Expectations are high for Hopsin’s upcoming release, Knock Madness. In the three years since his last full length offering, Raw, the Funk Volume chieftain landed the coveted XXL “Freshmen Class” cover in 2011, along with his signee Dizzy Wright in 2013, solidifying the independent label’s industry prominence. FV also signed rising talent Jarren Benton, released a documentary on the company’s inner workings while continuing to tour relentlessly. The set up is significant. After three years of self-discovery and weathering a relationship gone wrong, all of the accompanying pieces are in place for Knock Madness to break big throughout 2014.
“There’s always that fear of, ‘What if this shit is wack?’” says Hopsin in this exclusive conversation with HipHopDX, detailing the creation of Knock Madness, an album that’s much darker than intended. Hop is as forthright as ever in this interview. Much like his music, he brims with a brash honesty, pulling few punches even while critiquing the latest work of arguably his own Rap god, Eminem or when explaining the unintended byproducts of having such a fanatical fan base. It’s also intriguing to hear the Panorama City, Californian delve into his relationship with long time friend and label mate, SwizZz, as well as his role in the future of Funk Volume.
“People say I say the same things over and over,” Hopsin continues. “But in reality, I haven’t released an album in three years, so people haven’t really seen what I can do or who I am. Everybody in my XXL Freshmen thing I think did their thing. I haven’t come out with mine yet. This is my time. From all the hype you’ve ever seen from Hopsin, this is that moment of truth.”
How Relationship Trouble Helped Fuel Hopsin’s “Knock Madness”
HipHopDX: You’ve got Knock Madness coming November 26. How do you feel?
Hopsin: I feel good; I'm glad the album's freaking done, man. It was like to the point where I used to feel like I couldn’t imagine the album being done, because it was just backing up so long. I felt like, “What is it after this?” You just can't picture it. Now I feel like I'm after it, and it's like, “Wow, this is what it feels like to have the album complete.”
DX: How long have you been working on it at this point?
Hopsin: Since my last album Raw, November 2010, I went on tour for a while. In summertime of 2011 I started working on music again. That's when I had the idea of Knock Madness. I was just making little beats here and there, but I was kind of out of the loop of music, you know? I didn't really know what I wanted to do. I had made a little money, but I didn’t have enough to talk about. I didn't want to just make songs. I made some songs in 2011 in my house and on tour and a couple things. I still had a buzz. I’m always able to keep my buzz alive.
I got the XXL cover. I'm still working on music then. People wanted me to capitalize off of that, but I didn't want to spit out bullshit, because bullshit won’t last only for like four months, then it dies down, and I then I have no career. So I only wanted to put out strong shit. Then I dropped a song called "Hop Madness," and then a few months later I put out a song called "Ill Mind of Hopsin 5," which is one of my biggest songs up to date.
I didn't really get into working on the album too heavily until March 2013. That's when I really, really went full throttle, because I was having relationship problems before, and things were getting in the way and stuff. I was going through a lot of issues. But then, once I had broke up with my ex-girlfriend, I was able to just fully live in the studio and just make everything.
DX: How did that translate into the music? I heard two things right there. You said you made a little bit of money, and you didn't know what to talk about. And then you said you broke up with your girlfriend. Did that make the music flow a little bit differently, and what's it sound like?
Hopsin: Well for one, the money stuff. I made a little money, and I broke up with my girlfriend a little bit before I started making money. I just didn't know what to talk about. I didn't know what to talk about, and I didn't want to be the artist who was like, "Yeah, I’m in love with a new girl, and I got money now." I didn't want to be on no corny shit. I was like, “Man, I really got to think this shit out.” I knew how to rap. I could easily put out songs, doing shit being a generic rapper, like, “Yeah nigga I got bars / I go hard / I'm a star,” whatever. But I didn't want to do that. So I didn't even know what was going to happen. Sometimes you just got to live life when you're an artist and then just let life give you the answers. As time went on, everything I thought Knock Madness was gonna be—as far as topic wise—it didn't come out to be that, because life gave me something else. Life completely got twisted for me. I was like, “Well, I can only talk about what I'm going through.” So the album came out a lot darker than what I thought it was going to be. I thought it was going to be more motivational. I mean, it can be, but it's in a different way now. I thought it was going to go more in a positive route. Then I broke up with my girlfriend, and that fucked my whole head up completely. You can tell on the album, because I mention it numerous times.
