The Untold Truth Of Pusha T

Complex named rapper Pusha T as an honorable mention for best rapper alive in 2006 for his work on the album "Hell Hath No Fury" as part of the rap duo, Clipse. While this may seem ancient in rap history, Pusha T showed he had no signs of slowing down even as younger rappers emerge. Complex then named him the best rapper alive during 2018 for his album "DAYTONA." Pusha T explained, "I don't know if there's a better marriage of beats and lyricism." This is part of what makes the rapper so special and in part why Pusha T landed his first number one album on the Billboard 200 chart with his 2022 album "It's Almost Dry."

With all this experience in entertainment, Pusha T connected with three of the biggest names in the music industry, though one of those relationships was especially hostile. In his personal life, the musician went through a wide range of experiences from personal tragedies to questionable activities. At the heart of everything he does, Pusha T appears interested in creating a legacy for himself. When talking about the fact that Rolling Stone named three of his albums in the 200 best hip-hop albums ever, the rapper told NPR, "I want to keep making albums that will end up on all of these lists. If I stop making albums that don't garner that type of fanfare or attention, then I don't want to make music anymore." This is the untold truth of Pusha T.

From the city to the beach and back for Pusha T

Pusha T is one of the best rappers to technically come out of New York City. "I was born in the Bronx, the youngest of four, and moved to Virginia when I was two," he told Pitchfork. Still, he spent a significant time influenced by the city culture in the Big Apple since his grandma remained in the city and he'd visit her for summer vacation, among other holidays. 

Pusha T fondly remembers spending time there and said it was a positive experience because his grandmother gave him independence during each visit. He also revealed that hip-hop seemed omnipresent in New York City and he learned about all the best artists from his cousins. One of Pusha T's favorite childhood memories was getting the famous New York City pizza at a shop called Rambo's. The name was a reference to the character played by popular '80s star Sylvester Stallone. "I used to buy slices there to eat, then wash them down with shaved ices with a flavor in them ... then go over to the basketball courts — that was a day for me over the summer," Pusha T recalled in an interview for the Village Voice.

Once he became a famous rapper, Pusha T found himself in New York City for different reasons, like when he stumbled into a meeting where record executive L.A. Reid was championing the Clipse song "Grindin'" and believed it would be a hit, Pusha T told Tidal.

What life was like for young Pusha T

Back when his name was just Terrence Thornton, Pusha T spent almost his entire childhood near the sea after moving to Virginia Beach, per NME. He was especially interested in music as a young boy, unsurprising, given the number of future stars that he grew up around. First, it was producer Teddy Riley who moved to Virginia. As a result, the hip-hop scene exploded and Pusha T spotted famous rappers left and right, including The Notorious B.I.G. and Diddy when he still went by Puff Daddy. "You started seeing black guys in Ferraris driving past you on the boulevard with nothing but Camrys. I'd see Jay-Z, Heavy D — any and everybody," Pusha T told Pitchfork. Famous producer Timbaland was also starting to make a name for himself in the region. "My brother would be leaving to go to Timbaland's house and I would start crying ridiculously so my mother would make him take me along," Pusha T explained.

Pusha T remembered skipping school to visit his friend Chad Hugo, who later founded the Neptunes with Pharrell. "Everybody would be over at Chad's house and they were like writing records and stuff, and I would just be there listening. And I was like, 'Man, I'm going to write me a rap today,'" Pusha T told the Red Bull Music Academy. While he ignited his passion in rap, Pusha T still focused on his studies and graduated high school in the mid-90's.

The origin of Pusha T rapping

Even though he grew up surrounded by music and other rappers, Pusha T didn't start rapping until he was 18 years old, per Pitchfork. He started in the early '90s because up until that point, "I just remember it not being cool to say that you were rapping," Pusha T recalled to the Red Bull Music Academy. He received a slight push into rapping from Pharrell, who lived right down the street from Pusha T. While Pharrell made beats for other artists, he eventually offered one of his instrumentals to Pusha T, which went on to be the hit song "Grindin'." The rapper recalled Pharrell calling him to explain, "If you don't come over and take this beat, I'm going to give it to Jay-Z," he told Pitchfork. Pusha T admitted at the time, "I didn't know where to come in on the beat," but he figured it out and the track became one of his breakouts. 

In fact, years before, he went by the rap name Terrar as part of Clipse. For example, that's young Pusha T on the 2000 Kelis song "Good Stuff," per Genius. After Elektra Records scrapped the debut Clipse album called "Exclusive Audio Footage," Clipse returned with a rebrand of member Terrar to Pusha T, (via BET). The name Pusha T is a reference to cocaine as in, "Push a ton of that s*** that makes ya nose run," he once rapped on the song "Comedy Central," according to Billboard.

