Photo by Jorge Peniche
Doubt destroys; perspective is essential to formulating a plan and manifesting a dream. Ermias Asghedom, best known as “Nipsey Hussle,” refuses to allow doubt, or a faulty perspective, detour him from his chosen path. Hip-Hop heals, and Nipsey is using his voice as an MC, to strengthen and inspire his listeners. Throughout his life, Neighborhood Nip, has encountered both arduous and disheartening events.
What happens when souls are snatched, names are locked away and replaced by numbers, and the American dream mocks one’s existence? Ask Nipsey; he knows. Rather than succumbing to the depths of personal despair, Nipsey, personifies perseverance. The booth is his therapist; cathartic lyrics release chaotic memories. While reality is ever-present in his rhymes, he continues to stimulate change through both his words and his actions.
In the conclusion to this exclusive interview with AllHipHop.com, Nipsey Hussle speaks on The Marathon Continues, on future projects, and on his personal motivation.
AllHipHop.com: The Marathon Continues dropped in November 2011. Regarding your supporters, what types of reactions have you received?
Nipsey Hussle: I got mixed reactions from TMC. Some people loved it and said it was genius, that it was my best project. Other people said that it wasn’t f*cking with the first Marathon. I was trying something different with The Marathon Continues. I understood that I was risking it, because the sound changed a little bit. Personally, it’s one of my favorite projects that I’ve put out.
AllHipHop.com: It’s one of your favorites?
Nipsey Hussle: Yeah, I think so, for sure. Certain records on this project showed a side of me that I haven’t showed. The sound is different. It’s kinda like where I’m at right now. I felt like if I do something that I’ve already done, that’s cheating and that’s being lazy. So, I wanted to stretch out a little bit. I felt like I had given them so much concentrated, Nipsey, on The Marathon. I wanted to do a little experiment and try different things on TMC. It was a success for me.
The numbers were bigger than any of my [other] projects. The first week’s downloads were bigger; the [subsequent] touring has been bigger. I believe that The Marathon was received better, as far as critically. But, that was a different project, and I had a different goal.
AllHipHop.com: When I initially listened to it, I wanted more substance. During the time you were recording it, did someone step on your heart? You seemed to be going hard on females.
Nipsey Hussle: Nah, I ain’t going to say that anybody stepped on my heart. On all the records, I don’t think I went hard on females. I went hard on females on “Thas What Hoes Do.” But, not on all the records, for example, on “Tha Mansion,” there were certain lines in there, with me being honest, and me being semi-humble. On other records, I was speaking towards different types of females. But, I don’t feel like I was going overboard hard on females. Is that how you took it?
AllHipHop.com: Yes. I was like, ‘Somebody please give Nipsey a hug!’
Nipsey Hussle: [laughter] Hell, nah!
AllHipHop.com: One thing I respect about you is that a lot of your music exudes a positive perspective. My favorite song by you is “Bigger Than Life.” It’s raw; you give us all of you.
Nipsey Hussle: Man, I did the “Bigger Than Life,” record the day before I dropped The Marathon. I wasn’t even going to put it on The Marathon. That’s why I put it as a hidden track. The tracklisting and the artwork was already done. We had already leaked it. So, when I did “Bigger Than Life,” I couldn’t add it to the playlist. At that point, I was in such a creative zone. I was locked in the studio for months—phone cut off—I hadn’t even been released from Epic. I was going through the process of getting off the label.
You know, my business team had changed. It was a lot on my mind. So, I think that record was me getting everything off my chest, as best I could. It even moved me when I was making the record. In the booth, I caught a certain vibe. It was just a real time. As far as things I was going through in my personal life, and stuff that was going on in the streets, like you said, it came out as raw emotion. That’s the goal of music, to give off honest emotion. I feel like that’s one where I did the best job of just being honest, and putting it in a way that people can connect to it.
AllHipHop.com: It seems like there’s always hidden gems within your music. Who or what circumstances helped to give you a positive perspective/outlook on life?
Nipsey Hussle: If you have a voice and people are listening to you, I just feel like [you should] inspire, and motivate! If I’m in a room and there are 10 other people, I don’t want to be the negative force in the room. I want to be the positive force. If I’m in somebody’s lif,; I don’t want to be the negative force in their life. I want to be a positive force. Naturally, through my music, I want my overall theme to be positivity and motivational. It’s a dose of reality of what I do, too. It’s also a dose of, ‘This is how it is.’ Regardless of the situation, you can still make it happen. You can improve yourself and work on yourself.
In my core, I believe that life is about evolving yourself from where you start. As long as you’re making progress, you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing. I would hate to be an artist that’s the bearer of bad news and doesn’t have a message. If you’re unwilling to give anything in return, it’s selfish to want money, and fame, and success. You got fans that are willing to pay for tickets to concerts, buying merchandise, buying albums and mixtapes; but, they’re not getting nothing from you? I don’t think that’s reality. That’s why a lot of artists only have temporary success, because they’re not giving people something that they can hold on to. Then you got other artists that the fans will love forever, because they feel like they got something from them. I always wanted to be one of those types of artists.
AllHipHop.com: I appreciate your work ethic; it’s reflected in your music.
Nipsey Hussle: That’s what’s up. I appreciate you. Thank you.
AllHipHop.com: 2012 is upon us, and you’re in grind-mode. You’ve worked with Dorrough, you’re on DJ T Fatz’ remix of Wiz Khalifa’s “It Could Be Easy”. What I want to know is when can we get that Big K.R.I.T. collab?
