Talking to Hopsin is a strange experience.
First, yes, the contacts are kind of creepy. In person he's calm, humble, radiates an easy kindness, but then he looks at you with those dead-shark eyes and you're off balance, trying to reconcile the friendly man laughing at your corny jokes with the man whose eyes look inhuman.
Similiarly, while you quickly learn to just ignore his blank stare, it's hard to know how to talk to Hopsin about his career because his career has been so truly unique. He's seemingly bounced between a desire to be adored by fans and a desire to be left alone, leading to the occasional retirement announcement. He's made music that mainstream music wouldn't touch, but in the process has built an independent career and label, Funk Volume, that's currently running laps around most mainstream artists. There's no easy way to describe Hopsin, no clear storyline he's adhered to. In short, throughout his career he's acted like the same conflicted, ever-changing human being we all are, which is exactly why so many people love him.
Talking to Hop it quickly becomes clear that right now, with his Pound Syndrome album close on the horizon, his ambitions are larger than ever.
Trying to gain respect from the rest of hip-hop while simultaneously not giving a fuck what the rest of hip-hop thinks about you may seem like another Hopsin-esque contradiction, but it makes complete sense. Especially where he is in his career, nearly a decade into the music industry and with a company firmly established, if he wants to continue to grow and evolve, continue to challenge himself, winning over the respect of the mainstream is the biggest possible challenge out there for him. But that same competitive spirit, the Funk Volume spirit, just won't allow him to win on any terms but his own. And that's why he's put more time and energy into even the small details on Pound Syndrome.
Talking to Hopsin is a strange experience, but all of the best things in life are strange, at least for me. No one ever made history doing the same thing as everyone who came before then, and while I certainly can't predict how far Hop will get in his quest for respect, I know that all of his victories will be his victories, and that's something far rarer than getting your songs played on the radio.
Pound Syndrome is slated to drop on July 24 and can be pre-ordered via Funk Volume.
[Nathan S. is the managing editor of The DJBooth and a hip-hop writer. He also occasionally talks in podcast/radio form. His beard is awesome. This is his Twitter.]