|Next Project:||Till The Casket Drops (Q1, '09)|
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Despite dropping a platinum-certified debut (“Lord Willin’”) and a critically-acclaimed sophomore album (“Hell Hath No Fury”), Virginia duo The Clipse are still looking for their big break. After a disappointing and highly frustrating seven-year stint at Jive Records, emcees Pusha T and Malice are sailing a brand new ship; one that the tandem hopes will lead them to a land of musical success.
With the release of last week’s new Koch-distributed “Clipse Present: The Re-Up Gang” project, the brothers have officially set sail. This November, the lead single from their forthcoming Re-Up/Columbia studio album, “Till The Casket Drops,” will be released, with the LP following closely in early ’09. Production duties will be handled by Sean C and LV, The Runners, the J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, Kanye West, Swizz Beatz and of course, the Neptunes.
In an exclusive interview with DJBooth’s DJ “Z,” Pusha steps inside the booth to talk about the group’s highly successful mixtape series, the possibility of a Re-Up Dynasty, which five emcees are on the same lyrically creative level as the Clipse, and how the duo can and should be properly marketed by their labels.
Listen to the Interview
Clipse Interview Transcription
DJ Booth: What’s goin’ on everybody? It’s your boy “Z,” doin’ it real big, and joining me inside the DJ Booth is one half of the only duo that I enjoy listening to rap about pushin’ weight and choppin’ rock. With a brand new album in stores, and another one right around the corner, this man is busy. Please welcome Pusha T of The Clipse – how you doin’?
Pusha T: Yo, what’s goin’ on, what’s up. It’s your neighborhood pusher right here – how you doin’?
DJ Booth: I’m pretty good, man. Thank you for joinin’ me. I know you guys got a busy, busy agenda – of course, album out in stores, album around the corner like I mentioned. Do you find time to do the essentials, like, breathe and eat?
Pusha T: [laughs] Definitely gotta breathe and eat, man. But, like you said, it’s been a very busy time for the Clipse. First things first, Clipse Presents: The Re-Up Gang, that album’s out in stores. And, for those who don’t know, we had a mixtape series, We Got It 4 Cheap, volumes one through three, which inspired this whole album. Basically, looking at it as just a springboard to launch everybody in their own creative direction. The Clipse, Sandman, and Ab Liva make up the Re-Up Gang. The Clipse is definitely a duo, Sand and Liva soloists, so it’s a good way just to showcase everybody’s talent, and just hopefully get everybody off and rollin’.
DJ Booth: Definitely. A few people who have already picked up a copy of the new album, and are familiar with, as you mentioned, your Got It 4 Cheap mixtape series, are they’re saying that there’s some feel about the album that is different from the mixtape series. So, considering some of the material from the last mixtape was actually carried over and remixed on this album, what are your thoughts on the difference between your album content versus a mixtape content?
Pusha T: The Clipse album with the Re-Up Gang is different because I think that he Re-Up Gang is a bit more aggressive. It’s more aggressive, and it’s more just tryin’ to kill you, line for line. I think that the Clipse albums are a bit more song-oriented, and even though it’s still hardcore, it’s a bit more formatted. The mixtape to me has more of a raw feel.
DJ Booth: Our very own Nathan S. actually made a comparison between a Re-Up Gang mixtape, and, of course, in stores, the new Clipse Presents: Re-Up Gang album. He wrote, “Where the mixtape delivers body blows, the album sticks and jabs, and where the mixtape was straight dope, the album feels like it’s cut with a little bit of musical baking soda.” “So, in other words,” he says, “the Re-Up Gang is their own worst enemy. They’re so good they make themselves look bad.” Do you agree with that type of assessment?
Pusha T: All right, musically, I would look at the mixtape series versus the album that we put out, and it’s sort of tough and it’s sort of an unfair comparison, because when we do mixtapes we stick to the essence of a mixtape. We stick to the 1995 rules of a mixtape: you take beats that are already out. So, when a listener hears us on those beats, that’s half of the battle for a listener. I expect people to have their opinions about the production of this album, or whatever the case may be, because if you fell in love with the mixtape series, you were in love with the lyrics that you loved over beats that you had heard before, that you were familiar with. If you love the Clipse, you fell in love with the great Neptunes production, I mean, guys who are just totally musical geniuses. To compare the production from either A, a mixtape, or B, a Clipse album, to [Clipse Presents: Re-Up Gang] is a bit unfair.
DJ Booth: Do you think you’ve spoiled your fans? They’ve gotten so used to all this great material on your mixtape series, that when they hear an album, it might not match up?
Pusha T: I can’t ever say “spoil the fans.” You’re supposed to give ‘em what you got. But, like I said, it’s just sort of, I think the Clipse fan and the Re-Up Gang fan is a lyric-driven fan; they will always find gems in anything that the Re-Up Gang does.
DJ Booth: No matter where they’re looking – I agree. Let’s go back for a second. We spoke in April of 06, during a radio interview, and you compared the Re-Up movement to the quote unquote “new Death Row Records.” You said, “There will not be a dynasty like us.” So, more than two years later, are you still confident that that can and will happen?
Pusha T: I think that when you see, starting with this Sandman solo album, the Pusha solo album, and going forward, the other artists, Liva – I think that you will definitely be impressed, definitely. I don’t have a worry in the world about that.
DJ Booth: Okay, let’s focus on the word “dynasty.” Still a possibility?
Pusha T: Oh, hell yeah!
