NEW YORK — Pusha T has been on a winning streak.
In a year where rap easily dominated as music’s top genre, Pusha T’s 21-minute, seven-track “Daytona” album moved the needle and became one of the most successful hip-hop projects of the year, he won his rap beef with Drake and he earned a Grammy nomination for best rap album.
As the rap star reflects on the year, he says: “I really can look back at 2018 and really look at it as a total win.”
“I didn’t start ‘Daytona’ to let anybody down and I feel like we definitely accomplished the mission,” he added. “’Daytona’ is rap album of the year. No one rapped better than me in 2018.’”
Pusha T, 41, has been making bold statements like those since he emerged on the music scene as one-half of the duo Clipse two decades ago, earning praise for his raw lyrical content and delivery.
He reached new heights this year when he exposed Drake on “The Story of Adidon” (Drake never responded to the burning diss track). The Kanye West-produced “Daytona” soon followed, debuting at No. 3 on the pop charts and landing on several critics’ year-end lists.
The album earned a Grammy nomination for best rap album in a highly competitive year, pitting Pusha T against Cardi B, Travis Scott, Nipsey Hussle and the late Mac Miller, and garnering a nod over acts like Drake, Lil Wayne, Eminem, J. Cole, Nas, Migos, DJ Khaled, Nicki Minaj and even West.
Pusha T said when the Recording Academy added a nomination review committee to the rap category last year to serve as an additional layer of checks and balances, he felt like he had a stronger chance of getting a nomination.
“Maybe not never in my life had I ever thought about getting a Grammy, but I remember hearing about it and saying, ‘Damn, man, that’s pretty dope. I can’t wait to see how that turns out,’” he said. “I was really impressed with the effort of the Grammy committee and how they were trying to change the way of doing things. Now when I look at the nominees, man, we got a tough category, and all of those albums are albums that I rock with.”
In an interview with The Associated Press, Pusha T discusses his Grammy nomination, Drake’s omission from the best rap category, West’s recent tweets and more.
AP: What does it feel like to see “Daytona” up for best rap album?
Pusha T: Man, for me the Grammy nomination is just the icing on the cake. ... I remember, like, being young, super-young and looking at the Grammys, I used to never see my favorite rappers up there ... As I got older, and my favorite rappers were being nominated, they went through a whole boycott period. I remember rappers boycotting the Grammys. Then, ultimately, time moves on and I got to see some great ones — Jay-Z, Kanye West — receive a Grammy. To be nominated for what it is that I do, and what I’ve done — I’ve been very consistent for what I’ve done in the rap game — it’s amazing. I don’t know if there’s ever been any rapper who has embodied the streets so much and with this level of content and this level of pure artistry (that’s been nominated for a Grammy). I don’t know. This is really just the streets talking right here.
AP: Was it surprising to get a nomination because the album is shorter than most?
Pusha T: Sometimes you have to change the silhouette. I feel like that’s what we did, we changed the silhouette. And I guess seven tracks isn’t... time-wise, it does say it’s eligible. I don’t think anybody left feeling unfulfilled. As I look at all these top 100 lists, top 50 lists, like, “Damn, ‘Daytona’ is always in the top 3, top 5, 1, here and there.” I feel like everybody was fulfilled.
AP: What were some of your other favorite rap albums that were not nominated?
Pusha T: I actually liked Jay Rock’s album a lot. I probably was on record with that one, too. He’s probably one of the ones that I felt like really put together a really strong project, rap-wise.
AP: Were you surprised that none of the other Kanye West-produced projects were nominated?
Pusha: I felt like Kanye getting a producer of the year Grammy nomination is due in part to his output and how he had to turn into a chameleon to do all these albums. I definitely felt like Teyana (Taylor)’s album was super-strong and could have definitely deserved a Grammy.
In being fair, I do feel like my album was the most dialed-in, and just laser-direct for a category. I feel like my album really hit the rap category directly. If you look at the (Kid) Cudi project, Cudi and ‘Ye project “Kids See Ghost,” or the ‘Ye (solo) project, I don’t know exactly. I think those two projects could have danced in a few different categories.
AP: Were you surprised to not see Drake’s album in best rap album?
Pusha T: No. I wasn’t surprised. I think everybody needs to stay in their respective category. I don’t think me and him are in the same category.
AP: When you released “The Story of Adidon,” were you afraid that it would overshadow the “Daytona” album?
Pusha T: That was a concern during that whole time. That was a concern. I always felt that I had rap album of the year. I always knew it. That was a bit of distraction in regards to me being able to campaign that from the day that I put out the album up until something like the Grammys. That was a bit of a distraction. We were sort of strategic about that. Very strategic on how we discussed it and what we talked about, because that wasn’t part of the album. That was extra credit.
AP: Have you been working on new music?
Pusha T: Yeah, for sure.
AP: How’s that going?
Pusha T: We’ll see in 2019.
AP: Are you working with Kanye again?
Pusha T: For sure.
AP: Have you talked to him since he sent those tweets last week, reigniting his feud with Drake?
Pusha T: Yeah, I talked to him.
AP: Is everything cool?
Pusha T: Everything’s beautiful.
AP: When he said Drake bought the first two rows of your concert — was that true?
Pusha T: Certain things I’m just not going to speak on because that’s not part of my DNA. But, hey, Kanye’s fine, man. He’s fine. He was just talking on Twitter, doing what he does. — (AP)