Pusha T and his brother were a formidable duo

From a young age, Pusha T saw his older brother Gene Thornton Jr. aka No Malice rapping. "When he was in middle school, junior high school, he was part of a rap group that the principal called a gang. And it was a duo. It was a group of guys who were all duos, and the producer and DJ for everybody was Timbaland," Pusha T told Red Bull Music Academy. He also remembered his brother was extremely serious about his choice of lyrics. "He was the one that made cohesive s***– every line must make sense, there must be a subject-predicate, beginning-end," Pusha T told Pitchfork

Later, Pusha T began writing his own raps and he recalled his close friends suggesting, "'Why don't you and your brother become a duo?' My brother was all for it because it cut his verses in half." The two then joined forces in 1994 to form the rap group Clipse. Their skills were good enough to land a contract with Elektra Records and they ushered in an era of "street rap," talking about intense subjects like dealing drugs, per NME. "It was what the streets wanted to hear," Pusha T told Pitchfork.

Since the word malice suggests violence towards others, the name didn't fit when Pusha T's brother became religious. He converted to Christianity and subsequently changed his moniker to No Malice, Faithwire recapped. The Netflix documentary "The End of Malice" also detailed the change.

Here's what Pusha T thinks about his friend Ye

While Pusha T was still enjoying success with Clipse, he aspired to start creating his own projects. According to MTV, to help make these albums a reality, Kanye West signed Pusha T to his G.O.O.D. Music label in 2010 as a solo artist. After West and Pusha T performed together at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards, Pusha T confirmed he was part of the label. The two also became friends. 

"We talk about everything that goes on with him. I always lend him an ear, and I always speak to him and give my opinions," Pusha T told NPR. In regards to West's many times in the news cycle for his antics, Pusha T explained, "He has a very strong personality. He just wants what he wants, and he wants it a particular way." West is also appreciative of Pusha T and reportedly told the rapper, "you know when I talk to you, it helps me see outside myself," per GQ.

Pusha T admitted that while he and West may not see eye-to-eye on many things, the two make magic in the studio. One of the best examples was Pusha T's album "Daytona" with West as the producer. It was West's first project in a 2018 series of creating albums, which were later called the Wyoming Sessions. "I'm really proud of what we put together. We've spent a year and a half digging for samples and writing," West tweeted about the album.

All the beef between Pusha T and Drake

On Pusha T's 2018 song "Infrared," he claimed Drake used ghostwriters like Quentin Miller, per Pitchfork. In response, Drake released a song called "Duppy Freestyle." "Infrared" was nothing compared to Pusha T's response with "The Story of Adidon." The lyrics featured many accusations and barbs at Drake, including the most shocking claim, "We talkin' character, let me keep with the facts / You are hiding a child, let that boy come home." Pusha T also explained in the song how Drake's son was named Adonis and that the mother of his child was Sophie Brussaux, an adult film star. Prior, Drake's representative hinted that Brussaux was lying about being pregnant with his child. Equally as damning, the cover art for the single was a photo of young Drake in Blackface.

Pusha T claimed that Drake was offering up a monetary prize for anyone who could find unseemly details about him. "You got a 100k floating around for info? Can't no amount of money create skeletons that don't exist," Pusha T tweeted. The rapper also threw in the hashtag of "I'm Upset," in reference to Drake's 2018 single.

While the feud made for delightful drama in the music industry, in addition to some memorable songs, Pusha T appeared to be moving on from Drake in 2022. "I'm just not going to play about anything involving him," Pusha T explained about his former nemesis on the "Desus and Mero" show.

The long history between Pusha T and Pharrell

Since the two knew each other from their teen years, Pusha T first worked with Pharrell in the early Clipse days, according to Pitchfork. Prior to the release of his 2022 album, "It's Almost Dry," Pusha T dropped the song, "Hear Me Clearly" from the Nigo album, "I Know Nigo." In the announcement on Instagram, Pusha T wrote in the caption that after Pharrell first heard the song, he told Pusha T, "It's cool, but I don't want you to be a mixtape rapper for the rest of your life." Pusha T confessed Pharrell's words hurt. "He then flew me to Miami and proceeded to produce the first half of the best album of the year. Moral of the story...always 'push' your friends to be greater." 

The rapper was referring to Pharrell's work as one of the main producers of "It's Almost Dry." Part of the creation process involved Pusha T staying with Pharrell for weeks, and the producer dictating exactly what Pusha T needed to do. "I want hooks, b-hooks, refrains, choruses, cadences. And I want you to be in character the whole time," Pusha T recalled Pharrell telling him, per GQ. The character the rapper mentioned was a "demon" personality that was partially inspired by Joaquin Phoenix's portrayal in "Joker."

Outside of music, the two post photos together on social media. Pharrell was also Pusha T's best man for his wedding in 2018, according to Vogue.

