LaRussell is a man of many talents and here to make nothing but positive contributions to the music industry. Hailing from the Bay Area, Vallejo, to be exact, LaRussell is the founder of his own independent collective titled Good Compenny, whose mission statement is to champion the underdog by providing up-and-coming artists the resources they need to jumpstart their music career.
In describing himself, LaRussell states he’s “an artist, entrepreneur, innovator. Real n*gga, local superhero. All of the above.”
Last year, LaRussell went viral with the release of “2021 Freestyle,” which gained him the attention of a slew of greats, including Erykah Badu, Chance The Rapper, Meek Mill, and more. Fast forward to today, the West Coast recording artist unveils his newest project titled I Hate When Life’s Going Great, in collaboration with Deaf Heff.
AllHipHop spoke with LaRussell to discuss his roots in the Bay, starting out producing, his sound, the new project, writing books, selling out shows independently, not setting goals, and more!
AllHipHop: Being from Vallejo, how does that play into your life and career?
LaRussell: Of course, ultra connected to the roots. That’s one of those questions where if you haven’t experienced it, it’s hard to detail. But hyper modern and normal, I was just outside hooping. Been around the block, navigating my woes as I could. Went to public school, ended up going to continuation school. That’s where I graduated, picked up music from there.
AllHipHop: Do you remember when you fell in love with music?
LaRussell: I remember when I started making beats. I was on YouTube and found this video of Kanye West making music on an MPC. I said I want to f###### make beats! That was a defining moment for me.
AllHipHop: So you started off producing?
LaRussell: Yeah, I started off producing first. I was doing photography and videos, making beats. But yeah, producing was my first start into the music side.
AllHipHop: What made you start rapping?
LaRussell: I’ve always been rapping and writing. I used to freestyle over instrumentals, but producing was easier to get in because I didn’t have to have that confidence of being the center of attention. I could give a beat to someone and allow them to be in front. I was always rapping, always writing poetry. Eventually I started releasing music with some of the homies, battle rapping at school. I got challenged to battle rap and it opened that door for me to go out and work my craft publicly.
AllHipHop: Top 5 of all time?
LaRussell: Pac, Drake, Hov, Andre 3000, Cole, Kanye! You can’t narrow that s### to 5. [laughs]
AllHipHop: I was hoping you’d name some Baydestrians.
LaRussell: Not in my Top 5. I’m a very lyric driven artist. We haven’t had a lot of lyric driven artists to reach a certain pentacle from here, so not yet. Hopefully within the next decade, I will have some Bay Area in that list.
AllHipHop: How would you describe your sound?
LaRussell: Indescribable. If someone was trying to tell you “oh, what does he do? What’s his lane?” It’d be very hard to describe. I have 21 albums and they range in genre and sound. If you listen to I Hate When Life’s Going Great, it’s not hip-hop. There’s hip-hop elements, but a lot of it is genre-bending. There’s a lot of R&B, a lot of pop, a lot of dance, just different genres. We’re genre-benders over here, so I describe it as indescribable.
AllHipHop: Is LaRussell your real name?
LaRussell: That’s my real name. I started my career under the name Tota Shakur, and I had got mildly successful. I was doing a lot of local shows and people knew who I was. I released my first 3 or 4 projects under that name. Eventually I wrote an album called Silence Won’t Save You, which was my life story, so I had to do it as myself. From then, it’s been up.
AllHipHop: I Hate When Life’s Going Great album out now, what’s the meaning behind the title?
LaRussell: Just navigating life. As I’ve been getting bigger and more successful, I’ve been having to deal with all the self-sabotaging thoughts and feelings. All of the woes that come with success. A lot of people don’t understand that with success comes a lot of loss. You get a lot of game, but you get a lot of loss. Some days, I’m anti everything I’ve established and created. This album is an ode to those feelings and people who are also feeling that way.Getting so far at a certain point, but still feeling like what the f### am I doing?
AllHipHop: What is it you want fans to get from the project?
LaRussell: Truth, release, freedom, liberation. Just knowing that someone who they look up to and listen to feels the exact same way.
AllHipHop: Talk about starting your own collective, Good Compenny.
LaRussell: Come on man! Good Compenny is a collective created by the squad and the homies. We really do a lot to cultivate local artists and put artists on. We create a live performance platform similar to Colors and Genius where we’ve had a lot of artists go viral and a lot of success there. From there, the ones we love, we help them write songs and market their s###. Put their music out where they can own it completely. We throw dope ass events and shows. We teach artists how to perform, just give them a support system and a home. We give them a place to be an artist, be free and really cultivate their craft.
AllHipHop: Why Compenny?
LaRussell: I feel like pennies are undervalued. Most people just walk past ’em, so it was a great play on words. If you picked up all of the pennies you walk past, you’d probably have a cool amount of money, but you walked past them all. [laughs]
AllHipHop: You also released books, right?
LaRussell: Yeah man, I’ve released two books so far. I’m writing my third right now. That’s one of my lanes. My last book Limitless did really well, we sold it independently. We sold over 5,000 copies so far. It’s a book full of life gems that I’ve used to navigate my journey through this whole process and my life. The book I’m currently writing is called I HATE WHEN LIFE’S GOING GREAT, it’s a behind-the-scenes look of all the moments throughout my career that people have witnessed publicly. Like LA Leakers and breakfast club, but they don’t know the details of what went into them and how it came about. It’s me talking on those moments, also including some life gems and things that I’ve struggled with along the way. S### that took place behind-the-scenes that no one really gets to see.
AllHipHop: Talk about selling out shows independently, how does that feel?
LaRussell: Incredible man! I’ve been doing it since the start, I’ve never really done booked shows. I’ve always done my own shows, but I’ve always lost because I had to go through ticketing deals, door deals, and splitting with venues. Now that I’ve built this rapport and I’ve built my own ticketing platform, I’m able to make 3 to 5 times more off shows than I’d usually make because it’s offer based. It’s people making offers on what they feel like my value is, and I get to accept or decline what I feel like I’m worth. We’re creating a new way for artists to tour and be financially fit. I see a lot of artists canceling shows and tours because they can’t afford it. This method that we’ve created is new, I don’t have to go out unless I know it’s gonna be profitable for me. It allows my fans to really show me how much they appreciate me.
AllHipHop: Are you good at tech?
LaRussell: Sorta, but I have a dope team of black engineers that helped me develop this. I’m just really great at ideas and innovation in life. [laughs]
AllHipHop: Charlamagne Tha God, Wallo, Chance The Rapper, Russ, Meek Mill, LA Reid, Erykah Badu have all shown you love. Is there one cosign that stands out from the rest?
LaRussell: Nah, not necessarily. They’re all equal in rapport, no one ever had to say anything about me. I definitely love Charlemagne, because he posts me like I’m signed to him. He shows a lot of love. People think it’s paid promotion, but he loves me that much so that’s a special place.Nothing really sticks out more than others, I’m grateful for all of them.
AllHipHop: Goals for yourself as an artist at this point of your career?
LaRussell: No, I don’t set goals. I just do the work. I got to a point in life where I just stopped setting goals, because it always leads to a little disappointment. Now, I just do a whole lot of work.
AllHipHop: What’re you most excited for next?
LaRussell: Man, this new tech that I’m building. Next year I’m doing the first ever offer-based festival. I just announced Proud To Pay Café. I just bought out a restaurant for the rest of the year. People can go and eat and pay whatever they want for it. That’s something I’m excited for, the community to be able to eat. I don’t think anyone should ever have to go without eating, so we created a way to feed the people. Just building ingenuity in tech and landing a new blueprint for artists to be successful.