PUSH­ING THE RIGHT BUT­TONS

Pusha T re­flects on his Grammy nom­i­na­tion and why his work is the best

Chicago Sun-Times (Sunday) - - MUSIC - BY MESFIN FEKADU

‘Ire­ally can look back at 2018 and re­ally look at it as a to­tal win,” Pusha T says. At a time rap eas­ily dom­i­nated as mu­sic’s top genre, his 21-minute, seven-track “Day­tona” al­bum was one of the year’s most suc­cess­ful hip-hop projects.

Be­yond that, he won his rap beef with Drake and picked up a Grammy nom­i­na­tion for best rap al­bum.

“No one rapped bet­ter than me in 2018,” says Pusha T, 41, who has been mak­ing bold state­ments like that ev­ery since he was one half of the duo Clipse two decades ago, win­ning praise for his raw lyri­cal con­tent and de­liv­ery.

He reached new heights this past year when he ex­posed Drake on “The Story of Adi­don.” Drake never re­sponded to the burn­ing diss track.

The Kanye West-pro­duced “Day­tona” fol­lowed, de­but­ing at No. 3 on the pop charts and land­ing on sev­eral crit­ics’ year-end lists.

The al­bum got a Grammy nom­i­na­tion for best rap al­bum in a highly com­pet­i­tive year, with Pusha T up against Cardi B, Travis Scott, Nipsey Hus­sle and the late Mac Miller. He got that nod over per­form­ers in­clud­ing Drake, Lil Wayne, Eminem, J. Cole, Nas, Mi­gos, DJ Khaled, Nicki Mi­naj and West him­self.

Pusha T says that when the Record­ing Acad­emy added a nom­i­na­tion-re­view com­mit­tee to the rap cat­e­gory last year as an added check and bal­ance, he felt like he had a stronger chance of get­ting a nom­i­na­tion.

“Maybe not never in my life had I ever thought about get­ting a Grammy, but I re­mem­ber hear­ing about it and say­ing, ‘Damn, man, that’s pretty dope. I can’t wait to see how that turns out,’ ” he says. “I was re­ally im­pressed with the ef­fort of the Grammy com­mit­tee and how they were try­ing to change the way of do­ing things. Now, when I look at the nom­i­nees, man, we got a tough cat­e­gory, and all of those al­bums are al­bums that I rock with.”

In an in­ter­view, Pusha T talks about his Grammy nom­i­na­tion, Drake’s omis­sion from the best rap cat­e­gory and more.

Q. What does it feel like to see “Day­tona” up for best rap al­bum?

A. Man, for me, the Grammy nom­i­na­tion is just the icing on the cake.

I re­mem­ber, like, be­ing young, su­per-young and look­ing at the Gram­mys, I used to never see my fa­vorite rap­pers up there.

As I got older, and my fa­vorite rap­pers were be­ing nom­i­nated, they went through a whole boy­cott pe­riod. I re­mem­ber rap­pers boy­cotting the Gram­mys. Then, ul­ti­mately, time moves on, and I got to see some great ones — Jay-Z, Kanye West — re­ceive a Grammy.

To be nom­i­nated for what it is that I do, and what I’ve done — I’ve been very con­sis­tent for what I’ve done in the rap game — it’s amaz­ing. I don’t know if there’s ever been any rap­per [nom­i­nated for a Grammy] who has em­bod­ied the streets so much and with this level of con­tent and this level of pure artistry. I don’t know. This is re­ally just the streets talk­ing right here.

Q. Was it sur­pris­ing to get a nom­i­na­tion, be­cause the al­bum is shorter than most?

A. Some­times, you have to change the sil­hou­ette. I feel like that’s what we did, we changed the sil­hou­ette. And I guess seven tracks isn’t … time-wise, it does say it’s el­i­gi­ble. I don’t think any­body left feel­ing un­ful­filled.

Q. What were some of your fa­vorite rap al­bums that were not nom­i­nated?

A. I ac­tu­ally liked Jay Rock’s al­bum a lot. He’s prob­a­bly one of the ones that I felt like re­ally put to­gether a re­ally strong pro­ject, rap-wise.

Q. Were you sur­prised that none of the other Kanye West-pro­duced projects were nom­i­nated?

A. I felt like Kanye get­ting a pro­ducer of the year Grammy nom­i­na­tion is due in part to his out­put and how he had to turn into a chameleon to do all these al­bums. I def­i­nitely felt like Teyana [Tay­lor]’s al­bum was su­per-strong and could have def­i­nitely de­served a Grammy.

I do feel like my al­bum was the most di­aled-in and just laser-di­rect for a cat­e­gory. I feel like my al­bum re­ally hit the rap cat­e­gory di­rectly.

If you look at the [Kid] Cudi pro­ject, Cudi and ’Ye pro­ject “Kids See Ghost,” or the ’Ye pro­ject, I don’t know ex­actly. I think those two projects could have danced in a few dif­fer­ent cat­e­gories.

Q. Were you sur­prised to not see Drake’s al­bum in best rap al­bum?

A. No, I wasn’t sur­prised. I think ev­ery­body needs to stay in their re­spec­tive cat­e­gory. I don’t think me and him are in the same cat­e­gory.

Q. Are you work­ing with Kanye again?

A. For sure.

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