Meet dance music’s improbable new star — rapper Pusha T. The 37-year-old’s gritty lyrics, as both a soloist and one-half of Clipse, have already made him a go-to collaborator of Kanye West and Pharrell Williams. But he’s quickly become one of EDM’s most in-demand vocalists as well, appearing on a slew of recent singles by dance’s leading men, including Axwell & Ingrosso, iSHi, Tiga, Yogi and a collab with Diplo‘s Major Lazer, “Night Riders.” Pusha T, born Terrence Thornton, took a break from recording his next LP (expected this summer on West’s G.O.O.D. Music and Def Jam) to dish on bridging the gap between rap and EDM.
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How did dance pique your interest?
I’ve been going to Europe for some time on the festival circuit, and once you get in that element and see others reacting to it, it’s easier to understand. You get trapped in the wave. The beats are driving and super-aggressive — like, so hard. I was curious.
Have your longtime rap fans been open to your new EDM collaborations?
My hip-hop fans are a little spoiled — they want a particular level of lyricism and energy that I’m known for. When they don’t get that, it takes a little time for them to open up to it. But electronic fans are as free as the music. On social media, they were so excited and loud; they’re in awe.
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Do you think other rappers will follow in your footsteps and jump on EDM songs?
If hip-hop artists are smart, they’ll do it. It’s such a broad audience, and the energy in those crowds is second to none. I’ve learned so much about performance watching these guys. It’s an art. I was one of the first hip-hop acts to perform at Ultra, and that experience made me realize I had to step up my game to perform on the same stage as these guys, to keep up with that level of production. Some of the greatest hip-hop artists have incorporated elements from electronic shows into their setup. People are taking notice. It’s going to be a new wave.
This story originally appeared in the May 16 issue of Billboard.