Nipsey Hussle Interview
|Label:||All Money In|
|Next Project:||South Central State of Mind (Summer '09)|
|Twitter:||Nipsey Hussle on Twitter|
|Website:||Nipsey Hussle's Website|
In the course of the 1980s, Ice-T, NWA, and many other now-legendary artists took musical inspiration from the poverty and gang violence plaguing South Central L.A., laying the groundwork for the controversial, hugely influential gangsta rap subgenre. Though city officials recently began referring to the area as “South L.A.” in an effort to remove its association with street crime, veteran rappers and newcomers alike continue to pay tribute to the area’s musical legacy.
Left Coast up-and-comer Nipsey Hussle is a Slauson boy with deep gangsta rap roots, and with the summer ‘09 release of his debut album, he’s ready to let listeners nationwide know that the South Central State of Mind is alive and well. Introduced to the Booth via mixtape records “Bullets Ain’t Got No Name (Remix)” and “Let’s Roll,” Hussle recently made waves with his official lead single, “Hussle in the House.” In addition, the emcee is currently holding a “Who Wants to Be My DJ” competition; if you think you’ve got what it takes, click here to read more.
In an exclusive interview with our own DJ “Z,” Nipsey Hussle steps into the Booth to discuss his journey from life in the streets to success in the rap game, the real solution to the problem of gang violence, and why DJBooth.net is his primary destination for listener feedback.
Listen to the Interview
Nipsey Hussle Interview Transcription
DJ Booth: What’s goin’ on, everybody? It’s your boy “Z,” doin’ it real big, and joining me inside the DJ Booth is a West Coast native with a South Central State of Mind. Hoping to get everyone to sip on his Kool-Aid come summer, please welcome Nipsey Hussle – how you doin’, my friend?
Nipsey Hussle: What’s the word, big homie? I’m happy to be on, man,
DJ Booth: I’m happy to have you. The word is “President,” as in, “Barack Obama is our President.” – is this what Cube was talkin’ about when he said “Today Was A Good Day”?
Nipsey Hussle: Most definitely, most definitely. I think that should be the theme song for today, ‘cause it sure was a good day. I never thought my granny, somebody that was born down South, who witnessed America when it was segregated, would see, in her lifetime, an African-American in office as the President of the United States. It’s major, it’s a real historic day.
DJ Booth: Growing up in South Central Los Angeles, Nipsey, as a member of the world-famous Crips gang, you had to bear witness to a lot of violence and bloodshed. Where would you stand, though, if President Obama looked to pass more strict zero-tolerance laws nationally against all gang activity?
Nipsey Hussle: I feel zero tolerance anything, it don’t really work, ‘cause you’ve always got unique situations. It’s not just a cut and dry situation, where if you lock up everybody who’s a gang member you’re going to get rid of the problem. What they don’t understand is the gang mentality; if you lock motherf*ckers up, they’ve still got contact with the outside world, they’re still gonna be able to talk to their kids and talk to their homies who are out on the street, and it’s gonna continue on, ‘cause it’s the mentality that’s passed on. It’s my opinion that, if Barack did want to solve the gang problem, number one would be to work with people from the inside out, people who can actually give him an accurate analysis of the problem in L.A., because they’re in it or at one point were a part of it, and now they’re workin’ to change it, and redirect the energy and the focus of it. And then consciously take steps to solve the problem. But I don’t feel like zero tolerance, strict laws, locking everybody up is a viable means to stop that problem.
DJ Booth: By the time you reached the age of 13, I’m told you were completely and utterly enthralled with the possibility of knowing you could have a career in the music industry. Had you not discovered a love for rap, though, what do you think you might be doing today?
Nipsey Hussle: In all honesty, based on the direction my life was heading in before I got a real break in the music sh*t, I’m not gonna say I would be one hundred percent in a negative direction, but I know that I would still be in the streets, so if it wasn’t for the music bein’ my outlet, I’d probably be hustlin’, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to go and get a nine-to-five, I never finished high school or none of that. So if I wasn’t involved in this hip-hop sh*t, I’d probably be breakin’ the law to eat and feed my family and maintain the lifestyle that I’m used to.
DJ Booth: When I talk to a lot of artists, I try to get down to the roots of how they felt that they got into the industry, and, at the time, where they feel they owe the credit to, whether it be skill or luck. Obviously, both are usually involved. In your situation, was luck involved, or do you feel this was all because of how hard you worked?
Nipsey Hussle: I feel that luck is a product of hard work. Luck is just bein’ prepared at all times, so when the door opens you’re ready. I feel that puttin’ in the hours and years in the studio, honing my craft, definitely played a part, me consciously networking and presenting myself as an artist that’s commercially sellable led to me meeting the right people, which in turn led to them givin’ me positive referrals to other people, which in turn led to me signin’ a deal. I think all of that played a key part in it. I mean, you have the X factor, whether a motherf*cker wants to say it’s luck, whether somebody wants to say it’s God, whether somebody wants to say it’s hard work payin’ off, it was just the X factor, all the stars aligned.
