On the heels of his collaboration with Ariel Rechstaid on the triumphant remix of Sia‘s “Unstoppable,” Virginia rapper and G.O.O.D. Music president Pusha T caught up with Billboard to discuss writing for brands (before teaming with Gillette, he penned the hit jingle “I’m Lovin’ It” for McDonald’s), his upcoming projects and why he is using his platform to speak out against police brutality.
Hear Sia’s ‘Unstoppable’ Turned Into Olympics Anthem Feat. Pusha T: Exclusive Premiere
You worked with Ariel Rechstaid on a special mix of Sia‘s “Unstoppable” for Gillette’s “Perfect Isn’t Pretty” Olympics campaign. How did this mix come together?
Ariel contacted my management. I came to L.A. and sat down with him as he played me visuals and pieces of the production he had done. He showed me the ambition in the visual Gillette put together — super inspirational, super ambitious. A lot of it was about perseverance and struggle, and it showed the effects of working hard and reaching your goals, and that’s what I got from it. He just made the sound that matched exactly what I was looking at.
Are there any athletes you’re keeping an eye on or sports you plan on watching?
I always watch the basketball portion. Gabby Douglas is from Virginia. I’m not sure if she is competing — I would think so, she’s amazing. I would definitely dial into her if she’s competing.
So what’s up with you and writing for these major brands? First you did the McDonald’s jingle, and now you’ve teamed up with Gillette for the Sia mix. Are you a corporate magnet?
[Laughs] I don’t know, man. I’ve just been pretty lucky. I think that this is a perk of being artistic and lyric driven and people do come to me when they want cohesion in raps.
Pusha T Wrote McDonald’s ‘I’m Lovin’ It’ Jingle, According to Translation CEO Steve Stoute
Did you foresee “I’m Lovin’ It” becoming a huge international phenomenon?
I didn’t. I was freshly into the music business, and I just knew that it was McDonald’s — and you don’t turn McDonald’s down. And it’s still here today. It was fresh off the heels of Clipse, and Pharrell and Justin [Timberlake were] working on “Like I Love You.”
Speaking more to your own music, King Push was slated for an April release. Will fans see it before the end of 2016?
Definitely by the end of the year. I’m looking for fall. As everybody knows, I’m the president of G.O.O.D. Music, and we’ve been working on the G.O.O.D. Music album as well as putting out new artists like Desiigner. Between those things and seeing through the other G.O.O.D. Music albums that are dropping, it was a little bit of a delay but sometimes it takes a little time. It’s no biggie. Everybody knows when my album drops, it’s always the rap album of the year, anyway.
Will Cruel Winter ironically drop ahead of its season-appropriate schedule?
I’m not sure but I know we’re working feverishly on it. Everybody’s submitting and working on records. The title alone gave me a little bit of leeway and made me not so pressured about it. But it’s G.O.O.D. Music. It’s winter when we say it’s winter.
In “Drug Dealers Anonymous,” the first single off King Push, you incorporated soundbites from Tomi Lahren, a pundit who has publicly criticized both Beyonce and Jay Z. How did you build a track around that?
It was just ironic that someone of [Jay Z’s] stature — he’s done so much for the rap community, so much in the business world — and how someone could just minimize and characterize his whole life as a 14-year drug dealer. It was disgusting but it was a bit of a wake up call that some people just can’t even see past their nose. By the time I got into the studio with him, he already had the soundbite chopped up and ready to put into the song. He was like, “Yeah, we got this. We gotta do it.” That was one of his many genius moments in hip-hop.
Will you incorporate any other critiques into your work?
My music is inspired by life and what’s going on today. I just think back to my last album Darkest Before Dawn. I made a record called “Sunshine” that speaks to everything that’s going on in the country right now in regards to police brutality and racial inequality. Hip-hop music was based off of and started from talking about what’s going on outside. I’m just gonna carry our tradition by doing music just like that.
Will you incorporate current events such as the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile and the Black Lives Matter movement into your forthcoming album King Push?
For sure. For sure. Simply because that’s the only way I know how to write; it’s not a whole bunch of make-believe. These albums are time stamps, man. You gotta tell people what’s going on in songs. You want people to know what’s going on in your life and what your thoughts are at that particular moment.
Are there any songs you seek out for solace in these turbulent times?
I’m from Virginia Beach, Virginia, and I can remember a time of angst during the early ’90s when we had the  Greekfest Riots and Public Enemy put footage of that in a video — I wanna believe it’s “Can’t Truss It.” I remember the angst and the anger the people were feeling. That’s sort of what I’m feeling right about now in regards to everything that’s going on. What we’re going through right now is way bigger than music.
These issues definitely go far beyond music and seep into every aspect of our world but what do you believe music can achieve?
The more people speak out, it can mount the pressure to break what people have going on right now with the local and government officials in regards to overseeing what’s happening with police departments around the nation. It’s a thing of accountability. The police never, in no capacity, do they ever stand up and say that something was wrong or one of their counterparts did something wrong. I think that makes the whole country not trust them a lot as a whole.
You signed Billboard’s open letter to Congress regarding gun laws, and you participated in an MTV Town Hall on police violence. Have you always wanted to use your platform for sociopolitical issues, or is this something you needed to come around to over the years?
It just comes with age, accepting responsibility and knowing that you have a voice. One time, I was really young doing this and I didn’t owe anybody anything — that was my attitude. Now I’m a bit older, I feel like I can make a difference. I understand my power. I’m just trying to do my part.