The dude Andrew Matson over at the Times has really outdone himself. Check out his interview with Pusha-T (one half of the rap group, Clipse). It’s long, sprawling, and utterly revealing — a well-sketched portrait of an interview of Mr. Terence Thornton.
Clipse are one of my favorite hip-hop groups. To me, a Clipse album release is always a major event. There’s something very particular within their brand of drug-rap that’s deeper and more complex than others.
Sure, the subject matter is no different than a lot of other so-called “Coke Rap”, but there is something else that sets Clipse apart, besides that they’re naturally more gifted emcees than most others. I think they succeed in injecting a certain pathos in their lyrics. Much like how great comedians pull from painful events in their pasts, Pusha-T and Malice extract a more complex drug-game ethos than other rappers with similar biographies.
When I listen to their music, I’m actually frightened. Not of the rappers themselves, but of what it means to the communities and people like the Thornton brothers who were (are?) blighted by the seeming necessity of drug dealing. Maybe its because we don’t typically see the brothers in photos at parties, hanging with Kanye or Pharrell on their yachts, that an extra dimension of realness is added. (Pusha-T actually touches on this very subject. He says they’ve never really participated in the glamour life that comes with being rap stars.) Or maybe it’s because they’re just so damn good at representing their true selves and histories on records.
I think most casual fans of hip-hop don’t see the forest for the trees when it comes to “Coke Rap”. There’s typically some dangerous glamorization of the drug-dealing lifestyle that’s done by a lot of rappers, either purposely or not. In reality, it’s not hard, even for someone never involved in the game, to say the lifestyle is really some truly ugly sh*t. Clipse do hip-hop fans all a favor by keeping it ugly, which is how it should be. Their greatness as artists is defined by the fact they never do it at the expense of making great music.