Pusha T talks about his family tragedies

Pusha T was en route to meet Kanye West in Texas to record at Elon Musk's house when he received horrible family news. Pusha T's wife called to inform that his mom died. West texted him that night to let him know that it was the anniversary of his own mom, Donda West's death. As Pusha T recalled to Charlamagne tha God, West then called and the two men simply chatted. 

Four months after Pusha T lost his mother, his dad Gene Thornton Sr. died. Pusha T admitted it was hard losing his mom and dad because he was extremely close with both parents. "I grieve selfishly. I'm grieving now," he said in the interview, before holding back tears and asking for a tissue. The rapper explained that legacy then became particularly important for him and "I understand that in their passing, I have so many great things to reference." He also confessed, "there's not a day that it hasn't felt heavy," Pusha T told GQ

Later Pusha T shared a heartwarming Instagram post about his late father. Alongside a photo of his dad reading a book to his grandson, Pusha T wrote, "I am who I am because of you and I've always been proud to be your son. We are all gonna miss you." At the end of the caption, Pusha T referenced his late mother. "P.S. We all know what this is abt, kiss my mom for me," he wrote.

Pusha T is open about his illegal activities

Pusha T was only a teenager when began selling drugs, specifically, cocaine, per NME. Though his hometown in Virginia was full of military bases and college, "the drug culture was super heavy," he told the Red Bull Music Academy. He knew his brother sold drugs in the past and later, he "just ventured off into that world," Pusha T revealed on an episode of "Sway's Universe." 

He recalled one tense night where he and a few guys fought each other and one ended up shooting a gun in front of Pusha T's house. The police came and though his mother wasn't home at the time, she was disappointed about her son's involvement. Pusha T also said his dad, who he considered a hardworking and honorable man, was completely shocked. It was the last straw for the rapper who remembered thinking about the embarrassing moment for his parents, "I can't ever make them feel like that again." Though he stopped selling cocaine, his history with the drug became a common theme throughout his career. For example, the 2014 Future song "Move That Dope," combined two of Pusha T's favorite things, Pharrell and talking about cocaine (via Genius).

Pusha T was still talking about the drug's influence on his life in his 2022 album "It's Almost Dry." In one song, he referred to himself as "cocaine's Dr. Seuss" and posted a photo with a cartoon version of himself below the lyric.

How Pusha T influenced fast food

One surprising writing credit for Pusha T during his career is that he wrote a golden song for the famous golden arches company, McDonald's. That's right, a rapper known for explicit lyrics about drug dealing reportedly had a hand in one of the most famous, family-friendly jingles called "I'm Lovin' It." It was first a song called "I'm Lovin' It" by Justin Timberlake featuring the famous "ba da ba ba ba" phrase. Timberlake's voice was also used for the McDonald's commercial. Steve Stoute, head of the marketing and advertising company Translate, explained he worked on the jingle in 2004. Common knowledge had been that Pharrell was the writer behind the song but, "you know who [wrote] that? Pusha T," Stoute claimed on the "Hot 97" radio show.

"I am solely responsible for the 'I'm Lovin' It' swag and the jingle of that company," Pusha T told Rolling Stone. Looking back, Pusha T wishes he asked for more money from the deal, especially knowing now how long the jingle became synonymous with the brand. "It's something that's always dug at me later in life," Pusha T said.

To help him move on from the frustration with the McDonald's deal, Pusha T teamed up with fast food chain Arby's to write the song "Spicy Fish Diss." It featured lyrics aimed at the competitor and Pusha T also alluded to his hand in McDonald's jingle with the opening line, "I'm the reason the whole world love it."

Pusha T is a family man

Earlier in his career, Pusha T was celebrating his new music when an unexpected surprise happened — he met Virginia Williams. "I saw her from across the room at the 'Hell Hath No Fury' album release party in Norfolk, Virginia, and the rest is history," Pusha T told Vogue. The two then dated for 11 years before tying the knot in 2018. Pusha T and Williams held their wedding in Virginia Beach in front of a crowd full of celebrities including Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. Naturally, Pusha T also performed at the reception. A few years later, the couple welcomed their first child together, son Nigel Brixx Thornton, Williams posted on Instagram. 

The rapper likes to post photos of his son on social media. Pusha T is also all smiles when talking about his son and revealed how proud he is to be a father. "I don't know why I waited so long," he admitted about having a kid on the "Desus and Mero" show. More than just spending time with his son, Pusha T admitted that his role as a parent affected his professional career in a positive way. "Fatherhood has shaped my new approach to creating and my whole point of view now, because I'm trying to be as creative as possible," Pusha T told Highsnobiety.