DJ Booth: Since you signed your record deal with John Shapiro and Cinematic Music Group, how have the relationships that you had prior to your deal changed? So we’re talking about friends, fellow gang members, family – how have they all changed?
Nipsey Hussle: I’m a full-time businessman first. If I’m not in the studio I’m gonna be networking, or I’m gonna be tryin’ to make plans to get to the next level of this game, so anybody who didn’t have the same mentality as me, if I felt I valued them to the point where I wanted them to move forward with me to this next level, I sat them down and I talked to them like, “Look, I’m tellin’ myself the same thing I’m tellin’ you right now, but we all gotta be focused on bein’ professional and movin’ forward, so if you’re not with that, we’re gonna stop the relationship right here.” And the ones that was with it, that’s my team, that’s the “All Money In,” that’s the Slauson Boys and the ones that wasn’t, they couldn’t really be mad at me, ‘cause they didn’t prepare themselves. The ones that do have a little ill will toward me, or feel a certain way about me, they’re really discreet about it, they don’t put it out there, and everybody else is happy to see somebody they’ve seen from day one pursuin’ this sh*t, really really achievin’ what they were hopin’ for and gettin’ to their dream.
DJ Booth: As I mentioned in the introduction, the title of your debut album, which is set to drop this summer, is South Central State of Mind. How has your state of mind, Nipsey, changed over the years? So, take us from childhood, to your teenage years, to now, your adulthood – how has your mindset changed?
Nipsey Hussle: Obviously from childhood to my teenage years, I really came into my own. I left the house early; I was on the streets when I was, like, 15. I’ve been holdin’ my own since that age. I kinda came into my manhood, or what I thought was my adulthood, early. I had to show up, and I had to make sure I had gas money, food money, rent money, clothes money – everything was on me, startin’ at that age, so that’s what led me to start hustlin’, that’s what led me to start to try to find ways to fend for myself. And once I did that, I was full-time, bein’ in the street, and, bein’ in the street, it’s cold. It’s the way the streets operate, and you have to adapt to that. That wasn’t necessarily my mentality comin’ out the house, ‘cause my mom taught me the difference between right and wrong off the top, since day one, but when I was in the street daily, full-time, 24/7, it’s the standard that we follow, and I had to adapt that in order to hold my own. At that point, I kinda went through my struggle. A lot of people get stuck in that zone right there and never transcend to the next stage, which was realizing who I am, what I wanted to do, where I wanted to go, and makin’ decisions based on that instead of bein’ like a leaf on a tree, gettin’ blown whichever way the wind blows you.
DJ Booth: Nipsey, you were thrust into being independent at an early age. Would you say you’re thankful for that because of who you turned out as today, or are you bitter that you had to be that responsible at 15?
Nipsey Hussle: Nah, I don’t have no regrets, ‘cause if I had been goin’ to school, takin’ care of business, I wouldn’t've had to be on my own, but my mom, she was a single mom doin’ it on her own, and she couldn’t see herself workin’ so hard, sacrificing everything for me to be a f*ckup under her roof. Basically, you gotta man up and do your own thing if you feel like you’ve got it like that, so that was basically a product of my decisions.
DJ Booth: Now that you got signed to a major label record deal, your mom, is she happy with you now?
Nipsey Hussle: Yeah, most definitely. I told her when I was 14, “I’m gonna make it, I’m gonna be on, watch.” She was tellin’ me what was right. When I became a man, and I started to understand the difference between the truth and what your parents are supposed to tell you, there’s a difference, know what I mean? Your parents are supposed to tell you to make decisions that are gonna help you and that’ll have a positive effect on your life and your well-being.
DJ Booth: What wasn’t evident right from the start is certainly evident later on. I went through the same thing with my mom, it’s no different. Nipsey, your current single, “Hussle in the House,” to me, is the essence of what made so many people fall in love with West Coast hip-hop, however many artists before you have teased us with one or two singles that fall into that category. Can you string together what hopefully is an entire album of tracks which prove to the world that the future of West Coast rap is as bright as the sun is out today?
