Today, “dance-rappers” are controlling the radio and the video outlets. It seems as though fledgling MCs are turning hip-hop into a lopsided party. Hokey-pokey MCs are disregarding the lyrical lessons imposed by previous generations. Some post-“golden era” MCs like Nipsey Hussle show that not all of hip-hop’s emerging freshmen are ignoring the lessons of yesteryear. This Slauson Boy is a student of rap. He’s quickly progressing from an acute pupil to an astute professor.
The signature white tee and street-savvy Chucks may symbolize Neighborhood Nip’s Rolling 60s affiliation, yet it’s his candid lyrics that demonstrate his devout hip-hop allegiance. Motivated by an ingrained survival instinct, Nipsey’s encompassing message reflects realistic accounts and tangible hope. It mocks any injunction.
In this exclusive two-part interview, Nipsey Hussle discusses his debut album, his creative process and his reaction to fame.
BallerStatus.com: With your anticipated debut, South Central State of Mind, how did you work to ensure that it not only reflects a current perspective, but that it also achieves a timeless legacy?
Nipsey Hussle: I think that that was my balance. Those were my parameters to create [it]. I wanted to make sure that it was a future sounding project, but I also wanted to keep the key elements that made it like … classic. A lot of West coast music is classic. At one point in time, West coast music had the formula that made the world infatuated by it, but I also wanted to bring it up to date. I wanted to give them the newest information on what’s going on in Los Angeles and what’s going on inside the culture, [and] the streets that I come from. That was one of my goals with the project. Musically, I wanted to make sure that I broke ground. I didn’t just want to repeat the dream. I truly wanted to think of something unique with song concepts, choice of production, even the lyrics and all that. Everything is future, everything is updated, [and] everything is like 2010 and forward.
BallerStatus.com: Do you have a tentative release date? When we can get it?
Nipsey Hussle: We ain’t set the date just yet, but it’s going to be this year, for sure. It’s going to be 2010. We haven’t set the date. I don’t want to give you a false date that you print, then all my fans go crazy when it don’t come out on that date, but 2010 fasho.
BallerStatus.com: Let’s discuss the album’s concept. You’re saying that you want to be innovative and stay ahead of the curve: how did it manifest during the duration that it took you to complete it? Were you surprised at its outcome?
Nipsey Hussle: That’s a good question. Honestly, we still ain’t done yet. We’re still moving forward; I work every day. It took me 24 years to put it out. I still haven’t put it out yet. I’ve spoke on experiences and stories from my early childhood to my teenage years, towards me getting a record deal and becoming semi-successful in the music industry. Basically, the story that’s being told is me from an early childhood to where I’m at now. So, the subject matter has changed a lot. A lot of the records on my mixtape series Bullets Ain’t Got No Names, Volumes 1-3, were records that we were considering for my project. But then, I did other records that I felt topped them and spoke on similar content. But [these] was just more direct and got my point across a little bit more clear, a little bit more articulate. I figured I’d leak those records to the streets, and save the ones that I felt were the classic records for the project.
Yeah, the sound has a changed a couple of times. I bring the region to it — my music doesn’t necessarily have to be a Roger & Zapp sample, or [other element] that’s largely in west coast records. I bring the west coast region and element to it. My choice of production might surprise certain people on the album because it’s just big music.
BallerStatus.com: I wanted to commend you on that because you’ve worked with a lot of the big names from the west, like Snoop and Game. But you’ve stepped out of that regional box and you’ve worked with everyone from Kanye West to Boosie Bad Azz. I like “Thuggin.”
Nipsey Hussle: That’s right; I gotta get out that box.
BallerStatus.com: Have you had the opportunity to work with Z-RO, or have you considered working with him?
Nipsey Hussle: You know, I always hear Z-RO’s name when they’re talking about artists that’s upcoming from the South. I never really got a chance to link personally with him, but I wouldn’t mind working with anybody, especially the ones that I hear a lot of good things about. Every time they bring his name up they praising him. So, you know, I’m open to it. Hopefully, maybe you can find out something. I’m with that.
BallerStatus.com: I want you to talk about your creative process. Are you one of those MCs that write down everything and are very meticulous with your lyrics, or are you spontaneous when you’re in the booth? How do you prefer getting your message across to us?
Nipsey Hussle: At one point, when I first started doing it, I was very meticulous with the beat. Sometimes records would take me two or three days to do. At a point in time, when I started hearing that Jay[-Z] and Rae[kwon] and all them were doing their records with no pen, I challenged myself to see if I could create like that. Once I started doing that I started seeing a different level of my personality coming out in the verses. I tend to try to balance them. Sometimes I’ll write a concept and write a hook, but when it comes to the verses I’ll go in the booth and go line for line and flush the verse out, just to keep a spontaneous sound to the record. But, I also make sure that they have direction, it’s not just me rapping for no purpose.
BallerStatus.com: As both an MC and a producer, when do you know when a track is complete and it’s time to begin something new?
