KillerHipHop Exclusive | Nipsey Hussle Interview
Nipsey Hussle has quickly become one of the best West Coast MC’s. Although he hasn’t released an album yet, his Marathon mixtape series has kept the wheels on his career rolling. They say slow and steady wins the race. Well, Nipsey isn’t running a race. He’s running a marathon. He’s here for the long run. Therefore, over these last few years, Nipsey has been patiently hustling, planning his strike.
During our interview, he talked about just that, staying patient, and rapping for ages to come. Nipsey also spoke on his relationship with Rick Ross, whether Ross has ever offered him a deal to join MMG, working on his debut album, being independent, the recent Arizona shootings, and more. The interview continues after the break.
QuezKHH: You recently released “Proud Of That” featuring Rick Ross. How did you get the Ross feature on that?
Nipsey Hussle: We were in Miami on the TMC Tour, that we just finished up. The day we had in Miami, we went out there a couple of days early just so that we could get in the studio and network a little bit. We were in Miami [so] we linked up with Ross, and just went in the studio. He showed love and booked a studio for us. He basically came down and hollered at us. [“Proud Of That”] was a record that I had written already. When we got to Miami, I recorded it. Ross walked in during the session and he heard it and he just started writing. He hopped right on the record for me. Originally it was going to be a solo song, but he heard it and he got right in the booth and [did] his verse. I was going to put [“Proud Of That”] on a new project but I wanted to release something to get the streets excited about what I got coming up.
KHH: How did you first meet Rick Ross?
Nipsey: Just being in the industry. It’s a small industry, and everybody pay attention to what everybody doing. So him being one of the biggest [rappers] in the game, we would see each other at award shows or something and I would just show my respect like, “I fuck with your movement.” He would always be like, “Me too. I see what you’re doing. I’m a fan.” He would always be genuine, and 100. I think the first time we met was in Atlanta in 2009 [at the] BET Awards. He was doing a lot of stuff with Jeezy back then and they were doing a video. We came by the video shoot, and everybody just showed love. He told the director like, “get a cameo with him,” and all that. He basically embraced what I was doing way back then, when I was signed to Epic. Everytime I make a move or drop a project he gives me feedback on it. He hits me on twitter or hit me on the text like, “I fuck with it. Good shit. Keep it up.” [So we’ve] just been staying in contact, and we have mutual respect for the music and the hustle.
KHH: The Nipsey Hussle-MMG rumors are still swirling. Can you shed any news on that?
Nipsey: Right now we All Money In and Skee Music. That’s the movement as of now. But, most likely before the end of the year, we goin’ make a move and take our situation to the next level. Whether it’s solidifying our label by signing with a distributor to put the album out [or] doing something with a record label [or] doing something with MMG. We goin’ make a move before the end of the year. We just ain’t fully decided on what we’re goin’ to do yet. We’re not ready to announce the business side yet, but there’s definitely more music on the way.
KHH: So has Rick Ross offered you a deal?
Nipsey: I ain’t goin’ say he offered us a deal. We just talked about possibilities of what could happen. By me being independent right now and not being obligated [to anything], there’s endless opportunities and endless ways we could play it. There’s fans out there that are excited about the music and are ready for something to hit the shelves. So it’s a good space to be in. We’re not trying to rush into any commitments. We’re just playing the field and see what makes the most sense, and just staying on top of our side of the situation which is creating music and staying focused on making hot music, showing up, doing shows, and keeping the fans excited. It ain’t been nothing official yet. We’ve just been talking a lot.
KHH: Fans have been waiting for your debut album for a long time. When can people expect to hear it?
Nipsey: Soon. We goin’ make a lot of announcements soon. Right now we working. We in the studio. I just came back off the TMC tour; we finished in Nokia in L.A. We basically just need to put the music where it needs to be before we announce anything. The album is being worked on. We in a good space with the music. The network is better, [and] bigger than it’s ever been. We got more artists [and] more producers working with us on this project. One of the things that I regret, I’m not even going to say regret, but one of the things I learned a lesson from was announcing a release date before it’s actually solidified. That’s something that leaves fans with a sour taste in their mouths, when they get excited and expect the music to come out a certain day and then they don’t get it. So we’re just being real quiet about everything other than letting people know there’s music being worked on. It’s goin’ be an official release this time. But details will come out pretty soon. Probably before the end of the summer we goin’ announce something and have some records that we lead off with. Right now we’re working on the album. It’s coming soon, [either] this year or the top of next year.
KHH: What kind of people are you wanting to work with on your album both feature-wise and production-wise?
Nipsey: I got a team that I’ve been building as far as producers, like Rado Styles, Wizzo, Jiggy Hendrix, THX, [and Dj] Mustard. A lot of the producers on my project are up-and-coming cats, new dudes from our generation. I’m also goin’ to get in with a couple of established producers. I’m probably going with J.R. Rotem again. With Jahlil Beats, we’ve been talking about doing some stuff. He sent me some crazy shit. 1500 [or Nothin’] obviously. They’re always in-house and work with me on everything I do. I would like to do something with Swizz [Beatz]. I would like to get in with No I.D. I would like to go back in with Boi-1da, and do some things with him. I got a long list man. The final cut as what it ends up as, we’ll see. But a lot of producers are sending me stuff. Hit-Boy, Dj Cast, Detroit Red, that’s who made my 1st single, “Hussle In The House.” So I’m going to work with him, and give you some of that original Nip’ shit.
Artist-wise I want to get in with Meek [Mill]. I want to do something with Meek for my project. I would like to get Drake on it. YG. My camp obviously, rep’ all khaki. We talked about doing something with Jhene Aiko. We talked about getting in and doing some records. We just brainstormed a couple of ideas. Hopefully that’ll make the project. Dom Kennedy. I’m going to go in with everybody whose music I respect, and I’m a fan of. Ross, obviously, I’m going to do something with Ross. Who ends up on the album? It’s all based on the quality of the records.
