his debut. From rocking Bathing Ape and Billionaire Boys Club with Pharrell to the birth of his own brand, Play Cloths, Pusha has been setting style trends for years. As streetwear became more and more mainstream and popular, Pusha transitioned to high fashion, ushering in the new set of high-end streetwear trends that are popular today. Pusha’s musical transformation came for a couple of reasons. For three albums, Pusha T delivered stories of a drug dealer. Hell Hath No Fury gave insight into the daily thoughts and fears of two hustlers. They delivered vivid imagery in every line. Although both were praised for their lyrical ability, Pusha began to outshine his older brother. Up until 2010, Pusha T recorded music with his brother Malice. When his brother decided to pursue other interest and change his life around, Pusha was forced to go solo. The abandonment from his brother left us with a darker Pusha T. Although his sound has always been gritty, Fear Of God, Pusha T’s first solo mixtape introduced a somewhat street gothic rapper with resentment towards his sibling and a hunger to prove himself as a solo artist. It was almost as if he was a hustler who violently lost his partner in crime. While his work with The Clipse was more focused on telling the overall story, placing you in the scene of a movie they’ve created based off the life they lived, Pusha became more personal and reflective, placing you directly in his current state of mind, rather than a scene. Still committed to his street hustler persona, Pusha is more introspective with his music now, using drug analogies to convey certain emotions.
Pusha’s transformation is also evident in the style of music. While he spent most of his career recording with The Neptunes, he is now an artist on Kanye West’s GOOD Music label. The Neptune sound and the Kanye West sound are distinctively different, especially now. Pharrell’s signature production and Pusha’s edgy rhymes is what created that underground raw appeal for The Clipse. Cocaine raps over synth heavy beats and filtered drums connected with skater and streetwear culture in a way that other styles in Hip Hop didn’t at the time. Kanye’s style is what brought Pusha’s underground style into the mainstream. Pusha T’s music with The Neptunes portrayed a late 80s street hustler. Pusha T’s music with Kanye West portrays a 70s kingpin – lavish, flamboyant and extravagant. Pusha T even explained how the creating process was different with the two producers. Him and Pharrell would vibe in the studio and explore different concepts and creative themes in the moment. With Kanye, everything is strategically planned out. The music even seems grander, as if Pusha graduated from a street hustler to a boss.
Musically, Pusha has portrayed the growth of a hustler. From his sound becoming grander, his lyrics becoming darker, and his style becoming more lavish. In all of this, he has remained the same Pusher. He’s remained a curator and leader in the culture since his debut. While artist have pulled inspiration from drug culture and used it to transform their brand, Pusha has remained a raw server of inspiration for the culture. He has remained our pusher.