Calvin Harris. Skrillex. David Guetta. Pusha T?
The G.O.O.D. Music emcee is one of the latest, and most improbable, stars in the EDM world, a genre more widely known for under-21 European DJs than for 37-year-old cocaine rappers from Virginia Beach.
Pusha collaborators in recent months include former Swedish House Mafia groupmates Axwell Ʌ Ingrosso, Swedish producer iSHi, Canadian DJ/producer Tiga and most recently, Diplo's Major Lazer, all genre-defying efforts clearly rooted in electronic dance music. All of this coming from a man very highly regarded as a "rapper's rapper."
A street veteran, the former Clipse member has remained commercially and critically successful by remaining ultra-consistent, juxtaposing the gritty with the sophisticated through a seemingly endless supply of intricate rhymes. It takes more than consistency to remain relevant, however, and oftentimes artists are forced outside of their comfort zone in order to keep up with the times (and more importantly keep the paychecks coming). Other times, though, different avenues just pique an artist's interest.
"I've been going to Europe for some time on the festival circuit, and once you get in that element and see others reacting to it, it's easier to understand. You get trapped in the wave. The beats are driving and super-aggressive -- like, so hard. I was curious."
It takes attendance at a large scale EDM festival to understand the true magnitude of the experience, as Pusha has discovered, and the audience size and energy is for the most part unparalleled in the world of hip-hop.
As we certainly know here at DJBooth, rap fans are generally a little hesitant at the thought of beloved artists floating into uncharted waters, so while it helps to have someone as well-regarded as Pusha leading the charge it can still be an uphill battle attempting to persuade traditionalists into expanding their tastes.
Challenge or not, Pusha appears to be facing it head-on. Having been in the game for years, he understands the next "big thing" when he sees hears it, and expects many of his contemporaries to follow suit... if they are smart:
"If hip-hop artists are smart, they'll do it. It's such a broad audience, and the energy in those crowds is second to none. I've learned so much about performance watching these guys. It's an art. I was one of the first hip-hop acts to perform at Ultra, and that experience made me realize I had to step up my game to perform on the same stage as these guys, to keep up with that level of production. Some of the greatest hip-hop artists have incorporated elements from electronic shows into their setup. People are taking notice. It's going to be a new wave."
Pusha's forthcoming album, King Push, is scheduled for release on June 30. Don't say you weren't given advance notice if it's just as much "coke trap" as "coke rap."