And then I had a few issues with homies and little underground rappers that were then saying crap and pissing me off. And then having issues with my personal life—not finding who I am as a person. I'm 28 years old, and I see that I'm kind of in this weird position. I don't have many friends in my personal life, but I have so many fans. So when I go outside and people recognize me, it's kind of a bittersweet feeling, like I don't recognize the fans. I don't really have it like they probably think I have it. I'm really still a loser guy, but I'm just really popular now. I don't have a girlfriend no more, and I have this money, but I'm not satisfied with my life. It's this weird feeling of being incomplete, and I need to find myself. So that's kind of what it did to me, and the album just came out with me just fucking rapping some dark shit.
Hopsin Breaks Down “I Hate Humans” & His Creative Process
DX: You hear this narrative a lot, about how people start treating you differently, and reality is no longer the same. Personally, I really love "I Hate Humans."
Hopsin: Oh you do? I'm glad you like it, because I want to do that as one of the singles. Maybe not now, but we're deciding what's going to be the next singles later. But, yeah, I think people will like that a lot.
DX: On the hook, you say, "One monkey eat shit, and all the other monkeys want to do it."
Hopsin: [Laughs] Yeah, It could go with anything. It could be with little trends that go around, the way the government runs everything and everybody just follows the government. We make them in charge. They don't make them the boss. We make them the boss, but people don't realize that. It's not necessarily saying, “Go against them, just launch a missile and blow up the White House.” But it's just like, people need to think. If Obama’s on the news saying “Everybody, we need to do this,” the people are just gonna be like, "Oh, okay yeah. That's the way you do it. Okay, that's how we gotta do it." It's like, “Nah, that's an idea out of a human head.” They just don't realize shit. Humans are stupid. They're just monkeys.
DX: Do you think your fans are gonna appreciate the darkness of this album?
Hopsin: Yeah they are, because that's what built the Hopsin foundation—all that darkness. I mean a lot of darkness is aimed more towards my direct personal life now than my last album. But I think they will [appreciate it], because the songs are real. You can tell that the songs are real. You can sense it. And then on the album, you can tell there's a void in my life. You can tell there's something wrong, which isn’t good for me, but I think people would just be able to know that I'm still a human just struggling with things. I'm 100 percent to that point in life where I'm comfortable with who I am, and I just wanted to talk about it on the track and let people know. But I think they'll like it and be able to relate to some stuff.
DX: When you're in a creative space, is it pretty much just you by yourself coming up with the sounds and emotions?
Hopsin: Yeah, it’s 100 percent me all by myself. I can't have anybody there when I’m writing or coming up with any music or anything. Once it's all done, then I have everything down to where it's just the beat. I recorded the rough draft of the song, and we go in and finalize it. At that point, there's no interference in what I'm actually creating. It's me just finalizing everything, but nobody's there when I create anything. Like, if I have an idea or whatever, it's just me in my room, my studio, and just making the beat, coming up with the chorus, writing the lyrics, and making sure it's the way I want it.
DX: What do you use to make beats?
Hopsin: I use “Fruity Loops.”
DX: Really? Is that a 9th Wonder influence, or is that just a program you came across back then?
Hopsin: That's a program I've been using since I started rapping. A homie gave it to me in high school and I never put it down. It's so convenient. I have a keyboard hooked up to it. “Fruity Loops” is the only program I ever really use.
DX: There's another song on the album that's a lunchroom cypher. It feels like it's reminiscent of back in the day. I have this image that you probably just came up rhyming in the lunchroom back in high school.