The fashionable side of Pusha T

From a young age, Pusha T has been interested in personal style. "It's always been a sneaker thing with me," he told the Village Voice. "In New York back then, I'd go down to 125th Street in Harlem and just hit up the stores there," the rapper recalled. Beyond accessories, Pusha T became interested in clothing as well. He worked with streetwear brand A Bathing Ape, also called BAPE, to create a collaborative collection. Pusha T said he was honored to work with the brand as a long time personal fan because in his opinion, "BAPE is the greatest of all time when it comes to streetwear culture to me," per XXL

Years later, the rapper's thoughts on BAPE completely changed and said he would no longer align with the brand. Part of the reason he first loved BAPE was his strong connection with Japanese founder and musician Nigo. Once Nigo completely left BAPE in 2013, Pusha T told Complex he was done wearing anything from the brand. Nigo went on to become the creative director of French luxury brand Kenzo, and his buddy Pusha T was there in the audience to support, Vogue recapped. When Kenzo hosted a launch party in New York City, Pusha T was there on hand and performed for the crowd, as detailed by WWD.

Showing a taste for fine fashion, Pusha T asked the creative director of Dior men's fashion, Kim Jones, to design his wedding tuxedo, per Vogue.

Pusha T became a businessman

In 2015, Kanye West appointed Pusha T as the president of G.O.O.D. Music. The goal for the label, Pusha T told Billboard, was to "make it profitable and be very business-oriented about it going forward in a manicured type of way." For the rapper that meant, "[taking] care of all the logistics, the rallying of the troops, and so on and so forth," adding, "I always look at it as an opportunity to help the team and I think that artistically, me and Kanye have the same vision," he added.

As head of G.O.O.D. Music for many years, Pusha T it was sometimes difficult handling the spotlight surrounding the impressive roster of artists, including the very first one signed to the label, John Legend, per Pitchfork. Still, "It's an honor, but that just means your music is in plenty of hands too," he told Highsnobiety of his position at the top.

Pusha T also went on to create his own record label called the Heir Wave Music Group or HMWG for short. He was ready to be completely involved in the operations and "my long term vision is to create a circuit in which artists from my area and surrounding areas can put out music," he told Complex. "Also, I want to create a community for them to be admired and loved, and see the fanfare before going anywhere else," Pusha T added about current and future artists for the label.

Pusha T likes to help others

Pusha T is clearly known for his menacing lyrics, according to GQ, and yet, there is a softer side to the rapper in real life. For example, he helped get clean water to Flint by sending 2,000 cases of bottled water to the city in Michigan as it dealt with a clean water crisis. Even more, Pusha T initially tried to keep his involvement rather private, showing he cared more about the cause than the publicity. "He's very humble," a community organizer said about Pusha T to MLive. "He doesn't do anything for recognition or for the spotlight," she added.

One of his other charitable gifts was for a program called "A Thousand Shoes for A Thousand Smiles." Pusha T reportedly convinced Adidas to help donate 1,000 pairs of sneakers to children in Norfolk, Virginia, per Sneaker News.

Later, as the head of his own record label HWMG, Pusha T helped facilitate a virtual concert on the live streaming platform Twitch. The event featured exciting rappers on the label from Virginia and Maryland. Ticket proceeds went to the Black Youth Project organization, All Hip Hop reported. Pusha T even went personal with his philanthropic activities with a charity dinner hosted by the Thornton family, that is, alongside his wife and son. Pusha T posted the event on Instagram and encouraged people to buy tickets with all proceeds going towards the CHKD Mental Health hospital in Norfolk, Virginia.

Here's how much Pusha T is really worth

After becoming a solo artist, fans still enjoyed Pusha T's early work with Clipse like the re-released album "Exclusive Audio Footage," HipHopDX reported. With all these years in the spotlight, Pusha T likely collected nice paychecks along the way for his albums and tours, like his live shows in support of the album "Daytona," Forbes reported. The popularity of his album "It's Almost Dry" meant that he could roll out the supporting tour in multiple phases, according to the rapper's Instagram

Pusha T also collected an impressive payday from his work with McDonald's in the "I'm Lovin' It" commercial, which features him and his brother rapping. "It was like half a million or a million dollars for me and my brother," he told Rolling Stone. "But that's peanuts for as long as that's been running," Pusha T said, alluding to a one-time payout instead of royalties for the long-running campaign. Beyond burgers, Pusha T used his fashionable skills to create his own clothing line called Play Cloths, XXL reported. For all these sources of income, Pusha T was worth an estimated $14 million as of 2022, according to Celebrity Net Worth.

With some of this money, Pusha T dropped $600,000 on a waterfront mansion in his home state of Virginia in 2019, The Blast reported. He also liked to collect nice clothing and accessories, including luxury items from brands like Saint Laurent and Rolex, Pusha T told The New York Times.