Pusha T Reacts to N.W.A Cosign: 'It's the Ultimate Rap Reward'

Courtesy of Def Jam Recordings
Pusha T photographed in 2012.

In Billboard's most recent cover story, where Kendrick Lamar interviewed N.W.A on their legacy and new biopic Straight Outta Compton, Dr. Dre, MC Ren, DJ Yella, and Ice Cube had a pretty short list when it came to their favorite MCs of today -- Kendrick (Dre's protege and widely-named heir to the West Coast hip-hop crown), Drake, and Pusha T.

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We spoke to Pusha about what the cosign meant to him, how N.W.A impacted his music, and what he's working on now.

What was your initial reaction when you saw that they named you as one of their favorite MCs today?

It blew my mind, actually. I haven't had any interaction with Dre, or Ren, ever. It's ironic because I was super hyped when Dr. Dre's Beats 1 [show] promo was [Pusha T song] "Numbers On The Board." I was like, "Aw, Dre probably got some kid [to do the promo] -- how else would Dr. Dre know about Pusha T?"

He's such a huge figure, but to me, as far as my reach goes, he's like a myth. You hear about him, you never see him -- only on magazine covers. When something grandiose happens in the worlds of business or music, his name pops up. As far as me being a rapper, it just doesn't happen, man. I was completely taken aback.

I wanted to be Ren for that movie, actually.

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I saw that tweet!

Oh wow, I tweeted that?

Yeah, I came across it while I was researching. 

Listen -- I so wanted to be Ren for the movie, and I'm so glad I tweeted that! Me tweeting sometimes, it's like, I don't even remember what I say. It's just coming off how it's coming off. Man, I'm so glad I tweeted that. 

I think Ren actually saw it -- he talked about it in an interview from last year.

Oh man, ok, dope! It was just great on both ends for me, in regards to Dre and Ren saying what they said about me. It's like the ultimate -- ultimate rap reward. 

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Why would you want to play Ren, over the other members of N.W.A?

To me, Ren and N.W.A -- I believe Ren wanted to fight me. That was what he gave off. His verses, his demeanor. His demeanor was like, "Yo, Imma hurt you, and I'm not playing any games." It wasn't over-the-top loud. It was just one of a person who, I felt like, didn't play any games. I felt like I could've done that.

How has N.W.A influenced your music, and your career?

I would have to say the outspokenness. N.W.A said any and every thing that they wanted to. They said it first, they catered to the underground, they catered to the street, they catered directly to those going through exactly what they were going through at the time. 

They just let everyone else in the world catch on, and turn it into a phenomenon. I looked at that, and relating it to my music, that's always been the criteria. No holds barred. Like, why? Why do I have to censor anything I say? Did you see Eazy-E? Did you see Ice Cube? Did you hear what they said? They made it so I didn't have to.

They fought the government, they fought politicians, they did everything -- before I even got a chance. As a matter of fact, they won! They fought and they won, so I didn't even have to go through that nonsense. 

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Are you planning on seeing the movie?

Definitely going to see the movie -- I didn't catch the screenings. I didn't want to see it like that anyway -- I want to like be in the mix of the people [laughs]. I want to enjoy it like everybody else. This is a rapper fan moment. You have to totally dive in and indulge as the fan we all are -- the fan that I am, anyway, of what they brought to the table and the music they made.

You don't understand -- I can't wait to show my mother this. I'm gonna show her this because -- and my brother [rapper Malice] will totally, totally remember it -- I remember playing N.W.A in the car with her, and my brother was like, "You better not do it." Young and dumb -- I'm the younger one. He's smart enough to know not to do it. 

Our mom spazzed on me, like, "What the hell is this shit! All he's saying is bitch and fuck and..." I can't wait to show her...she didn't know then who they were, and she ain't thinking about them now. I'm gonna show her everything that came of that group, that she cursed me out because I sat in the front seat and played [them]. And I'm gonna show her what they said about her son. 

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Do you have a favorite N.W.A record? 

"100 Miles And Runnin'," probably. The energy of that video was like, everything to me. They just really articulated everything that I thought, while living on the extreme polar opposite coast, directly across from Los Angeles, Calif. in Virginia Beach, Va. 

I didn't know what to expect over there, but they made me see the vision. I felt like whatever N.W.A said was law. When I looked at those videos, and saw them running from the police, I might have thought they were really running from the police. I was a child, and I was so engulfed -- I was in a trance, looking at this. They sold it to me. They sold it. They sold everything to me. 

They could have recorded those records last week, and they would be just as true.

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Any updates on your new album, King Push?

I am feverishly -- I love that word so much these days. I am feverishly trying to finish King Push, and get some music out this month. It's a real easy thing -- just a couple different pieces that I feel like need to be in place. 

When you make albums like I do, and it's based off fanfare and based off touring -- I make these albums and I get on the road. It's not really a radio-driven thing. I get on the road and I see my fans and I touch each and every last one of them. I do that for however long it takes. Then we start the process all over again, making music. So sometimes there's lag time. 

My fans like a certain quality and a certain level of music. Once I give it to them, they seem pretty happy. Anyone else, they can get down with the game if they want to. I'm definitely making this for [the fans] -- no holds barred. Nothing to be compromised. I hope everybody stays down.

Who are some of the producers you're working with?

TimbalandKanye WestPharrell, The-Dream, Sean Combs...and someone from my hometown who I've never, ever worked with before.