Nipsey Hussle: That was the whole mission statement of my project, goin’ into it: like, “We gotta give ‘em a classic hip-hop album from the West Coast, from the beat selection down to the hooks down to the songwriting, down to the features, down to everything I said on my project. It’s gotta be a real representation of our environment and our lifestyle and our state of mind.” I feel like we outdid ourselves – like, you can really play our project from number one to number 17 and not skip a record. I know every artist’s gonna say this about their sh*t, but if you’re a real hip-hop fan and a real street music fan, and you just love good music, you’re gonna play it from top to bottom, and you’re gonna get the concept, you’re gonna get the story of my life, you’re gonna be entertained, you’re gonna dance you’re gonna feel emotion, you’re gonna get the truth, whether you like it or hate it. I feel like “Hussle in the House” is a perfect representation of what the album’s gonna be. Like, I got a record on there called “Blue Laces,” that we’re also doin’ a movie of the same title through Sony Pictures and Codeblack, Jeff Clanagan’s company, and that’s gonna be a full feature film that we’re gonna put out, it’s got a million-dollar budget, we’re gonna drop that a couple months after we drop the project.
DJ Booth: You said you’ve got a million-dollar budget – are you lookin’ for a 6’1, 170-pound white guy from the Midwest to star in it?
Nipsey Hussle: [laughs] Hey man, we’ve got a spot for you. You already know; I got a role for you, man.
DJ Booth: I won’t even take up much of that budget. I’ll only charge you like $25 an hour for my services; it’ll be real cheap.
Nipsey Hussle: That’s a good ticket, that ain’t too much. All I’m gonna want in return, I just need the front page of DJBooth for like two months straight, you feel me?
DJ Booth: Hey, you got it.
Nipsey Hussle: Seriously, though, I do appreciate how y’all been posting my records. Every time we’d [do] something y’all would review it, we’d get fan feedback. That really helped me pick what records to put out and what direction to take, so that’s a good look, my n*gga.
DJ Booth: I’m glad, ‘cause that’s exactly what we’re doin’ it for. Nipsey, America, for as long as I can remember, has had a hard time accepting mainstream rap music which discusses the realities of gang violence and life out in South Central L.A.. Based on this unfortunate truth, do you feel that it will be hard to push songs like, for example, “Bullets Ain’t Got No Name,” any further that the regional streets of your neighborhood?
Nipsey Hussle: The aim of that record was kinda to reach my region, and also speak on the reality. That was more an expression than it was a sales point of my project. Like, I got records I’m aiming at the radio, I’ve got records I’m aimin’ at the clubs, I’ve got records I’m aiming at the charts, and when they hear those records, they’re gonna be what they’re gonna be. And the West Coast that I know, that’s what I wanted to hear as a fan; that’s why I bought Game’s album, that’s why I bought Snoop’s sh*t. Like, I love the old Dre sh*t, ‘cause that’s what they’re givin’ us: a real perspective on the streets that we couldn’t get from CNN, or we couldn’t get off YouTube.
DJ Booth: Let’s focus on this for a second. Based solely on the work of West Coast icons, you named a few, of course Dre, Snoop, Pac, in addition to the sensationalized media coverage that is on the networks, those outside South Central probably don’t have an accurate understanding of what actually goes on. What do you think are a few of the most blatant misconceptions about life in South Central L.A.?
Nipsey Hussle: The number one misconception is that everybody in a gang is a mindless killer, just an ignorant, self-hatin’ n*gga with an uzi runnin’ around killin’ motherf*ckers all day. I’m not gonna sit here defendin’ what’s wrong – killing and gangbanging, that’s just wrong. But at the same time, the way that adolescent teenagers get done in these courtrooms, based on, “Oh, he’s a gang member,” so he gets a trial like a terrorist. We’re not the cause, we’re the effect. As gang members, as young dudes in the streets, especially in L.A., we’re the effect of a situation. We didn’t wake up and create our own mindstate and our environment; we adapted our survival instincts. Gangbanging is a survival instinct, regardless of how anybody tries to paint it. It’s a lot of, like you said, sensationalized conceptions of what it’s about – lowridin’, f*ckin’ b*tches, runnin’ amok – but at the same time, it’s a survival instinct first.
DJ Booth: Nipsey, give everyone a website or a MySpace page so they can find out more about you and what you have to offer.
Nipsey Hussle: What’s up, man? This is Nipsey Hussle. Y’all are tuned in to the interview – if you want to check out music videos, information, pictures, updates, anything, y’all can hit me up at slausonboy.com, or come to nipseyhussle.com, or y’all can check out my MySpace, myspace.com/nipseyhussle, or y’all can definitely catch me on DJBooth – just search for my name.
DJ Booth: That’s what I was just gonna say: if they don’t get enough of you on all of your websites, all they have to do is come back to ours, and they’ll be blown away with Nipsey Hussle content.
Nipsey Hussle: No question.
DJ Booth: I appreciate you takin’ the time to join me inside the DJBooth, and, as always, I wish you nothing but the best of luck movin’ forward.
Nipsey Hussle: Likewise, homie. That’s what it is, man. I really mean what I said: out of all the websites that host my sh*t, I get the best feedback off y’all, y’all folks comment on everything. It’s a good look. You already know – it’s home team, my n*gga.