Hopsin: I originally came up with the idea because Hip Hop in general is just so watered down. Nothing is raw no more. You don't hear nobody busting sick flows. It's just having fun with it. And I was like, "Man, I'ma make a song called 'Lunchtime Cypher' where it just takes everybody back to those." Every emcee, if they were rapping for a while, they know what it was like rapping in high school, whether it was three people in a cypher, or 20 people watching a cypher in the lunchroom and everybody going crazy. It happened for a lot of us emcees. I wanted to just capture that again and just spit funny, fucking raw, whatever flows. I invited my two homies Passionate MC and G-Mo Skee, because they have those just raw elements of flows, where I enjoy listening to them and the way they put words together. So yeah, I just wanted some of that. Fuck all that Hollywood shit. Lets just rap. Lets just rap and just start spitting. And yeah, that's what I wanted the song to be about. I want people to get inspired like, "Man, that shit sounds dope. I just want to rap more. I want to spit some bars like that. I want to just have fun with shit." Rap is too jazzy and too smooth nowadays. Everybody is like too cool. When I was listening to shit back in the day by Canibus, Eminem, Crooked I or whatever, nobody says any funny punch lines. Nobody's saying any of those types of lines anymore.
DX: Why do you think things got so soft in Hip Hop? Is it just too much money involved?
Hopsin: It's like I said, "If one monkey eats shit, all the other monkeys want to do it." [Laughs] That's what it comes down to, because all it takes is one rapper to blow up doing something. That one rapper may not necessarily be the monkey who's a follower. He just may be like, "Oh I like this type of style," and then somebody co-signs that rapper. Then record labels and everybody's like, "Man, I want to start something like that, because that's what's in right now." Then they look for the next artist who kind of sounds like that, who has that feel, and then it just turns into a big old chain effect. And then all of a sudden, Hip Hop is in this whole new wave, and now we just rapping like Eminem or such and such with shock value like, "Whoa, what the heck? I didn't know rhymes like that existed." It's like, “Yeah, because you guys been thinking that was Hip Hop,” but that's the shit I grew up on. Hip Hop is so many different things. That jazzy, smooth, mellow Rap is not always bad, but sometimes it's like, "Man, I want to hear somebody fucking cuss. I want to hear somebody say some ill shit, and I don't want to hear cool, mellow shit. I just want to hear some beast mode rhymes." And that's what my homies tell me. They heard some of the album. They're like, "Man I like it because [you’re] fucking rapping. You are just rapping and none of that other shit going on. You just rap, and that's what’s dope."
DX: Jarren Benton drops a line on Knock Madness that goes, "You could lick the skin between my balls and my ass crack," or something like that.
Hopsin: [Laughs] Yeah, something like that, that shit was funny.
DX: And then you ended your verse [on that track] by referencing that line from Jarren Benton. What track is that by the way?
Hopsin: I had to just finish up. I thought it was dope, and everybody always caught that too like, "Oh shit." It's just dope the way the song came together.
DX: What track is that? What's the name of the song?
Hopsin: That's track number three. That one's called "Who’s There?"
Hopsin Calls Himself “The Biggest Eminem Fan In The World”
DX: Eminem has three songs out now off Marshall Mathers LP 2. Have you had a chance to check out "Rap God?"
Hopsin: Yeah, I've heard all of them, and I'm probably the biggest Eminem fan in the whole entire world.
DX: What do you think about the sound [of the album] so far?
Hopsin: From what I've heard, it's cool. It's been two-sided. I'm always going to love Eminem no matter what he does. Even if he puts out something that isn't that good, I’m still going to love it. But when I instantly hear something as a rapper, I judge it from a rapper's perspective. Then I judge it from a fan’s perspective. From a rapper's perspective, I wasn't really feeling them like that, where it was like, “Oh oh,” but I can still respect the work. But just as overall songs, it's cool. I can respect them, but they're not necessarily a thing where I'll go out of my way to be like, "Awww...hell yeah," and tell everybody about it. But as a fan, I listen to this shit just because it's Eminem. It's like, "Let me hear this shit. Let me just remember this shit. Let me get all the lyrics down in my head, because I love Eminem." His music’s made an impact on my life and definitely plays a big part of who I am today. Just on principle, I’m always going to start some shit no matter what and know every single lyric to everything.
