Pusha T: A Rapper Who Wrote Music You’ve All Heard
The McDonalds “I’m Lovin’ It” has to be one of the most recognizable jingles in all of advertising. Did you know that a rapper best known for lyrics about his past selling dope may be partially responsible? Not only that, Pusha T always gets paid every time Arby’s airs an ad. In this episode, we talk about famous people who wrote songs you don’t know and how Pusha T ended up writing some stinging diss tracks about McDonald’s filet-o-fish sandwich. Then we chat with recent Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon guest Mario the Maker Magician!
It’s always fun to learn when an artist wrote a song and you had no idea. For instance if you’ve heard the Kelly Clarkson hit, “Breakaway,” it wasn’t written by Clarkson. It reached number 10 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and was on the top 100 list for 46 weeks. It was written by angsty Canadian rocker Avril Lavigne. The Cee Lo green song “Forget You,” (you may know it by an alternate title) was actually written by Bruno Mars. The artist Sia made her name by writing songs for other famous performers, including Pretty Hurts by Beyonce, and many other songs by Katy Perry, Britney Spears, Kylie Minogue, Maroon 5 and tons of others. Party in the USA by Miley Cyrus was written by British pop star, Jessie J.
But then there are some more unusual musical authors. In 1994, the Sonic the Hedgehog video game franchise released the 3rd version of the game, “Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles.” If you listen to some of the music from the game, it has a distinctive feel and sound. That’s because it was originally composed by none other than the King of Pop, Michael Jackson. He had been a big fan of the Sonic games and asked to be involved. Whether or not Michael’s music is what appears in the game is up for debate. Some sources say that Michael wasn’t happy with the Sega Genesis audio quality and didn’t want his name attached to it. Michael goes uncredited for the contribution, which had to be slightly reworked by other artists working with Sega, but if you listen to the music on levels 2 and 3 of the game, you can definitely hear Jackson’s influence.
Several TV Jingles have been written by famous musicians. The NBA theme for NBC, “Roundball Rock,” was famously written by John Tesh. I can’t hear it without thinking of the SNL sketch with Jason Sudekis and Tim Robinson.
Barry Manilow has written a ton of TV Jingles. “Like a good neighbor state farm is there” was his. Or the “Stuck on Band-Aid” jingle. Also Barry Manilow.
Randy Newman wrote a jingle for Dr. Pepper, and it was performed by blues legend Muddy Waters.
But for now, we’re going to talk about one very famous Jingle. Before we do that, let’s talk about Pusha T.
Born Terrance LeVarr Thornton, Pusha T became famous as one half of the hip hop duo “Clipse,” which was Pusha T and his brother, who goes by No Malice. He was signed by Kanye West for Def Jam and was featured on one of West’s singles, which rose to number 12 on the billboard hot 100. He then went on to produce 3 solo albums which all performed well. He had hit songs like “M.F.T.R” and “Nosetalgia” in 2014.
So this hardcore rapper wrote lyrics like:
“Young enough to still sell dope, but old enough that I knows better/When they sayin’ it’s 42 for that white powder, I knows better/Get it, n***a? I nose better, put a smile on the devil’s face/Who don’t wanna sell dope forever, and flood their Rollie till the bezel break?”
And that’s what makes it surprising that he also claims credit for a song maybe you’re more familiar with.
“Ba da ba ba ba…I’m lovin’ it!”
So if you look up the origin story for the McDonald’s “I’m Lovin’ it Jingle,” you’ll see a very famous name attached. And that’s because of the original version of the jingle, was released as a full out Justin Timberlake single called “I’m Lovin’ It.”
Justin Timberlake received a reported $6 million dollars from McDonalds to sing the track, which was based on an earlier campaign used in Germany. Writing credit for the jingle is given to Pharrell Williams, Tom Batty, Franco Tortora and Andreas Forberger. And it became much more than a fast food jingle for McDonalds. It actually charted in the top 20 in Greece, Ireland and the Netherlands. The Timberlake I’m Lovin’ It song was released in November of 2003.
The I’m Lovin’ It campaign has been huge. McDonalds spends something like $1.37 billion dollars a year on the campaign. It’s one of the most recognizable slogans of any corporation.
So 13 years later, Pusha T is on a music podcast called Drink Champs (time: 01:25:25) and he’s asked about a tweet where he made a claim about co-writing the jingle.
So Pusha T claims that he was paid $1 million for cowriting the jingle and doesn’t have any publishing rights.
Pretty quickly, this claim was disputed by writers Botoy and Tortora. They said they created the jingle in Germany without any help from Pusha T or No Malice. Even the guy who was working as the sound engineer to record the jingle claims that there were no big names associated with the writing. That man, Danny Saber, also claims the whole thing started with these little known German writers.
Here’s what we can prove. We know that Pusha T has a beef with Ronald McDonald (pardon the pun), because in 2003, he and his brother No Malice wrote a diss track slamming McDonalds. That’s right. There’s an official Pusha T McDonalds diss track. It’s called Spicy Fish Diss and it mostly attacks the McDonalds filet-o-fish sandwich. It was produced in collaboration with Arbys. So he was mad enough at the corporation to slam them in a song.
He then came back for round two, called Rib Roast, which was another McDonalds diss – this time time aimed at the McRib and again with the support of Arbys. In the song, Pusha T raps over a beat that was created for the song “Burial” by Yogi.
So if that beat sounds familiar, it’s because Arby’s liked it so much, they continued to use it as their theme song.
And because of that – because Pusha T got mad at McDonalds, partnered with Arby’s and wrote a diss track using this song – every time Arby’s runs an ad – Pusha T gets a royalty check for something like 40%.
So the fact that Pusha T was mad enough about McDonalds to write a diss track has to come from somewhere, right? So to me, that seems to be evidence that he’s telling the truth. He claims the million dollar check was written by Steve Stoute, the music industry marketing executive who introduced Justin Timberlake to McDonalds. So a radio station, Hot 97 reached out to Stoute. He confirmed that Pusha T indeed helped to write the jingle and was paid a one time sum for the writing. And then there’s the fact that No Malice and Pusha T were working under Pharrell William’s company at the time. So that is something else that speaks toward Pusha T and No Malice being co writers.
We can’t prove for sure whether or not Pusha T wrote the McDonald’s jingle. He won’t talk about it anymore. But the evidence is there and so for me, it’s enough to say yes – The Internet Says it’s True.
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