In a 2017 episode of the Apple Music radio show OTHERtone, Pusha T and Pharrell joked about how compulsively neat Pusha T’s raps are. Like, not just in the rhythmic or syllabic sense, but in how the words look on the page: each letter the same size, everything lined up, nothing outside the lines. “I’m just super anal,” he said. “It’s stupid. I don’t know why it’s like that, but I can’t even think if there’s a crease in my paper.” Both as a solo artist and member of the brother duo Clipse, Pusha brings a surgical precision to street rap, leveling stories of drugs and violence with a ruthless lucidity that made him one of the most respected, and morally complicated, rappers of the 2000s and beyond. That you could never tell whether he enjoyed what he did compounded the appeal: With Pusha, the hustle was an end in itself.
Born Terrence Thornton in 1977, he grew up in Virginia Beach, forming Clipse with his brother Malice (later No Malice) in their teens. Even had he not gone on to a solo career (2018’s DAYTONA being a standout), Clipse—in particular their work with the production team The Neptunes—would’ve secured his legacy: “Grindin’,” “Mr. Me Too,” the Birdman track “What Happened to That Boy.” His trademark ad-lib was “YUUGH,” an expression that not only captured disgust, but the abject quality of his stories: To keep it inside would’ve made him sick. As the president of Kanye West’s GOOD Music label, Pusha has also helped shape rap on an industry level, following an artist/executive path more common as the years wind on. And, as one can imagine, he likes doing business, and being on time.