In 2002 brothers and partners in rhymes Malice and Pusha T dropped their major label debut, Lord Willin’. With Pharrell providing the beats, the duo opened up the world to the Virgina Hustler. Dope dealer anthems and true-t0-life drug stories made the brothers Thornton a favorite amongst hardcore rap purists. Sure, it took years for theClipse to develop their much deserved props in the industry, but looking back now I label at their debut album as a rap classic. Well, it’s at least a classic for rap albums in the first decade of the 2000s. In a candid interview, Push-a-ton looks back at everything that went into the album.
Life+Times: How was the cover conceived?
Pusha T: I wanna say that my brother came up with the cover. We were tryin’ to do something that represented the title really well, but we wanted to have something along the lines of the [“Sugar Shack”] painting in “Good Times.” That’s how we decided to do a drawing. Courtney Walter was our art director at the time—she sought out the painter.
L+T: How did the literal meaning of the title play into your plans for the album?
PT: I know it’s said in Virginia a lot. It’s said by my family. It’s a saying that really means if it’s the lord will, then it’s gonna happen. Everyone says that it in regards to, like, “I’m gonna go to the store today and go shopping, lord willin’.” Or, “I’m going out to eat about 9 o’clock, lord willin’.”
We had already been through having to deal with not being able to put out an album. So, one of the themes was if it was the lord’s will for the album to come out, it was gonna come out (viaJay-Z’s Blog)
Pusha T talks about the impact of “Grindin,” the Clipse influence on the Throwback Jersey craze, and the classic Clipse track “Comedy Central” (feat. Fabolous, Lox, Ab-Liva, Roscoe P.) after the jump…
L+T: Let’s start with the intro track—it’s still devastating all of these years later. What was the intent there?
PT: Whatever you hear first sets the tone of the album. It was really about establishing identity, and, like, putting our flag in the ground. We basically wanted people to understand and know where we were coming from—no one had ever seen this side of Virginia before. We knew that this music was a bit newer. Even though we had The Neptunes on our side and they were everything at the time, our criteria for The Clipse was outside of what The Neptunes were doing. Our first record out was “Grindin’.” This was at a time when Pharrell was hot, the Neptunes were hot. He was on every hook from Nelly to Mystikal, everybody. And we have a hook where he’s actually not on it. The intro…it basically set the tone for all of those maneuvers and moves. It was just like, “This is what we are, we’re different. This is the streets, this is Virginia, this is new, this is risk-taking.” Playas, we ain’t the same. You know.
L+T: When you first heard “Grindin’,” did you expect it to be a staple of lunchrooms everywhere?
PT: I didn’t, but it was a record that I knew was gonna be way too innovative. I think it was probably the first time I rewrote a record—and a record that me and my brother honestly rewrote a couple of times—just because it was unorthodox, it was new. We were like, “Wait a minute, where does the beat start? Where’s the verse? Where’s the hook at?” It really threw us for a loop.
The way it was presented to me…I was actually home and Pharrell was in the studio and he called me and he was like, “Listen. Get up here right now. Get up here right now—I’ve got this record and if you’re not up here in 15 minutes I’m just giving it to JAY Z. I am. I’m giving it to him. If you’re not here in 15 minutes…I know you’re home. You’re home. You’re home. Your house is 10 minutes from here. That means you’ve got five minutes to get ready and get over here. If not, I’m giving it to Jay.” I couldn’t really deal with that. And I was there, needless to say, in 13 minutes (laughs).
L+T: Now, you guys have always been synonymous with fashion, especially when you look back to the days of Hell Hath No Fury and Bape and Ice Cream. But I think one thing that’s overlooked is the video for “Grindin’” and its impact on the throwback game.
PT: I think [Fabolous] gets the title for “King of Throwbacks.” Throwbacks were such…it was just the thing. Now, we’ve always had, like, super strong ties with Philly. Major Figgas. Philly’s Most Wanted. Ab-Liva is still down with us today. Philly was also the first place to break “Grindin’.” It’s also the home of Mitchell & Ness. So, the throwback movement… we were just there, we were in the mix of it, and we happened to have really close ties to the city where a lot of this stuff was coming from.
L+T: The Virginia Squires throwback and the Kings Tiny Archibald jersey—were those conscious choices at the time?
PT: Oh, hell yeah. Had to be. There was almost a fight over the Squires one. You know, Virginia doesn’t have any teams that are, like, synonymous to VA—no baseball, no basketball. We have all the players, like all of the great players are from here, whether you’re talking football, basketball, whatever. Virginia Squires…we all were tryin’ to claim it.
L+T: You mentioned Fabolous earlier, who was featured on “Comedy Central.” Ab-Liva, Rosco P. Coldchain, & The Lox were other notable guests. These were the days before e-mailing tracks back and forth, right?
PT: Definitely were the days before e-mailing tracks back and forth. But the only person I was even in the studio with was Rosco. If you think back, man, Fab was poppin’ at that point. And The Lox were already who they were. So, I think what was happening was that [Pharrell] was getting in the studio with these guys. He was moving around way more—at this time, what artists weren’t they in the studio with? Once we knew who we wanted to put on those records, it was a call or two away.