Nipsey Hussle: Man, that’s my folks. I f*ck with K.R.I.T. We haven’t spoken recently, but he’s extended family. He’s signed to Cinematic, also. Cinematic is owned by, Jon Shapiro. That’s who signed me to my first deal. He really gave me my first shot outside of my [former] management team. Jon was the one who walked me into Epic and got the deal situated. So, he was one of the early supporters o, Big K.R.I.T. He has a lot to do with his success and getting him on Def Jam. So, you know, we’re under the same umbrella. Big K.R.I.T. produced “One Take 3” on The Marathon.
AllHipHop.com: Oh, really?
Nipsey Hussle: Yeah, a lot of people don’t know that Big K.R.I.T. produced that. I would love to work with, K.R.I.T. I’m a fan first. In the future, it’s going to happen. When it’s right, timing will make it happen. I got you; we’ll put that together just for you.
AllHipHop.com: I’m so serious right now.
Nipsey Hussle: Yeah, no question.
AllHipHop.com: What other folks would you like to work with. I hear that there’s something in the works with Freddie Gibbs. What’s up?
Hussle: Freddie just sent me something. We’re talking about hitting the road together; so, we’ll probably make that happen. I’m probably going to work with Wiz [Khalifa] on some new stuff. I just did something with, Meek Mill. I did something with Vado. I’m working with K-Boy on his project. Who else? I’ve been doing a lot of features—Mac Miller, Chevy Woods. Me and YG are doing a project together. I just did a record for his new mixtape, 400 Degrees. A lot of people—man, we’re working right now. I got features everywhere—Yung Walt, that’s 1500’s artist. I did a record on his new project. We’re just working. If you got good music, and you reach out, I’m going to get it done. I’ll make it happen.
AllHipHop.com: May I ask you a couple personal questions?
Nipsey Hussle: Hell nah. Nothing personal.
AllHipHop.com: Damn, cutty, is that how you feel? Are you serious?
Nipsey Hussle: [laughter] Nah, I’m f*cking with you. Come on.
AllHipHop.com: You know that anybody can put info on Wiki. How old are you?
Nipsey Hussle: I’m 26.
AllHipHop.com: You’re only 26?
Nipsey Hussle: My birthday is not in January neither; my birthday is in August. They got me messed up on Wikipedia.
AllHipHop.com: So, on your ID it says 1985, not 1978?
Nipsey Hussle: Yeah, on my ID, it says ’85. I’m not one of them artists that going to lie about they age. That’s wack to me. I’m not an artist that’s going to lie about anything, really. Wikipedia got some false info up there, but it’s cool. I’m not mad at them. It’s user-driven; so, I can’t blame Wikipedia. They’re doing their best. I’m definitely not born in January. I’m definitely 26.
AllHipHop.com: So, you’re a young-and-tender.
Nipsey Hussle: Ah, sh*t.
AllHipHop.com: [laughter] From what perspective do you try to convey your message? Do you write from a visual or an emotional stance? Do you want us to see what you’re talking about, or to feel it?
Nipsey Hussle: Both, really. I think, feel it first and visualize it second. A lot of artists get real wordy as they paint the picture. Some artists just say certain things; it comes from a place where you just got to feel it. ‘Pac was one of them artist that you felt. Biggie was a visual artist. But, you know, they both had both of those qualities. Biggie leaned more towards [the] visual, and ‘Pac leaned more to the emotional. I try to do both; because they’re both an important part of songwriting. From my opinion, to be a complete artist, you have to be good at all that. Just naturally, you know, my music is more emotional than it is visual.
AllHipHop.com: I’m a word-nerd and into literature. I’ve read that you’re also an avid reader.
Nipsey Hussle: Absolutely.
AllHipHop.com: I didn’t know if I was over-analyzing your music; so, I have to ask, On “Tha Mansion” did you intentionally allude to Hemmingway?
Nipsey Hussle: I don’t think I intentionally did. What made you ask that?
AllHipHop.com: On “Tha Mansion” you say, “…bet if they say my name the bell rung…” That made me think of Hemmingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls.
Nipsey Hussle: Throughout my reading career, I have got my hands on some of his material. It’s possible that it came out subliminally without me knowing. But it wasn’t intentional.
AllHipHop.com: You’re dope. How can your supporters continue to encourage your efforts?
Nipsey Hussle: Man, if they don’t do nothing else, they motivate me so much! I’m going to keep going based off what they already did. There was a point in time where I didn’t necessarily have the base, and the followers, and the actual fan support that I’ve got right now. To actually be able to sell out shows, and to drop projects and mixtapes, and they do big numbers when they come out. So, I’ve been so motivated by that. Seeing that people have been inspired by what I’ve already done, my mind is made up; ain’t no looking back! The fans don’t have to do nothing else; I’ve got them from here.
I would love for them to keep supporting [me] and giving their feedback; being honest with how they feel about the music. When I go on Twitter and check my mentions, it’s majority positive feedback; that’s my biggest motivation. When I be in the streets, I have people come up to me and tell me certain things. You know what I mean, that’s my biggest motivation. More than album sells, and more than money, that’s how you know what you’re doing is working. When people come up to you, and tell you something that you know is sincere, and they couldn’t have faked it; to me, that’s the biggest motivation right there.