Nipsey Hussle: You’re always going to want to add something to the record. But, at a certain point once you get there, and you feel like “Okay, I’m hearing everything I want to hear. The lyric’s right, the vocal’s right, the sound’s right, the sound quality of it is right” … I got a checklist, once I feel like everything is fulfilled, you know, I go on to the next one. That’s how I forget about it once it’s done. I don’t like messing over my tracks that I’ve done already. I like going on to new sh**, so I don’t ever get caught up in the moment.
BallerStatus.com: In an interview that you did with Murder Dog magazine, you discussed defining your own lane. What are some of the things that you’re doing to distinguish your place in hip-hop?
Nipsey Hussle: I mean, aside from the fact that I got my own story that I’m telling, you know, I just go at my records a certain way. I don’t try to pattern myself after nobody else, or like, never try to be the next nobody. I just try to tell my story and make my point from a perspective of our lifestyle. I think that eventually everything will come out.
BallerStatus.com: I like that answer. One thing that I respect about your music is that it reflects a balanced mindset. You can go from tracks like “CEO” to tracks like “Piss Poor,” and I didn’t question your authenticity.
Nipsey Hussle: That’s what’s up. That’s a hell of a compliment, too. Well, I don’t want to cut you off, I’ll wait for the question.
BallerStatus.com: Just from listening to your music you seem so relateble. What do you do to remain grounded?
Nipsey Hussle: I try to be a grounded person in real life, because, all this TV sh** and these magazines and these fake fans that you get from exposure — all that — I try not to let that blow me up, and make me feel larger than life. I’ve been up before in the streets and took a loss before, so I know what it is to have an established position and take a fall. I see how a lot of people is plastic and a lot of people is fake when they react to the fame, ain’t nothing sincere. I think that with this go or whatever, you know, I just got to go with it.
My whole thing is to accomplish and achieve my goals. I just get cool with the personalities that respect you and all that, but I don’t feed into it. I don’t find value in that. I find value in setting a goal and accomplishing my goal. That’s one of the ways that I stay relatable and stay grounded — like you said, and just stay humble. At the end of the day, I look at all things in perspective. I got a lot on my level. I’ve got to go to far-away places that I won’t be able to come home from for a long time. When you’re really on your pockets and you’re feeling bad, you know what it’s for. You really miss your family, your loved ones, your kids, your folks. And all that other type of sh** is just, you know, it’s icing on the cake. You really can’t place face value on it.
BallerStatus.com: I wanted to discuss family with you. Given the fame that you’re experiencing now. How is your family reacting to it? Do have a large extended family now that you’re on?
Nipsey Hussle: I got a big family, but my immediate circle is small. It’s my grandma, my moms, my pops, my brother, my sister and my daughter. And then, I got extended family, but the people that I was raised by are the ones that I named. Everybody is supportive, they feel like my success is they success. They feel like my failure is they failure, o that lets you know that we all work together. My pops helps with the logistics of the tour and all that. My brother plays a strategic role in my career and all that.
My brother play like, the mentor/chief day-to-day manager. He helps me to stay grounded. He gives me big brother advice and tries to make sure he takes full advantage of that opportunity. But, it’s all important. It’s all love. I don’t get none of the fake jealously from my folks — none of that, not from my family. It’s all love from my family. It’s sincere love, too. Don’t nobody ask me for nothing. They don’t assume that I got the bill when we go out. N****s still try to fight me to pay the bill and sh**.
BallerStatus.com: That’s what’s up.
Nipsey Hussle: Yeah, you know, I’m the little brother. So, my big brother ain’t never been in a position where he depended on me for nothing. Even when I try to give him sh**, he turn it down like, “Nah, I got my own, boss. Just save your money. We’re going to invest and open a business. We don’t need no handouts.” I’m blessed to have a family that’s real sincere.
BallerStatus.com: You talk about your granny a lot. Will you tell me where she’s originally from?
Nipsey Hussle: My grandma from New Orleans, originally. You know, with her generation there were a lot of racists down there, so a lot of people moved to Los Angeles. That’s why there’s a lot of Creole people and peoples from down south that live in L.A. She came down here back in the ’40s and she bought a house on Slauson. She raised my moms there. Later on, I moved into the house with her. Later my mom got her house and I moved with my mom. And when I was like 15, I moved back in with my granny. But uh, my granny, she’s like my moms.
I’m not saying that my mom wasn’t a sufficient mother, because that wasn’t the case. But my granny is just like another moms, too. We were always just as close as me and my mother was. She only stayed five minutes away from my mama house, so when me and my mom got into it, I could always go over there. My granny always had good advice for me. She never judged me and always believed in what I was trying to do, as far as music. Even when I was making mistakes in the streets, my granny was just like a word of wisdom. She would always reinforce her advice. Me and her are still close to this day. She’s one of the most solid people that I’ve known in my life…
The second part of the interview will be posted later this week. Stay tuned.