KHH: Previously you’ve mentioned that you’re never signing an artist deal with a record label ever again. What is it about being independent that’s so appealing?
Nipsey: Just for me personally who I am. It’s just been more or so my personality, always being in control of my situations and to be the leader of my movement. But my experience with the last label that I was signed to, it was a great experience and it worked for me, but at the same time we reached a level where my position in the business agreement was solely as an artist and I really didn’t have any business say-so. I think that the project suffered because of that. So whether we do go back to a major situation or not, it’ll be as an artist and as a businessman. I think that’s the best part about proving yourself before you go into a situation. They have to have a level of respect for your opinion based on the demonstration that you’ve layed. It ain’t just, “oh I know what to do,” or “I’m an artist I know.” [You have to] have a track record of success. You point to it and say, “look man this is why we’re doing this. This is what needs to happen to take it to the next level.” It ain’t just you talking. It’s them respecting your word, and supporting your opinion. So I’m looking forward to the next move I’m going to make. It’s just very important that we have a say-so and that we have a direct relationship with the people that make things move in the building. I think we at that point now, so everything should be smooth.
KHH: I heard that you’ve read a book called The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing. What were the main takeaways from the book and what advice would you give to a young rapper trying to brand themselves?
Nipsey: The main takeaways from the book is that the most important thing about branding is that you understand the identity of your brand, and that you communicate that identity to your consumers. That you’re not just looking at yourself as a rapper that makes rap songs. You’re looking at yourself as a brand that represents this idea, and that leads in this category. Everything you do, whether it be videos, interviews, features, music, clothing, ventures outside, endorsements, it all goes in the same direction as the original conversation of what the brand is. I think that as new artists, you just have to do your best to understand who you are, [and] what you represent. And when you start putting music out, you have to be clear and be conscious of where the fans are connecting with you at, and on what level are y’all relating? Once you find that and it’s true, play that, and give them that. I can give you an example. If Mercedes-Benz which is known as a luxury brand, if they start trying to make affordable cars, it doesn’t mean more money in the long-term. Their brand and identity might suffer because Mercedes-Benz is known as a luxury car. I feel like a lot of artists sometimes, we look at opportunities to expand and to be more successful and we hop on ‘em. We got to understand what our brand represents and staying true to that. That’s why the marathon concept came about, because when you look at things from a long-term perspective, you want to make sure that you don’t damage the opinion and the identity of what you’re doing. If you’re just trying to milk it and cash out, well then you’ll get it how you live. But what I’m trying to do, I’m trying to own some real estate in this rap game and be around for a minute. So The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding gave me an understanding of why certain brands last so long and why people connect emotionally with brands like Coca-Cola, Starbucks, Apple and Nike and why other companies/products come and go, because people have no connection.
KHH: Recently, unfortunately, 2 of your Arizona shows featured gun shots. In these situations people always seem to blame the artist. When people say things like that, do you feel guilty?
Nipsey: I think that we all share a little bit of responsibility. Whether it be the venue, the security, the artist, nobody can tell you it’s one individual’s fault. I think we all sharing the blame. I think that some things are out of your control. You can’t blame one person for something that another person did. My shows, that I’ve done in Los Angeles, I’ve done plenty of them, have never been shot up. There’s never been violence at any of my shows. L.A. is the home and epicenter of gang banging. If anything would happen, it would happen in L.A. There’s never been an incident in L.A. It’s a lot of factors that factored into [Arizona’s shooting], but I can’t say that I feel 100% responsible. I do feel responsible because it was my show. The important thing that we focus on is that nobody was killed, and that one of the dudes that did it was apprehended and brought to justice. It’s sad about the days we live in, for somebody to come shoot up a concert with a majority of college kids that was 5 minutes away from a university. It was just a terrible event. I was really nervous. I was in my hotel room really shook up for a minute because I was hearing rumors that somebody died. That would’ve been the worst. It was a blessing when I got the news back that everybody was just injured and that nobody died. It let me take a sigh of relief eventhough it was still something terrible. It gave me a little breath of fresh air that nobody was killed, and that everybody recovered. Since then, we haven’t had any incidents similar, not no fights, not no violence in anything that I was involved in. But that day, it was just a terrible event. My condolences to everybody that was hurt. We try to avoid that type of shit as best as possible. I think that day it was just something that was out of our hands. We weren’t even at the venue. Everybody was in a great mood to see a good performance and it ruined the night.
KHH: On “Faith” from TMC’s X-Tra Laps you say, “If I lost it all tomorrow I wouldn’t trip.” So if you had to start over from scratch and you were going to try to make it again, is there anything that you would do differently?
Nipsey: I don’t know. That’s a good question bro. I think even the mistakes that I made, I think they were necessary mistakes. I’m an experience type of learner. I learn from experience. You can tell me and I’ll probably soak up game from hearing you say it, but I’m stubborn in a way that I have to buck my own head to figure things out. So I don’t think I would do anything different. I think that if I were to do anything different, it would be just to start earlier. I started at an age where I was ahead of the crowd. I started doing music full-time when I was 15. If I could change one thing I think it’d be to just never take breaks with this thing. Never doubt it, just stay at it full time, full throttle. When I was young, I would go though things like I’d be focused for a year, everyday in the studio, and then I’d pause for 6-7 months and go back into the streets. I think that was one of the mistakes I made because you just have to show dedication and you have to stay down even when it’s not rolling. Even when it’s not looking good, you just have to stay down and have faith in your decision. If I could change anything, it would be the times when I got off the highway and I just temporarily changed my mind and got back on some other shit.