On Daily Routines, we profile successful leaders, entrepreneurs, artists, executives and athletes to explore their routines, schedules, habits and day in the life.
It’s a strange thing to write about; a rapper’s daily routine. Rappers by their nature usually don’t have set routines or schedules; they rock up to the studio and wait for creativity to strike, usually spending all night to work on music. Otherwise they’re performing at a club or travelling across the country on tour.
But for Terrence LeVarr Thornton, better known as Pusha T, having an established daily routine is necessary for success when you have to juggle the creative side with record executive duties as the president of GOOD Music and founder of Heir Wave Music Group. It’s certainly testament to his success as one of the best rappers of all time and the string of great albums he’s released over his career. He also earned the reputation as one of the best rappers of the 2000s.
On an average day, Thornton is up between 5-6am. After his morning routine, which includes a workout, Thornton is on the phone with his manager, Steven Victor. “By nine o’clock I’m on the phone, chasing him down, chasing anybody that I need to speak to down in the business,” he said in a Masterclass interview describing his morning routine.
Between 9am to midday, Thornton is a music executive making phone calls, taking care of business and most importantly, on the look out for new artists. “I’m on every call, every day. I’m on the phone with Kahri’s manager every day,” he told Complex. “I speak to him 30 times a day. Right now, I don’t think I can’t be hands-on. It’s not a label that is functioning on all cylinders, so I want to be a part of everything.”
After midday though, he makes the switch over to artist mode and focuses on his writing. Unlike most rappers, Thornton rarely spends nights in the studio. “I’m not writing after 10 o’clock at night. My brain doesn’t even work after, it might not even work after nine.”
Coming up in the early 2000s under the tuteluge of The Neptunes, made up of Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo, Thornton was trained to write and record songs during the daytime, so they could spend nights at the club listening to the hottest songs out at the time.
I personally learnt to create from 10 in the morning until 9pm. Because at 9pm, we had to go eat and we had to be in the club by 11 or 12 to see what we were competing against. And that’s really literally what we went to the club for. We wanted to hear new music. We wanted to hear and see what people were reacting to. And that all happened in those hours. I just learned about like midnight music sessions and I don’t stay in the studio past midnight, 4:00 AM for what? All night for what? Why are we doing this? I will never understand it.Pusha T & Steven Victor at NYU | Masterclass
Thornton’s day never really ends though. Even when he’s gone to sleep, discovering new acts stays on the top of his mind.
“My day starts at 6 a.m., and I’m probably asleep by 9 or 10 p.m. I wake back up at like 1 a.m., and then I’m online just looking, searching, hearing,” he told Complex. “Then I go back to sleep about 4 a.m., and start my day in another two hours.”
In 2010, Thornton signed to Kanye West’s GOOD Music label and started recording songs for the seminal My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Thorton, who was in Sweden on tour at the time, racked up a ton of frequent flyer miles from those recording sessions.
“So I got all of these miles because I kept flying from like Hawaii to Sweden. I was on tour in Europe at the time when my brother told me this,” Thornton told Anupa Mistry. “So when [Kanye] asked me to come, I was like, ‘OK. Boom. If I have three days off, I’ll just fly out there.’ And then he’d fly me out there, fly me back, fly me out there, fly me back. This happened like a trillion times”
In 2018, the rapper-producer duo linked up again for another creativity fuelled recording session, although the cirumstances were slightly different from 2010. the location was a luxury resort in Wyoming, not Hawaii; the project was Thornton’s third album, Daytona; and West was in need of some time off after some hectic months in the media.
Holed up in Wyoming, Thornton and West created a list of their 25 favourite records, which included “Devil’s Pie” by D’Angelo and Raekwon’s “Glaciers of Ice” and “Incarcerated Scarfaces.” The pair trawled through over 6,000 records to find the perfect sound for Thornton’s album, and in the process, found inspiration for other artist projects, including Kid Cudi, Teyana Taylor, Nas and West himself.
“You go to Amoeba Records in LA, you grab a whole bunch of records, you buy a bunch, you load them up, and you listen to them. That’s what he does. That’s his process,” described Thornton. “That’s what I’ve seen him do for me and for all of those projects. Like I said, he finds a sweet spot and creates the magic from there.”
Daytona represents the fact that I have the luxury of time. That luxury only comes when you have a skill set that you’re confident in.PUSHA-T DETAILS NEW KANYE-PRODUCED ALBUM DAYTONA | PITCHFORK
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