Interview by Dove ~Sheepish Lordess of Chaos~
RadioPlanet.tv: There’s a lot of buzz going around about you, not only from your fans, but a lot of industry and media people are really getting behind you right now. Talk a little bit about how Felli Fel and various people have helped support you and get your movement out to the fans.
Nipsey Hussle: Felli Fel is big in L.A.; he’s one of the top DJs at Power 106. I got a company called All Money In and we was real heavy on the streets as far as promotion, getting these mixtapes out and trying to saturate the whole California market. At one point in time we had posters across the whole city of L.A., mixtapes in every liquor store, barber shop, mom and pops store and V.I.P Records, any means of distributing our product we had.
If you were in L.A., it was impossible to miss us. We ended up signing with Jon Shapiro at Epic, and I guess he had a conversation with Felli Fel where he was looking to come to the west and find some authentic Hip Hop. Felli Fel said, “There’s only one dude who’s really doing his thing like that and it’s Nipsey.” Based on that, everybody connected the dots, called the lawyer up and we made it happen.
RPT: New York media has picked up on you as well, for that to happen with you being from Cali and not having an album out is rare. How does that feel and who else have been some of your supporters?
Nipsey Hussle: I ain’t gonna lie, New York as a whole has really taken to my movement. A lot of DJs like Kay Slay, Whoo Kid, Envy, Suss One, Lazy K, Angela Yee, Tony Touch, ni**as everywhere. I had my folks in damn near every part of New York, so I already went to the people and put my music out, slapped hands and smoked blunts with ni**as and made my presence felt out there.
I spent months and months hitting the radio, distributing my tapes and just putting my foot down out there. I knew that New York is the number one market in the country and the mecca of Hip Hop, so if they don’t stamp what you’re doing it’s kind of hard to break in with your music.
RPT: You’ve been very open about your gang affiliations. How important is that to who you are as an artist?
Nipsey Hussle: At a point in time I was surrounded and overwhelmed by that, I didn’t have a record deal or a 9 to 5 job. I was in the hood 24/7 and that was my entire perspective. Even though I had traveled in the past and I was exposed to other things growing up, but for a long time leading up to me getting my deal the elements of poverty and gangbanging were my everyday surrounding and environment.
That kind of explained why my music was saturated into that also, but as I move forward and get other experiences and my element expands, I want my music to grow with it. It’ll still be my perspective and foundation based off of where I came from, but I don’t think it’s gonna be saturated in my music now. I want people from other walks of life to still be able to see the truth and relate to what I’m saying.
RPT: Do you think music has made gangbanging a little more glorified than what it really is?
Nipsey Hussle: Yeah, most definitely I do. I think people have the image of a gangbanger or a gang member misconstrued like it’s glamorous or a rock star image or attractive to ladies. There’s only two outcomes to gangbanging [death or jail] people need to understand that’s not just what people say, that’s the true nature of this lifestyle and this mentality.
When you see a person that was successful with rap music and they’ve become financially stable, then they try to go back and pick up a rag to say that they’re a Blood or a Crip, it’s disrespectful to people that really grew up in that element. Not only in L.A., but in Chicago and other places where gangbanging is real culture and not just a fad, it’s a real dominant culture for the streets. It’s almost a slap in the face and disrespectful to the people that have died over that and are still knee deep in that lifestyle.
It’s also disrespectful to themselves, because they’re not being 100% true to themselves and they know that’s not their experience and lifestyle and they’re trying to sell it as an image. I think it don’t really connect with the people, it kind of leaves the people with a sour taste in their mouth. They don’t feel the authenticity, if this is your story and your truth there’s a way you go about it without glorifying it. That’s what I respect.
RPT: You’re very much a young entrepreneur. You gave up your clothing store so that you could get your own studio. How hard was it for you to go from fashion into doing your music 100%?
Nipsey Hussle: It wasn’t really with the store when I fell back and made that decision, it was before that. I used to do my thing in the streets before I had the store. Before I had the store I sold my cars, jewelry and everything I had and focused everything on music. I’m not trying to be clichÃ© and say I quit hustling to rap, but I really made a conscious decision to take everything that I considered an asset and put it into my music, because I felt like my music could take me to a level that the streets could never take me to.
Part of that was my t-shirt store that I opened with my brother, we began selling everything out of there and that was our central location. My music movement was before the store, but once we got the store that was like the location for our t-shirts, hats, merchandise and mixtapes, and it made my movement that much bigger. I was always a grinder and a hustler, I used to shine shoes when I was eight years old, I used to sell candy and cut grass.