DX: Do you feel closer to him as an artist now with the things that you describe you went through while making this album? I mean, he always seemed to lean on the trials and tribulations of his life, and it sounds like you did the same.
Hopsin: Yeah, I can understand. I'm sure a lot of artists go through it, because it's one of those things where you don't really know what you're asking for when you get it. And he’s a lot bigger than I am, so he's had it 10 times worse than I've had it. But there's still different levels of it, and they still impact the heart the same way though. I can kind of relate to some of the stuff, as far as just fans coming up and bothering me. If I'm on a date or something... If I'm out at Six Flags or anywhere on a date, that girl will become the photographer for me through that day for my fans, and that kind of kills everything. And sometimes I have to be an asshole like, "Yo get away from me. I'm not doing no pictures now. We're just chilling right now. We're trying to eat." And sometimes they won't listen like, "Aw come on, man...please, man." And then they'll go talking shit online and do whatever like, "Man, he didn't want to pose in a picture with me." Then it kind of frustrates you like, "Man I'm not an asshole. I'm a nice guy. But I'm on a date right now, and you guys are fucking it up for me. I have my personal life to fulfill, and I'm not trying to have this girl take pictures for me every 10 seconds just for you guys, while I'm trying to spit my game and show that I'm a nice guy.” Then it's just like, “Damn I can't take her outside. We got to have dates in the house now, because these mothafuckers be tripping.” So it’s little things like that.
People follow me to my house. Some kid followed me straight to my garage. When I pulled my car in, he literally walked up in my garage. And then I was like, "What the fuck?" That was scary. He wasn't a scary person. Just the idea of that is like, “Whoa! What the fuck? This has never happened before.” And I didn't know whether to punch his brains out or tell him to get out of here. I had to decide how to do it, because I don't want to endanger anybody in my house and all that, and it's just like, “Fuck.” It makes you feel weird, especially after shows, when you got so many people praising you, and then you go home to nothing. That fucks with your head. It's almost like you just had a drug, and then you're off of it, and you're like, “What the hell?” You almost want it again, but you don't want to use it again, because you know it's bad and you actually want to be pure-hearted. It's like a battle, but you still love it. You love when you’re on the drugs, but then you don't want to do it, because you know it's killing you slowly. That's how I feel with the whole fame thing. I'm in this lost space where I don't know who I am, really.
DX: It looked like you captured that with the video for "Hop Is Back," where you’re just watering your lawn trying to be a regular guy, and all these kids come up.
Hopsin: That's exactly what I wanted to do with that. I wanted to capture everything that fans do, because they really do that shit. They come up trying to show love, and then if you don't give them what they want, they start tripping out, dissing you and saying shit, and then they make you mad until you snap. And then it's like, “Damn.” At the end you're just like, "Fuck? What the hell have I done?"
DX: It also sounds like Kanye West. Did you see that TMZ video with the paparazzi dude stopping his garage door?
Hopsin: I thought that was hilarious. Yeah, that was really funny when I saw that.
Hopsin Explains Studying His Competition & Compares Rap To Sports
DX: From a lyrical technical standpoint, is it difficult for you to evolve as an emcee? How much do you have to practice?
Hopsin: Yes. You definitely have to practice, because if you don’t practice, the weird thing about rapping… I realized this after I released my Raw album in 2011—and I wasn’t making new songs—because I couldn’t do what I used to do. I didn’t fall off publicly, but behind the scenes, I knew I had to work on my skills. The punchlines weren’t as solid as they used to be. My voice wasn’t as solid as it was. I didn’t know how to be as dope as I was. It’s like boxing or any sport—football, whatever—if you don’t practice, then you’ll get fat, and you won’t run like you used to. You won’t be as quick as you used to be. That’s what it is. The more you touch up your skills, the better you get. I definitely learned that the hard way. You just gotta keep on practicing, and as you practice, you get better. You can’t be closed-minded, either. You gotta be able to listen to everything. You have to appreciate every type of art form of Rap—whether it’s super underground lyrical or super commercial Rap. You gotta understand why people would enjoy it.
