Nipsey Hussle Talks Leaving Epic Records, Dissing "Detox"
Exclusive: In anticipation of today's release of The Marathon, Nip explained to DX why he's back on his indie grind, and why it's "muthafuck a 'Detox.'"
After one signs up to become a member of DXNext alum Nipsey Hussle’s recently launched IHussle.com a welcome email is received which includes a declarative statement, inspired by Neighborhood Nip’s newest mixtape offering, that reads in part, “The Marathon is all about the work before the celebration, the test of endurance that separates the winners from the rest.”
The Marathon (which becomes available for free download at the aforementioned IHussle.com beginning today, December 21st, at 3 p.m. eastern standard time) is Nipsey Hussle’s declaration of independence from the confines of the traditional music biz that forced him to endure over two years worth of delayed celebration for the still-pending release of his formal debut, South Central State of Mind.
On Monday, (December 20th), Nipsey’s new publicity team, Hoopla Media Group, arranged for one of the west coast’s most exciting new artists to break down his breaking of ties with major label home Epic Records to resume his independent hustle via All Money In Records. During his discussion with DX, Nip also revealed if he was, as it seems, taking a daring shot aimed at the head of one of his west coast forefathers, Dr. Dre, on the first leaked joint from The Marathon.
HipHopDX: I don’t wanna start off on a rugged note, but I gotta ask about the line from “Mr. Untouchable” : “High ‘til we die, so it’s muthafuck a Detox.” I just need to find out if that was intended to be a shot or not?
Nipsey Hussle: I mean, it ain’t a shot, ‘cause it doesn’t [say] fuck [Dr.] Dre. But, you know, “High ‘til we die, so it’s muthafuck a Detox.” …It ain’t nothin’ personal to Dre, it ain’t nothin’ personal against Detox, it’s just I’m on this All Money In shit… Niggas take it how they take it. I’m out here in these streets. I’m in L.A. I don’t see none of them [people] in L.A. I’m a real one out here. I don’t know about none of them other niggas… Like I said, it ain’t no direct fuck Dre [because if it was] then I woulda said fuck Dre. It was just me speaking my mind at that moment.
Basically I’m on some if I can’t get money wit’chu, it’s fuck you. It ain’t nothin’ personal. I ain’t never really reached out to Dre, or Dre ain’t never really reached out to me, so it ain’t a shot against him, it’s just, my focus is on what I’m doing now. I’m basically in a mindset of like, either you with me or you against me type shit. So, the niggas that’s with me, they on the right side, anybody else [is] in the line of fire. And when I shoot I’ma knock heads off.
DX: Now, the most important question I have for you: Why didn’t “Feelin’ Myself” become a #1 smash this fall like it should have?
Nipsey Hussle: Aw man, I mean, I can’t really answer that one. When I make records I do it from a creative standpoint, and then once the record’s done we look at it from a business standpoint. The record, when we created it, it was intended to be a record that was a little lighthearted, was a little more aimed at the club, was a little more aimed at radio – obviously without stepping outside the context of my story. But, it’s really based on the consumers. If people take to a record, they gon’ empower the record and it’s gonna become a #1. So I guess the people didn’t fully take to that and it didn’t get to the level that we hoped it got to. But, it’s ups and downs in the game. Niggas ain’t butt-hurt about it. We take the highs with the lows.
DX: Do you feel like the label owes any responsibility to what happened?
Nipsey Hussle: I mean, it would be easy for me to say that. And I feel like that’s an easy cop out to blame it on the label. At the end of the day the label can’t stop a hit record. It went to radio, it got research done on it at radio, and it didn’t come back top ten researched. It didn’t come back as a record that my home [Los Angeles] station, Power 106, could really run with as one of their records. So, it did what it did. I toured off the record, people love it when I do shows and all that, and it’s a solid record for my catalog. But, if it wasn’t the one that was gon’ put me on top of [the] Billboard [charts] then like I said, we roll with the punches, it is what it is.
DX: I only asked about the label – their responsibility, or if they had any – because recently I spoke to legendary left coast producer Mike Mosley, and I guess he was choppin’ it up with you at the time, and he let it leak that you were about to go back to being independent.
Nipsey Hussle: Honestly, I was always independent before I signed to Epic [Records]. The way that Epic heard about me was thru our movement as All Money In: what we was doing in L.A. as far as mixtapes…as far as the touring we was doing just in our region. So when we got with Epic it was kinda like we started working together. But, just to keep it completely 100, I’m in the process of negotiating my release right now. And we just gonna go back to doing what we been doing, as far as an independent company and serving our region. But it wasn’t really no big fallout with the label or nothin’ like that, it’s just Epic went through internal changes: they fired the president, Amanda Ghost, [after] actually becoming a subsidiary of Columbia [Records]. Half of they staff is gonna be laid off or fired. And the original staff that brought me in the building, that shared the original vision of really what Nipsey Hussle was, they’re all gone. So, being fair, it ain’t really nobody in particular that we can point the blame on, it just kinda was like a [dissolving] of the core team that started on the project. So it serves both interests for us to just go back to what we was doing originally. I’ma walk away with all my masters; I’ma walk away unobligated, with my brand built. And it’s all love and respect for everybody at Epic. We took a chance together. It was a lot of money spent, a lot of success together, and it’s no hard feelings.
DX: You got a distribution situation lined up for South Central State of Mind?
