The Story Behind Pusha T’s Emotionally Charged Album Intro
One rap-world rule of thumb: You never want to be the subject of a Pusha T song. He rarely broaches a sensitive topic unprovoked, but once he decides to go there, no stone is left unturned. Think his savage Drake diss “The Story of Adidon” or even McDonald’s on his recent Arby’s team-up. Listeners get to hear that side of him right from the outset of It’s Almost Dry, the rapper’s brand new fourth studio album. On the intro track “Brambleton,” a wistful Pusha waxes about the dissolution of his relationship with former manager Anthony “Geezy” Gonzalez, which initially stemmed from Gonzalez’s cooperation with law enforcement following a 2009 arrest, but became more about his decision to air things out in a widely-disseminated on the record conversation.
“It was sad watching dude in Vlad interviews / Really it’s ’bout me, he channeled it through you / Had a million answers, didn’t have a clue / Why Michael kissed Fredo in Godfather II,” he raps on the song’s third verse, referencing Gonzalez’s March 2020 interview with DJ Vlad, where he spoke extensively about his history with Pusha’s group Clipse.
Gonzalez, who Pusha has shouted out on past tracks like “So Appalled,” posited that “95 percent” of Pusha and his brother Malice’s raps about selling cocaine were inspired by his own activity in the Virginia drug trade. It’s a heavy claim to levy, since Pusha has basically built his entire career applying his caustic wit to stories of dope deals. (On Almost Dry’s “Let the Smokers Shine the Coupes,” he even dubs himself “Cocaine’s Dr. Seuss.”) Per Geezy, he met Clipse once they already knew Pharrell at a Virginia studio session around 1999. At the time, they were working on Exclusive Audio Footage, their unreleased debut for Elektra Records.
Lyrics from that album indicate that Pusha was already referencing drug dealing in his bars with phrases like “My coke money’s in cleaners / Give it a fresh rinse” (“Bodysnatchers”) and “We travel with drugs in the dashboard / And flee from the task force” (“You Can’t Touch Me”). In his own DJ Vlad interview from 2013, Pusha spoke about Gonzalez’s arrest, noting that nine of his longtime friends were sentenced as a result of the case, but didn’t talk about Gonzalez’s decision to work with the authorities.
What happened next with Geezy is mostly a matter of public record. Arrested in 2009 and charged with heading a multi-million dollar drug ring, Gonzalez pleaded guilty and provided information to the authorities in order to keep his family members from being prosecuted, something The Virginian-Pilot reported at the time. In his DJ Vlad interview, Gonzalez claimed that he spoke to the FBI and ATF because those organizations threatened to indict his mother, wife, sister, and aunt if he did not cooperate.
He also said that in those interrogation sessions he was also asked whether Pusha and Malice were also involved in drug trafficking, and denied that they had a role. “I told them, ‘All they do is rap. Whatever they rap about, it was about me. They’re artists.’” Eventually, Gonzalez was sentenced to 32 years in prison, though that was reduced to 10 and he later was released after serving eight-and-a-half years.
In another section of the conversation, Gonzalez explained the impact Pusha’s 2013 record “S.N.I.T.C.H.” had on his life in prison. The track, its title an acronym for “Sorry n-gga, I’m tryna come home,” focused on how Pusha’s relationship with an unnamed subject deteriorated once he provided information to law enforcement. Geezy recalled hearing about it for the first time while incarcerated and immediately calling Pusha for clarification. He said Pusha initially denied that the song was about him, but told Vlad that while the first two verses are clearly about somebody else, lyrics in the third could have only been describing his dynamic with Pusha. “Covered his own tracks, he didn’t care that / We had a legacy he killed, I got to wear that,” he raps.
But while there’s a crypticness to those bars, Pusha has cleared up any ambiguity over his feelings on Geezy during the Almost Dry press run. In an April 11 interview with Charlamagne Tha God, Pusha talked about the origins of the “Brambleton” and how he felt seeing Geezy speak with Vlad. He noted first that Gonzalez wearing his social media handle on the front of his hat felt disconcertingly out of character, like an attempt to milk the situation for public recognition, and that he was disappointed to see a once close friend make a play for attention by tarnishing Pusha’s own reputation.
“I was hurt because I know him very well and I know that he’s not a good speaker, not a good talker. He knows that about himself and I personally think that he didn’t even mean to put it the way that he did. He’s since said in other interviews, ‘I didn’t mean it like that,’ but it was the fact that he felt he needed that attention that he would play with me and do something to garner some attention that could slight me,” Pusha explained. “This is somebody that my mother loves. This is somebody whose kids go to bible study with my mother.”
Pusha is normally known for his icy cool demeanor, but it’s evident on “Brambleton” that he still feels unsettled over how the situation with Gonzalez went. “Why would I wanna hold you down / When I know you now, the past is your go-to now?” he asks. Later, he compares their falling out to the highly publicized drama between Jay-Z and former business partner Damon Dash. “Who knew our dynasty would end up a Jay/Dame thing?” Pusha wonders.
There’s a long history of rappers falling out with former managers, but it’s rare that both sides say their piece at length the way Pusha and Gonzalez did about their frayed relationship. Despite their substantial history and intertwined lives, the enmity seems here to stay. As Pusha puts it in the song: “Who knew your facе bein’ all across the news outlets / Would mean forever I would never talk to you ’bout shit?”
(LEFT) BLUEBERRY PECAN BREAD, (RIGHT) SOUR CREAM BLUEBERRY BUNDT CAKE. EXCERPTED FROM BLUEBERRY LOVE (C) BY CYNTHIA GRAUBART, PHOTOGRAPHY…