Certain Rap—whether it’s Odd Future, Lil Wayne, Drake, Eminem, DMX, whoever—I understand why people like them. Whether I dislike their music personally or whoever it is, I can understand. I take the time to be like, “Okay, I see why people like this.” When you do that, you’ve gotta take yourself out of the haters’ mind state and just look at it and say, “Okay, what are they doing that I’m not doing? If I want to be the best rapper, how can I apply these type of punchlines to my stuff?” I just want to be the best emcee, so I don’t like hearing things that I can’t do. I just like studying everything—even wack Rap. I study wack rappers who made it just to be like, “What are they doing?” It could be the type of energy they have on a song that makes them good. There’s always something to learn from everybody. Every rapper will tell you that.
DX: What wack rappers were you studying while making Knock Madness?
Hopsin: [Laughs] I don’t think I necessarily studied any wack rappers for this album. But in the past, my song “Sag My Pants,” I studied the ideas of certain songs. There was the Jerk movement that happened with all the Jerk dancers and the New Boyz. They had a video that was very [Los Angeles]. It was colorful. It looked fun. I wasn’t a fan of the song, but they had a big movement. People liked the video and the same with Soulja Boy with that [“Crank That (Soulja Boy)”] song. The video had colors in it. The way they felt was like a fun street style. I was like, “Hmm, I need to apply that to my shit.” So I made “Sag My Pants” based off of some ideas that I had seen in their videos. Those were completely different music than what I have in my stuff, but I looked at them [when I created that video], because it’s marketing and you’ve gotta think like a director. You’ve gotta think of ways to capture people’s minds.
Colors can do that—things that you’re wearing, the way they come off in the video, the energy...whatever. All that stuff makes a big difference, and any director will know that. Anybody that’s trying to get somewhere, they’ll know that. I know that, so I’m like, “Okay, I’ve got this really raw Rap song. Let me apply these commercial elements to my raw Rap song to make it feel [commercial].” It’s almost to blind people so that they don’t know that I’m doing raw Rap.
Same with “Hop Is Back.” The video, it looks like I’m some little Eddie Murphy guy doing some little skit. It almost looks fun; the video looks fun. And it is kind of to blind people so they don’t see the raw Rap. People hate on underground Rap. If you say anything ill, they’re like, “What the hell?” They hate on underground artists, so you’ve got to code up the videos to make them appeal more. It’s entertainment, so this goes with everything: movies, everything. Make it look cooler so people can talk about it and watch it.
DX: The three-headed Hopsin monster of the producer, the emcee, and the videographer seems to be thinking on multiple levels at all times. I feel like that would give the average person a migraine.
Hopsin: It definitely does for sure. You’ve just gotta do it sometimes. Sometimes the only thing you’ve got is yourself, and you’ve gotta make it work, or you end up being 50 or 60 years old going, “Damn, I never did it. Fuck.”
DX: People talk about West Coast Hip Hop being back now for a number of reasons including the success of Kendrick Lamar and Macklemore. You have multiple crews that are popular: TDE, Odd Future, Funk Volume (which is based in LA). Does it feel different creatively and as a community as an artist on the West Coast?
Hopsin: I’m a West Coast artist, but I never consider myself a “West Coast artist” like that, because I don’t really know anybody on the West Coast. I don’t really know rappers like that. I’ve met a few people here and there, but I don’t really know them. We’re not friends on a regular basis. I might see them out of town and say, “Whats up.” Me and Xzibit recently became cool. He’s like my first West Coast rapper homie. But I don’t know. I’ve always had the mindset to where I’m going to be an emcee for the world. I didn’t want to be looked at by my location. I just want to be Hopsin—the guy who lives on planet Earth who raps. However I feel about the Rap game, that applies to everywhere, whether it’s West Coast, East Coast, Australia, European Rap. It doesn’t fucking matter. It applies to everything. I’ve just been doing my own thing to where I’m just gonna be Hopsin. I just don’t like the game at all, no matter the coast or whatever.