Nipsey Hussle: Actually, we weighing the options right now. We got a lot of offers for it. But I’m just trying to really come up with the best idea of how I wanna do it. I was entertaining new original ways to distribute music, kinda like in the sense of what Prince did with one of his projects he put out in . It was called Planet Earth, and what he did was he distributed it through a magazine in Europe who had a subscription base of like 1.5 million. This a new era, and I think it was a paradigm shift in how people receive content recently. So I’ma gamble on that paradigm shift and I’ma try something original. And I don’t wanna go in to too much detail, but it’ll be something along the lines of what Prince did with his album…
DX: Do you know yet if the album will be the same tracklisting that Complex previewed back in September?
Nipsey Hussle: Complex, they made a premature review. They asked me to come play music for ‘em, and I told ‘em that [South Central State of Mind] wasn’t ready yet [but] I would play music ‘cause I had a relationship with the editors. Our thing was that they weren’t gonna review it, [that] I was just gonna play it for ‘em. So the records that they reviewed, it was kinda poor. And it wasn’t really the final album, so they kinda wrote unfavorably. They got the right to say what they wanna say, but it wasn’t the official offering. By the time the real project, South Central State of Mind, come out it’s gonna be new records. A couple of the records that they wrote about is gon’ still be on there, but for the most part it’ll be a completely new playlist.
DX: “Keys To The City” you still gonna make that a single [and] like shoot a video and all that…?
Nipsey Hussle: Yeah, we working on the video now. We just [completed] the treatment for it recently, and I’m just trying to get the right director behind it. We gonna do that independent, like we did “Hussle In The House” and a couple other records that was some of the records that really attached people to what we do. I [started] a website recently called IHussle.com, and that’s gon’ be my outlet for all of my content. We gonna debut The Marathon project tomorrow, and then we gon’ follow-up with videos to support the records on the website. [Also], we developing an application that’s for the iPad, for the Android system and for the iPhone system, where people can receive my content directly thru they media devices – whether it’s the iPad [or] Apple TV. It’s all these new outlets that companies are creating and that people are taking to. I’m tailor-making my content, and the delivery of my content, for that. I’m in the mentality like, Fuck a middleman. I kinda stepped into the game with that mentality but being a part of a major label I thought I’d go the traditional route. But like I said, it was such a shift recently with how people receive content that I’ma be one of the pioneers as far as Hip Hop artists with delivering my shit directly to the people. I’m not going to radio with it. If radio choose to support the record, that’s great. But I’m bringing it to where people actually receive the content nowadays, which is they phones, the Internet and the [other] media devices.
DX: I’m just gonna say on the record, if Power 106 don’t play “Keys To The City,” something is wrong with them.
Nipsey Hussle: I’ve learned something about Power 106 recently: they’re not a Hip Hop station, they’re a Top 40 Rhythmic station. And it’s kinda because of the market of L.A. The demographic out here, it’s changing.
DX: Let me switch gears here real quick, I wanted to ask you about something you spit on “The Hussle Way” [from Bullets Ain’t Got No Names Vol. 3]: “When bangin’ is your religion it’s like a sin not to.” I just wanted to ask, does there gotta be bangin’ on wax though? Reality is reality and a rapper can’t change that, but does there have to be so much life given to death in the music?
Nipsey Hussle: As far as expression, you don’t really take that into consideration. I don’t take a moral responsibility no further than when a film studio does when they produce Die Hard or when they make Menace II Society, or when Paramount makes Belly. I don’t feel I should be held any more responsible than they do. But, if you extract a line from a song it’ll be out of context. [And] if you listen to the whole record, there’s a message. And me personally, I speak to the people. I don’t speak to the critics… I speak to the people, and my music impacts people in a positive way – [people] that are going through what I been thru and that understand this mentality. For everybody else, it’s really not for them. They could have they opinion about it, but I don’t take it into consideration.
So to answer the question, as far as speaking life to death, I say [in the song], “Now who gon’ go for him? / Probably be the same crew / When bangin’ is your religion it’s like a sin not to / A lot of niggas ain’t cut from that same cloth / Them I give ‘em space, gotta play it safe / ’Cause hard niggas turn holy when they catch a case / I still bark, real talk, I a never fake.” So that’s talking to the…half-a-million-some-odd active gang members in L.A. It’s not talking to the Rap critics, it’s not talking to the Hip Hop lovers, it’s talking to the Nipsey Hussle’s before the Rap. I understand that emotion. It’s a true emotion, [and] a person that ain’t been through that could never understand that emotion ‘cause they haven’t been through it, and they’re not supposed to. It’s not they reality. Like when Rihanna talk about her experience with Chris Brown, we don’t have no context [to understand her emotions]. That’s her experience. It’s her truth. Or if Drake talk about his experience with Rihanna, that’s his truth. And our opinion of it is our opinion of it. But it was put in his music, and it was put in her music, because it’s they understanding of their truth. And it’s a true emotion. Mine just happens to be gangbangin’. I’m from Rollin’ 60 [Crips neighborhood]. I come from Crenshaw and Slauson, and there’s no way around that. So, it ain’t a financial pursuit, it’s not a [thing where] I’m trying to be critically acclaimed, it ain’t none of that. It’s me speaking on true emotions in my music as an expression and as an outlet. I’m out here. I see the impact I have on these people. I see these kids from Hoover [Crips], and these kids from Eight Tray [Crips], that come up to me when they see me and salute me, and show me love like, “Nip, you inspire me. You one of us.” And how do they know that I’m one of them? Because I speak on true emotions in my music. So now when I’m on BET stages and they see somebody that’s not perpetuating an image – this is really who I am, this is really what I come from, but I’ve transcended this and I’ve become successful – that, my existence at this level, the fact I’m still standing speaks volumes to what I do and what we can all do. And I touch on that in my new music on The Marathon. [But] like I said, I don’t feel no moral obligation any further than any other people that create content and express true emotions.