I used to do everything for myself, because I always had the mentality to go out and get it myself, because I never used to like asking my mama and she’d tell me we didn’t have any money because she just paid the bills. Ever since I was young I didn’t like somebody telling me young, I didn’t want my mama to have to feel guilty, so me and my brother always used to have to go get it ourselves.
RPT: When you tell people how hard you hustled to get to where you are, do you think they take it for granted and think they could get a shortcut if you hooked them up?
Nipsey Hussle: Some of the up and coming artists have the right idea and some are totally lost and blind. The unbiased truth is that there’s no shortcuts. Some people get blessed in the game when a major artist comes and signs them or a major producer endorses them, some artists gotta do it like me and just build it up from zero. The one thing that I would tell an up and coming artist is you gotta make a decision and stick to it for better or worse. If this is what you gonna do, you gotta do it. If it’s not what you gonna do, fall back and find something else. But you can’t be in the middle straddling the fence where two weeks you rap and a month you don’t, then an artist comes out that inspires you and you rap again, then you don’t rap. You just gotta stick to your guns and find something else.
RPT: Because you work very hard and you’re so focused on what you do, do you feel it’s possible to balance a relationship and is that something you even want at this time?
Nipsey Hussle: I think it’s possible. Right now that’s not my aim or goal, but it all depends on what your objective in a relationship is. If you just want somebody that you can call whenever you hit their town and hang out, that’s possible. But if you’re looking for a wife or an everyday companion, that’s kind of hard to do when you’re traveling, moving around and trying to stay at the forefront of your movement and hold a position in this game.
In my opinion it’s next to impossible, because at the end of the day you gotta give priority to one thing or another. You gotta give priority to your relationship or your career; I’d think it’s kind of hard to balance. Now if you’re at a stage where you’re Jay-Z and you’ve transitioned and you’re falling back, it’s kind of different. But if you’re just getting in this game and trying to establish and make a name for yourself, my personal belief is that you can only give your priority to one thing at a time.
RPT: Have you had any situation where a girl has done something really crazy to get your attention online or otherwise?
Nipsey Hussle: I’m not gonna say they did anything crazy to get my attention, what they usually do is scream and try to hop on stage or hop on the bus and make it clear what they’re willing to do. I don’t wanna get into too much detail but they get wild, especially when you’re on tour. They do next to anything, you tell ‘em to do a cartwheel naked and they’re liable to bust out and get to doing splits. I’m focused though, so I take it with a grain of salt. It’s fun to add to the experience and the excitement, but I ain’t really turned on by groupies. That don’t really stimulate me.
RPT: What are your favorite songs that you’ve worked on from your forthcoming album?
Nipsey Hussle: Hands down, my favorite record on my album is called “Blue Laces”. It’s one of them songs that sums up everything, if I was to play one record to establish a fan that would be it. Mr. Lee from Houston produced that, he did a lot of work with Jeezy, UGK, and Bun B. But it’s just one of those records that’s real powerful; it got a spirit in it. So when you hear it, if you’re in a room by yourself or the car or studio, you gonna feel the spirit that’s in that record. That’s one of the records that I’m proud of.
Aside from that, I’m still working on the project. I got so much music, I’m getting ready to let a lot of it leak to the internet because I got to the point where I have so much music that there’s no way all of it is gonna make the album. Certain records people need to hear right now, I just leaked them a couple of days ago. So I’m just trying to reach my peak creatively before I drop the album.
RPT: When is the album coming out?
Nipsey Hussle: It’s coming out December 22, 2009.
RPT: Are you doing any touring this summer?
Nipsey Hussle: Yeah, we just came off the LAX tour with Game, we did 44 cities. We’re getting ready to go on tour with Snoop and a rock band called Slightly Stoopid, that’s like a 22 city tour. Then we’re putting together a One West tour where we tour all of the cities on the west coast. So far it’s gonna be me, Jay Rock, Jayo Felony, Game, I think Mistah F.A.B., Glasses Malone, U-N-I and a couple other West Coast artists are gonna hop along.
We gonna be everywhere, I just came from DC and New York; I’m going to Miami to work with The Runners. I’m going back to L.A. and going in with J.R. Rotem. We’re moving, and ’09 is finna be a good year for Hip Hop and the West Coast.