But it’s cool rappers out right now. I’m not saying every rapper’s wack. There are some cool West Coast artists such as Kendrick. I like J. Cole a lot. Macklemore’s dope as well. There are a few people doing it that I can respect.
Hopsin On Why SwizZz Is “Like A Brother” To Him
DX: Another joint that I loved on Knock Madness was the track with you and SwizZz. You two are trading bars back and forth. It sounded natural, as if you guys have been rapping together your whole lives.
Hopsin: Yeah, we’ve been rapping together for over 10 years now—for nine or 10 years now. Me and him have a real chemistry on the track that just always flows together well. That song is supposed to just be having fun over a dope fucking beat. It would be cool to perform that song and also do a video, too.
DX: What’s the name of that song again?
Hopsin: It’s called “Jungle Bash.”
DX: “Jungle Bash?” [Laughs]
Hopsin: [Laughs] The beat just has that jungle feel. [Laughs] I don’t know. I was like, “What name hits my mind when I hear that beat. I don’t know. ‘Jungle Bash.’”
DX: How are you guys as friends? Are you guys as tight as you were in high school? I know things can change when people become more successful.
Hopsin: We’ve gotten closer since. We weren’t that close in high school. We got closer out of high school than when we were in high school. But we’re real cool. We can talk to each other about anything. He’s like a brother to me. We’re cool. We can talk on the phone for hours and chill for hours in the studio and do whatever. We’re on the same page with everything.
DX: That’s your rapper homie.
Hopsin: [Laughs] Yeah. Yeah, that’s my rapper homie. [Laughs]
DX: Everyone’s been talking about Knock Madness for years now. Your fans have been super excited. To a degree, I think SwizZz has been working on stuff for a long time, too. Did you two talk about what each of you was going through while working on your own projects?
Hopsin: We weren’t talking much during the time that I was working on Knock Madness, aside from the collaboration. And his stuff, I don’t know what he’s been working on either. I know he’s in the studio working, but I haven’t heard anything. Me and him are both kind of the same when it comes to music. We don’t like to show anybody anything until it’s 100 percent complete on our end. If there are any flaws in the song, we just don’t show it. SwizZz is like that even more than I am. He’ll make a song, and if one little thing is off, nobody will hear it until it’s right.
DX: Is that a culture of Funk Volume? Are Jarren and Dizzy Wright like that also?
Hopsin: I’d say me and SwizZz do it the most out of Funk Volume. I think Dizzy is the most open. I don’t think he’s as much of a critic of himself as me and SwizZz are. Jarren Benton is that way as well. He’ll only be involved in something if he’s really really feeling it, because it’s hard to write sometimes; it’s hard to stand by something that’s not 100 percent dope. Jarren has it as well. Me and SwizZz have it the worst. We go hard on ourselves like, “Man, we need to fix that, or we need to fix this or that could be better.” And it never stops, even when the shit is 100 percent done; it never stops. For Knock Madness, I had to be like, “Fuck it. Just take the album, Dame. Here. Get it out of my life,” because it’ll never be done. I kept going back and switching things every single day. Every day I’d master the whole album. “Oh, can they fix that? Okay. Re-master the whole album.” The album was mastered like 20 or 30 times. No joke.
DX: Is there any fear around putting this album out?
Hopsin: Yeah, there’s always that fear of, “What if this shit is wack?” It’s so crazy when you make an album, because when you make it you’re like, “Yo, I’m about to kill this shit. I’m about to fucking demolish the game. I love every song. I’m loving this shit.” Then, what happens is, once you make the album, your favorite song is usually the last song you made. And then you start disliking songs because you’ve heard them a billion times already. Then before the album comes out, you start listening to the album and skipping over songs just because you’ve heard them. They were already your favorite song five months ago, and then you kind of start to think that that song is wack just because you heard it a billion times, and you played it out for yourself. That’s what happens to me. Then I had to snap myself out of that mindset. It’s always scary when you release it because it’s like, “Fuck. The moment of truth. This is it. This is what they’re going to see from me. This is what’s going to determine if I’m wack or good or whatever.” Especially for me because this is the first album I’ve released in three years.
