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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 11 December 2018

Sole DXB 2017: Pusha T ready to hit the ground running

The US rapper reflects on hip-hop’s cultural force and finalising his new album with Kanye West

Pusha T performs onstage with the Gorillaz during the Meadows Music and Arts Festiva. Nicholas Hunt / Getty Images
Pusha T performs onstage with the Gorillaz during the Meadows Music and Arts Festiva. Nicholas Hunt / Getty Images

The artist most exemplifying the ethos of the latest edition of Sole DXB is Pusha T.

The American rapper and label executive will make his UAE debut to perform and launch his latest footwear with Adidas.

With its sandy-brown top and hard white bottom, the EQT support shoe not only marks the fourth and last instalment of his successful collaboration with the global fashion brand, but also resulted in him touring new destinations such as the UAE and Brazil.

With Rihanna teaming up with Puma to launch her clothing line, Fenty, and Kendrick Lamar’s work with Reebok, Pusha T – real name Terrence Thornton – sees such collaborations as proof that hip-hop is viewed as a culture as opposed to merely entertainment.

“It is really about freedom and being able to do what you want to do,” he says. “When I am designing sneakers for example, I went back to my past and reflected on my influences and what made me who I am. I realised that I was trying to do was to tell a story. The brown colour in the latest shoe is a homage to brown paper bags that are sold in the bodegas that I grew up around, while at the same time, brown is a luxury colour for me. So I what I am trying to do tell both sides of my story and show a sense of maturation.”

Indeed, Pusha T is one of hip-hop’s quiet achievers. The 40-year-old already cemented his legacy in the genre with Clipse, the influential hip-hop duo featuring his brother Gene "No Malice" Thornton, through a series of three lauded albums featuring production work by an up-and-coming Pharrell Williams.

With the group on indefinite hiatus, Pusha T went on to release two solo albums, My Name is My Name (2013) and King Push – Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude (2015), which saw him expand towards a more introspective lyricism. Tracks such as Hold On find him discussing his place as an

African-American community leader, whileSunshine finds him commenting on the fractured race relations in the United States.

“Honestly speaking, a lot of that comes from my brother,” Pusha T admits. “When we were doing the Clipse, I was really the more rebellious one, while my brother was more introspective and he always approached things from a different angle. So when I was working on my solo music, I wanted to approach it also from that perspective to keep things diverse. That’s how you grow as an artist.”

That mixture of experience and insight had Pusha T tapped by superstar rapper Kanye West to run his influential record label GOOD Music – an abbreviation of Getting Out Our Dreams – which is presently home to the likes of big-selling rappers Big Sean, Desiigner and Tyga.

“I have been enjoying it and I feel that I should be in this place in my career,” he says. “I have been in this game for 15 years and I should be in a position now where I can use my experience to help artists evolve and push the genre. I feel a lot of times that a lot of my favourite artists can get stale, so this is where I can come in and push them forward.”

Pusha T says the growing number of record-label executives who are also active artists in the hip-hop industry (from Jay-Z and Eminem to Rick Ross and TI) is a positive step not only to ensure the genre’s artistic integrity, but also that financial rights are always protected.

“All artists should pay attention to the business side of things because hip-hop is the youngest genre and most influential genre,” he says. “I just feel like it will be a disservice if we don’t have knowledge of what is going on. A lot of artists from the previous generation were taken advantage of and that shouldn’t be the case now.

“Also, a lot of artists are crazy, man. So it is always good to have a fellow artist in power in order that they can relate.”

Hence Pusha T’s ongoing relationship with the mercurial Kanye West. He confirms that West is producing his anticipated third album, King Push, which is slated for release next year. With such a team effort, Pusha T promises that fans will not be disappointed.

“As soon as we are done in Dubai, I am heading back with Kanye to put the final touches on the album,” he says. “This will be the biggest hip-hop release of 2018 without a doubt. My fans have been waiting for it.

“They expect greatness, so I have to give it to them.”

Pusha T performs at Sole DXB on Saturday. The event runs on Friday and Saturday at Dubai Design District. Tickets are Dh125, available from

www.soledxb.com

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