My Name Is My Name

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - MUSIC -

There will be few sights more in­con­gru­ous in 2014 than Larry King, the doyen of Amer­i­can TV in­ter­views, chew­ing the cud with Terrence “Pusha T” Thorn­ton. It’s an in­di­ca­tion of how far the vet­eran Thorn­ton has come up the rap rank­ings in re­cent years – and a sign that King has pre­vi­ously un­her­alded game.

These, then, are the good times for the Bronx-born, Vir­ginian-raised rap­per. He ini­tially set the scene for what was to come along­side his brother Gene in Clipse. The duo’s de­but al­bum, Lord Willin’, pro­duced by The Nep­tunes long be­fore Phar­rell Wil­liams got Happy, re­mains one of hip-hop’s most fas­ci­nat­ing al­bums, full of bump­ing street rhymes and lean and mean beats.

Clipse are now on a lengthy hia­tus (their last al­bum was back in 2009, and there are no plans for a fol­low-up) so it’s Thorn­ton’s solo work which has his name up in lights. His de­but al­bum My Name is My Name was re­leased last year, a ti­tle he cred­its to a Marlo Stan­field quote from the Bal­ti­more-set TV se­ries The Wire.

There’s a lot of glit­ter in the cast list – his new la­bel boss Kanye West su­per­vised the pro­duc­tion, and there are guest per­for­mances from Wil­liams, Rick Ross and Ken­drick La­mar – but the grit in the grooves is all down to Thorn­ton.

He’s as proud as punch of what he has achieved. “I give people what they want from me. People know me and they know I do street hip-hop. By now, you know what you’re get­ting with Pusha T be­cause I’ve been in this game a long time.

“I’m only moved by a cer­tain style of rap, and you have to re­ally be a rap­per’s rap­per for me to like it. When I go to make some­thing, it has to be a strong body of work, it’s got my ref­er­ences and in­flu­ences and pas­sions for hip-hop in it. It’s hon­est. A lot of people make good al­bums these days, but this is be­yond that.”

Of course, he’s happy to credit what the people who were on board with him for the ride brought to the al­bum. “Ken­drick was just in­cred­i­ble, he’s got this magic, you know. Rick al­ways de­liv­ers, al­ways gives people what they want to hear.

“Kanye in­sisted that we make some­thing un­ortho­dox mu­si­cally. He was un­com­pro­mis­ing, he wanted me to write the hard­est verses ev­ery time. Phar­rell brings some­thing that’s un­matched. He’s a real mu­sic guy and I’ve learned so much from watch­ing him and lis­ten­ing to him and ask­ing him ques­tions.”

It must be quite an ex­pe­ri­ence, then, to work with these pro­duc­ers who are very much at the top of their game. “They are what I call su­per-pro­duc­ers. I re­spect what they do. Un­like a writer, they can see the fu­ture. I don’t know what it is, but they al­ways see some­thing. You al­ways have to take what they say and lis­ten be­cause they re­ally give you gems.

“My time in the game has al­lowed me to work from the Manch­ester man, from a new 12” on Dutch main­stay Delsin. This one doesn’t sit still for a minute. with cer­tain people who un­der nor­mal con­di­tions you just don’t get to take your call. This is pro­duc­tion at its best.”

Thorn­ton had a very dis­tinct en­vi­ron­ment in mind for the al­bum. “It’s a car al­bum, man. I lis­ten to a lot of mu­sic in my house, but this is some­thing to play in your car with the win­dows down. It’s ar­tic­u­late street rap and it’s got this amaz­ing en­ergy to it.”

Lyri­cally, his fo­cus has never changed. “I speak from the per­spec­tive of the streets, that’s al­ways been my thing. I try to show people my thought process and talk to them about what I see as be­ing right or wrong. That ap­plies to ev­ery­thing I talk about, from fam­ily to re­la­tion­ships. A lot of people just say things and I know a lot of people just think of rap­pers brag­ging, but I try to be hon­est.”

He’s proud­est of one track in par­tic­u­lar from the al­bum. “One of the most poignant songs I’ve ever done is Sorry Nigga I’m Try­ing to Come Home on the al­bum. It’s real and it speaks to people in the game. A lot of rap­pers will try to do that, but I think I’m one of the only people who knows about that for real. I still know about that ex­pe­ri­ence be­cause I know people who are in that world.”

What he’s found hard­est of all about tak­ing the solo route is hav­ing pa­tience. He signed to the GOOD la­bel in 2010 and, while there were a clat­ter of mix­tapes such as Fear of God and Wrath of Caine, there was a long wait for the al­bum to ar­rive.

“A lot of people who knew me from Clipse or the Re-Up Gang were ex­pect­ing the al­bum a long time ago, but it’s not as easy as that. I had to get new fans, I had to get used to people hear­ing me solo, I had to get used to be­ing solo. A lot of people just wanted to hear me with my brother, but I think ev­ery­one has come around now. I treated it like I was new and put the same amount of work into be­ing heard as I did at the very be­gin­ning.”

While it may have taken Thorn­ton years to get around to re­leas­ing his solo al­bum, he’s con­fi­dent that My Name Is My Name will stand the test of time. “That was the plan. I wanted to cre­ate some­thing which would be around for­ever and I wanted to do that by not com­pro­mis­ing. I don’t think a lot of people come close to what I do and the en­ergy I have on the al­bum. They lack some­thing, whereas I feel I have it all.”

Pusha T plays Dublin’s But­ton Fac­tory on June 9th

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