People say a lot of negative and positive things about me. People say I say the same things over and over, but in reality, I haven’t released any album in three years. So people haven’t really seen what I can do or who I am. I’m not saying it’s going to be extremely dope, and I’m not saying it’s going to be extremely wack. People can take it for what they want, but I haven’t done my thing yet. Everybody in my XXL Freshmen thing I think did their thing. Macklemore, he came out with his album [The Heist] and he did fucking great. A lot of people did their thing. I haven’t come out with mine yet. This is my time. From all the hype you’ve ever seen from Hopsin, this is that moment of truth right now where it’s about to be either extremely great or… It won’t be wack, regardless. But it’ll either be extremely great or like a monotone, regular thing. I have a feeling that it’ll do good.
Hopsin Says Nipsey Hussle’s “Crenshaw” Was “A Genius Move”
DX: It’s a really strong project. It brims with honesty. That’s one of things that people have always loved about you. I want to ask you this question, because I thought this was really cool. Nipsey Hussle sold 1,000 copies of his mixtape “Crenshaw,” for $100 each. Did you hear about that?
Hopsin: I heard about that. That’s cool. Logically, just from a business perspective, making an album and then only printing 1,000 copies is not safe. But selling them for $100 is a genius move, and if people wanna buy it—he probably sold them all already—I don’t know. I don’t know what the motive was behind that, but I can’t really voice an opinion like, “Oh, that was stupid.” There’s a reason he did that. Whatever reason he did that, I’m sure he was behind it wholeheartedly. It is what it is. I’m not involved in his marketing plan to know why he did that.
DX: From a fan standpoint, his fans never stopped loving him. That was more or less a $100,000 Thank You note from people who just really love Nipsey. In a similar sense, Funk Volume has galvanized fans all over the world without being on radio. For you not even feeling like you’ve done your thing yet, that’s incredible.
Hopsin: It’s crazy. It’s about remaining humble, being cool with the fans and interacting with them. I still do enough to stay relevant, so it’s about that as well. If I put nothing out at all from the XXL cover to now, I definitely would’ve faded out, and the video I released yesterday would’ve had 10,000 views. I know how to stay relevant. I get this Spidey Sense like, “Uh Oh, it’s been too long. You need to release something. Put something out or these fans are gonna disappear.” I’m very thankful to be able to have this medium and the rest of Funk Volume. We all have fans that are ready to ride or die for us. They support everything that we do and they’re not going anywhere. They’re fans for life, so it’s dope.
DX: What’s your working relationship with [Funk Volume co-owner] Damien Ritter like? How do you guys split up the work of Funk Volume?
Hopsin: He does the business stuff, and I do the music. I’m not going to lie, since we’ve signed Dizzy Wright and all that, I get so busy in finding myself in work and working on Knock Madness and all this stuff and doing all these tours. I haven’t had a chance to work with all the artists—Jarren Benton and Dizzy—how I’ve wanted to, because I’ve just been trying to find myself. But I do enough to make sure they’re cool and they’re in a good space.
I still want to work with them, sit down with them in the studio and just throw ideas around...bring brand new things to their attention that they might not know. Not lyrically, but just production wise maybe. It could be stuff as far as mixing and mastering that I could enlighten them on or maybe they wanna direct their videos more. Or I can ask them specifically, “What do you see for this next video? What were you thinking when you were writing this, and how can I capture this on film for these guys?” Little things like that. I’ve done it a little bit, but I haven’t had a chance to do it the way that I wanted to do it. I want to be like a Dr. Dre for the label to where anybody who gets signed, I’m just gonna not necessarily do everything for them, but assist them. If I feel someone could be dope, if I hear something, I’ll be like, “Yo, you could’ve delivered that verse a lot better,” or “The quality could be better,” or “You need a better 808 on that song.” I want to be able to do that. I plan to do that after Knock Madness releases. Then I’ll be able to take a break.