It’s the eve of the 2020 NBA All-Star Game in Chicago, and Pusha-T is marveling at the turnout of his lush Maison Courvoisier event. Though the NBA Slam Dunk contest is taking place a few blocks away at the United Center, and despite the high-flying action and the Windy City’s frosty temperatures, tonight’s crowd is loud and buzzy.
As he walks inside his dressing room, Pusha flashes a quick smile to signal his appreciation. With his new Courvoisier collaboration, King Push is combining his love for music, art, and fashion in hopes of bolstering the profiles of several emerging talents, including Rhude creative director and fashion designer Rhuigi Villaseñor and contemporary artist Al-Baseer Holly.
“I mean, it’s all about sharing your success, paying it forward, and pulling each other up, honestly,” Pusha tells Billboard. “I’ve known Al-Baseer for years; I want to say since ’99. And with Rhuigi, I have three stores. Just knowing his grind, the demand, and being on the rise, emerging as a fashion icon, the people are tuned in. So I thought it would be a good idea.”
With the event catering to Al-Baseer’s immersive art installation, Villaseñor’s fashion exhibit, and of course, Pusha’s affinity for music, it’s a noteworthy trifecta that speaks to all of the rapper’s main passions.
Minutes before his performance, Pusha talked to Billboard about his collaboration with Courvoisier, his love for fashion and art, his eye for emerging talents, embracing fatherhood, and his fondest memory of Kobe Bryant.
How did this collaboration with Courvoisier come about?
It really started from a conversation with me and a good friend of mine, Dre Hopson. We just were talking about how we can work more closely together. He’s, like, a brand rep in the area in which I live in. In the conversation, we basically put together just an idea — a package — and just brought it over to Courvoisier. We were like, “How can we bring them together, different people from different parts of the culture, and rep the brand?” You know, Rhuigi and Al-Baseer, I’ve known them forever.
You’re an avid lover of music, fashion and art. Why is it important for you to fuse those passions together when opportunities like Courvoisier come up?
Man, it’s the best way to let people really understand what you’re about and really show the world what you’re about and what you’re into. At this point in my career, I’m really just trying to teach my fans, show my fans and let them all become one with me the best way that they can. By them being able to see different parts of the culture and what I’m into, that’s what they tune in to.
How do your use eye for discovering new talent in music as an advantage for when you’re looking for new acts in the fashion and art worlds?
I just like what I like. [laughs] I gravitate towards things that are authentic. I don’t know. The first painting that I bought from ABH — [looks over at Holly] How long ago was that bro? — Five years. We’ve known each other for 20 years and I bought the first one five years ago, and now, five years later, we’re collaborating. If it’s authentic, it just makes sense. It’s just natural.
You and Kanye share a certain affinity for art. How does that love translate to the chemistry and music you guys do together?
I think as far as translating art to music, I think I like abstract things. I like abstract things, and I think abstract even when I approach my music, I approach it in that way. Some of the artists that I’m into, I feel they have a very abstract way of looking at things, seeing things.
Switching gears: People are still mourning the loss of Kobe Bryant. What’s your fondest memory of watching him play?
I want to first off say it’s super sad and tragic with what happened to him, his daughter and his family in that accident. Kobe was a winner, man. He was very superhero level, you know what I’m saying? [laughs] When I think about it, I just remember different times, like winning with Shaq and winning without Shaq. I remember rooting for him during some of those times. It’s just unfortunate. It’s really sad.
Congrats to you and your wife. You guys are expecting your first child. How have you been preparing for fatherhood?
I haven’t. [laughs]
No Mommy and Me classes?
Nah, but I just remembered I do have to go to, like, a Lamaze class. [Laughs] That just got sprung on me the other day. But I haven’t been preparing for it, man. I’m just waiting for it.
What’s the first thing you’re ready to do as a father?
Just sit home and be in a onesie, too. We’re gonna have matching onesies.
Lastly, just playing off the fact we’re in Chicago, can you give my your top five Chicago MCs of all-time?
I definitely gotta say [Kanye], for sure. Twista, Common, Lupe and Shawnna.
Why Shawnna with the five spot?
She was never anybody to play with, rap-wise. Ever. She was always impressive. I don’t know if she always got the notoriety. She’s shined on a couple different tracks to me. And with Ludacris, she shined with heavyweights. So she’s proven.