DJ Booth: Pusha, with all the poppy, dance-driven, radio-friendly rap music that’s been dominating the charts, radio waves, airwaves, and corporate-influenced websites, does lyrically-driven and stimulating hip hop, what you guys produce and give to the masses, need a reintroduction – no pun intended – into this game?
Pusha T: A reintroduction is a big statement, ‘cause there is good, lyric-driven hip hop out there. I look at it like, what we do is we focus on the base, and we do everything in our power to expand on our base, and bring people into our fold. That’s just the way I’m tryin’ to attack the situation.
DJ Booth: Do you feel what you’re doing is being appreciated?
Pusha T: Definitely, man. This hip hop game is, when I look on the net, or when I go do these shows, appreciation can be a thousand people in a venue, you know? And, chantin’, and sayin’ your words, and doin’ what they do. Or it can be 30,000, of course, in a stadium. But I get the sane feel from both.
DJ Booth: So as long as you’re seeing that support, you know you’re being appreciated, definitely.
Pusha T: Of course. I tell people all the time, we sold a platinum album, we sold an album that I don’t even know what it’s scanned today, 250, whatever.
DJ Booth: But it should’ve gone platinum! [laughs]
Pusha T: Yep, it should’ve, but hey, you know, we gotta call a spade a spade. The Clipse has learned, you can’t say “Woulda, coulda, shoulda…” no more, so we leave that alone. My shows are Hell Hath No Fury-based. That’s my album; I love that album. You know, hits was on Lord Willing, that’s fine, you’ll get some of those as well. But even though it didn’t sell as much, that’s what we love to do.
DJ Booth: Let’s concentrate right now on this creative lyricism. You guys are on my top five, so I wanna know, who’s in your top 5 right now? Who do you feel is on the same level creatively, as far as lyrical ability?
Pusha T: Okay, my top five…
DJ Booth: No ties, either, ‘cause that’s lame.
Pusha T: No particular order, but I can give you five: Andre 3000, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Fabolous.
DJ Booth: One more.
Pusha T: One more? Jadakiss.
DJ Booth: Damn good top five, can’t disagree with any of those selections. Let’s roll off of the project we’ve been talkin’ about, and roll on to the much-anticipated new Clipse album, tentatively titled Till the Casket Drops, and I read it’s set for a November release. What are the chances that that actually holds?
Pusha T: No, no November release. You should have a single by then, and top of the year, January.
DJ Booth: Okay, first quarter, 09.
Pusha T: Yes, first quarter 09.
DJ Booth: Great. This album, how is it gonna be the same, how is it gonna be different, than what the Clipse-supporting public is already familiar with?
Pusha T: Okay. Different: production credits will be shared, and it won’t just be Neptunes. There will be other high-caliber producers – Sean C and LV, The Runners, the J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, the Neptunes, DJ Khalil, Dame Grease, we haven’t been in yet with Jus Blaze, but I know he’s on the list, Kanye, and Swizz.
DJ Booth: That’s a nice list, that’s a real nice list. I also read Rick Rubin – are you guys gonna be working with Rick?
Pusha T: That’s also been spoken about. See, I can’t say Rick, ‘cause I didn’t hear Rick’s music. I got CDs from Swizz, and I got ten joints from Kanye the other day. I didn’t say Rick ‘cause I didn’t hear his music yet, so I don’t wanna try to fool anybody. But, yeah, because you said it, and everyone knows Rick Rubin signed us. I’m lookin’ forward to it, for sure.
DJ Booth: Are there gonna be a lot of guest appearances, or are you keepin’ it strictly Clipse?
Pusha T: No, I think we’re gonna do a few guest appearances, but I’m not gonna say, because I wanna make sure I have ‘em. I don’t wanna tell nobody anything that ain’t true. But definitely we’re looking to venture off into other people that we admire, [that] we think are good.
DJ Booth: What is the most important thing that has to happen for you guys to see the success that you know you are capable of achieving, but up to this point with previous stints has fallen short.
Pusha T: A planned-out marketing campaign.
DJ Booth: How are the Clipse best marketed?
Pusha T: You have to tie in all of the things that people are so familiar with, with the Clipse. You have to really market the world of the Clipse. The Clipse’s major success started in the ghettos of the world with grindin’, so you don’t wanna exclude them. After you hit there, you were introduced to, I hate to call ‘em hipsters, ‘cause I just think it’s the cool bunch, know what I’m sayin’? We were introduced to the cool bunch of folks via the guys who were up on everything, with the We Got It 4 Cheap series, with the fashion, with the BBC, all that stuff we were doing, the whole Japanese influence – we were introduced to that culture as well. So you don’t exclude them at all. Then you just tie in all these impressions, and you tie in all those different worlds and blend them together.
DJ Booth: Do Sony and Columbia know all this? ‘Cause if not, I will gladly pitch them the last five minutes of our conversation, and I will only charge you guys ten percent. How does that sound?
Pusha T: That’s fine with me; I have no problem with anyone making money, as long as they’re helpin’ our situation!
DJ Booth: I have no doubt that you guys are gonna take care of what you’re able to take care of, and that’s the music. Hopefully everything else will just fall into place, and I sincerely hope that this is the breaking point in your career, where you don’t have to look back and answer any more of those “What if?” kind of questions. Pusha, go ahead and give everybody a website or a MySpace page, so they can find out more about the new album, and what you have comin’ up in the next few months.
Pusha T: Go to myspace.com/clipse, you know, Till the Casket Drops, you can hear about Play Cloths, the new clothing line – you can hear about it all.
DJ Booth: Thank you so much for joinin’ me inside the DJ Booth, I wish you guys nothing but the best of luck.
Pusha T: Z, thanks a lot.
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