Over the last twenty years, Pusha T has been a constant figure in the hip-hop world ever since he made his name as one half of the duo, Clipse, which is appropriate considering that his first heroes were another pairing.
While solo success came to Pusha later in life, he’s been on the rap game since he formed the duo back in 1992. Initially, the project was just his older brother, No Malice’s solo venture, but Pharrell Williams recommended they become a duo after Pusha started writing verses and rapping.
However, their debut album wouldn’t be released for a decade after their formation, and throughout this time, the Virginia rapper expertly mastered the tricks of the trade.
In 2022, duos are no longer on-trend, bar anomalies such as Run The Jewels and Rae Sremmurd, but, when Pusha was growing up, they were en-vogue and played a crucial part in his musical upbringing.
The one group that spoke to Pusha was Eric B. & Rakim, and their debut album, 1987’s Paid In Full. He was only 10 when the record was released, and his life has never been the same since.
Speaking to Pitchfork about the transformative effect the album had on his life, Pusha said: “I was 10 in ’87. I didn’t rap until I got out of high school, but my brother [Clipse’s Malice] was rapping the whole time, he was known locally. He was five years older than me and it was his thing; I just never had the patience. Malice was the rapper’s rapper. He was the one that made cohesive shit, every line must make sense, there must be a subject-predicate, beginning-end. And everyone wanted to be Rakim.”
He continued: “I had cousins in the South Bronx at the time and they were keeping us abreast of who was cool. I remember going to the Bronx on a visit and saying, ‘Run-D.M.C. is the best.’ And they were like, ‘You trippin’, Rakim is the greatest ever.’ I was like, ‘Who is that?’ And they were like, ‘Yo, don’t ever say that again.'”
Pusha added: “Run-D.M.C. were amazing, brash performers. But when you get into Rakim and MCM jackets and Air Force Ones and Kangols and drug dealers on the back of the album, that was exposing a whole different world. That Rakim era took it all the way to the street. I remember my sister loving Rakim, like, as a man. And I was like, ‘Why?’ She was like, ‘He never smiles.’ The mystique was just monstrous.”
From that point on, all Pusha wanted to do was be Rakim, and it’s fair to say that he’s achieved that mission by becoming the undisputed ‘King of Coke Rap’.