The Wonder of Pusha T

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Tyler Robertson

Terrence Thornton, or Pusha T as most people know him by, has had a long career in hip hop, but he’s showing no signs of stopping.

Thornton was born in New York City, but grew up in Virginia Beach with his parents and older brother, Gene. Gene has played a big part in Pusha T’s career and life up to this point. As teenagers, Terrence and Gene sold drugs together, causing their parents to kick Gene out of their house when they discovered him.

In 1992, the brothers got together again, this time for a better purpose. They started a hip hop group called Clipse. Early in their career, they met Pharrell Williams, a famous producer from Virginia, who helped get their name out there. He originally helped them sign with Elektra Records, but after recording an album and releasing a single from it, the album was cancelled and they were dropped because of the lack of commercial success.

While still part of Clipse, Pusha T collaborated with many other artists individually on their songs. In 2001, Pharrell came in huge for the duo again, this time signing them to Arista Records under his new label, Star Trak. The duo released 2 singles in 2002, with both of them reaching the top 30 songs on the Billboard Hot 100. They released their debut album to great commercial reception, debuting as the top album on Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip Hop Album chart and 4th on the Billboard 200.

During the creation of their second album, a label merger occurred, where Clipse was moved to Jive Records, while Star Trak, who they originally signed under, moved to Interscope Records. Jive Records had a history of neglecting their hip hop artists and focusing on pop artists instead. This led to many delays on the duo’s second album, which ended with a lawsuit and an agreement between Jive Records and the record company they started, Re-Up Records.

The album was finally released in 2006, and it was incredibly successful, debuting at 14th on the Billboard 200. There were multiple points in the album where frustration with Jive Records was mentioned.

The duo went on to sign with Columbia Records in 2007. Their next album, their first not exclusively produced by the duo of Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo, was released in 2009 under Columbia Records. The album was not as successful as their first two, not even reaching the top 40 on the Billboard 200. Following this album, the duo announced that Clipse would go on an indefinite hiatus for the brothers to pursue solo careers. They never released another album, but they would work together again for multiple songs, such as “Use This Gospel” from Kanye West’s JESUS IS KING, “Punch Bowl” from Nigo’s I Know NIGO!, and “I Pray For You” from Pusha T’s newest album, It’s Almost Dry.

Soon after their hiatus was announced, Pusha T was signed by Kanye West’s label, GOOD Music. His first appearance under GOOD Music was on West’s song “Runaway”, one of Kanye’s biggest hits. His first single as a solo artist debuted on New York City’s Hot 97 radio station in February of 2011, but was not released to iTunes until August of that year, despite it being leaked. Shortly after, he announced that he signed a solo record deal with Def Jam, the parent company of GOOD Music.

He released his debut mixtape Fear of God released in March 2011, with a star-studded group of featured artists, including Kanye West and 50 Cent. The mixtape met good reception. He quickly began work on his first EP, Fear of God II: Let Us Pray. When it was originally announced, it was supposed to have four songs from the mixtape and five new songs and it was supposed to come out in June of 2011, but it was not released until November 2011, and it came with four more songs. It debuted at 66th on the Billboard 200. Pusha T moved on to his first studio album, executively produced by Kanye West.

In October 2011, Kanye announced a collaboration album with all of the artists from his GOOD Music label. The first single, “Mercy”, was released in April 2012. The album, Cruel Summer, came out in September 2012. 

The first single from Pusha T’s debut album was released in October of 2012, on the same day that it was announced that the album would be pushed back into 2013. Soon after, Pusha T announced a mixtape preceding the release of his album. The name of the album, My Name Is My Name, was announced in November 2012. The mixtape was released in January 2013, along with an announcement that the album would come at the end of the first quarter of 2013. It did not.

The album was then scheduled for release in July of 2013, but didn’t come out until October of the same year. It featured another star-studded group of features, including Rick Ross, Future, and Kendrick Lamar. It was considered one of the best albums of 2013 by many and met commercial success, debuting at number 4 on the Billboard 200. He announced shortly after that he was working on his second album, King Push. He announced it would release in spring 2015 in December of 2014. Unsurprisingly, he missed his original release date. In May of 2015, he officially pushed back the release of his album to June. He missed the release date again.

In November 2015, Pusha T announced that he was named the president of the GOOD Music label. Later that month, he announced another album; King Push – Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude. This album was a prelude to King Push. It was released in December 2015, and was extremely popular, gaining more than 17 million streams in the first week. He released the first single from King Push in May 2016.

There wasn’t much news about King Push until April 2018, when Kanye West announced it would come out in May of 2018. At the same time, Kanye announced his newest solo album, a collab album with Kid Cudi, and his production on the next albums from Nas and Teyana Taylor. Just 2 days before the release of King Push, Pusha T announced the changing of the name from King Push to Daytona

There was controversy over Daytona before it was even released. It came when Kanye West spent over $80,000 for the cover art of the album, which was a picture of Whitney Houston’s bathroom, littered with drug-related items, from 2006, the peak of her drug addiction. The album came out on May 25th, 2018, and was wildly popular. Metacritic gave it an 86, an incredible score, while he was named the Best Rapper Alive by Complex and praised by Nas and P. Diddy, among others.

Pusha T started a new record label, Heir Wave Media Group, focused on identifying and developing new artists from his home state of Virginia. He still kept his title as the president of GOOD Music during this.

In February 2022, Pusha T released “Diet Coke”, the first single from his fourth studio album, It’s Almost Dry. In March 2022, he released “Hear Me Clearly” for Nigo’s album I Know NIGO!. The song also appeared on It’s Almost Dry. For Nigo’s album, he also reunited with his brother for the song “Punch Bowl”. His final single was released on April 6th, with the album coming out on April 22nd, featuring yet another amazing group of featured artists, including Jay-Z, Kid Cudi, and Lil Uzi Vert. While the album is thought of highly by fans and critics alike, there are no official sales numbers for the album at the time of this article.