Eritrean Cultural/Art: Now, four months after the release, Nipsey took some time out from the Crenshaw tour to speak with Crossfade about a trip to Eritrea, the music industry’s old business model, retaining ownership of his work. He even asks us a question.
Crossfade: At 18, you took a trip to Eritrea with your father. What was the most beautiful thing you saw?
The most beautiful thing about that was when I got to absorb the culture.
They place way more value on people and relationships, family. I thought that was one of the missing elements of just growing up in America, growing up in L.A. The structure and values is kind of like secondary to the material things. I think that’s the reason for a lot of the problems we have in our cities and our states, the whole country. It start at the house, you know? I saw old women walking around in dark alleys late at night. They weren’t really worried about nothing.
But down here everybody is guarded. Majority of the time they expect people to do you dirty. It would be a pleasant surprise if somebody is genuine or somebody love. Out there that’s the norm and that’s respect.
A lot of times people feel, “Well, shit, nobody else is on it, so I’m ain’t going to be on it. Nobody else is loving, so I ain’t going to be loving. Nobody else is honest, so I ain’t going to be honest.” Nice guys finish last sometimes, you know what I’m saying? Going out there gave me insight that it’s alright to be the odd ball. It’s alright to be the one that do got appreciation for people. It’s ok to be the minority.
If you haven’t heard, Nipsey Hussle’s recent release, Crenshaw, could be procured in two ways, either download a digital copy for the cost of nothing or pay $100 for one of 1000 hard copies.
But who the hell would buy a $100 album? Jay Z did. Well, more like Jay Z bought 100.
The other 900? All sold out, with demand exceeding supply.
See also: Miami’s Top Ten Rappers on the Come-Up
(Note to self: Make a kick-ass mixtape and sell for $101.)
You may be asking yourself why record labels have not moved on signing Hussle. Well, they have. But the Crenshaw rapper wants what every musician should want: total ownership of his material, which is unlikely to happen when 360 deals are the norm. Not even the Bawse Ricky Ross was successful when trying to sign Hussle to Maybach Music.
When you speak about material things, I first heard about you four, five years ago when “Hussle In The House” came out and it seems like you aren’t caught up in material things. Just off jewelry it looks like you’ve worn the same Cuban links and pendant.
I came in the game with a lot of things that I wanted already. A lot of rappers, when they came in, they didn’t have 500 gram Cuban links and Rolexes and invisible set diamonds and stuff like that. That was the things they wanted to get from rap, and you know that wasn’t really what I wanted to get from rap. I was getting that already from the streets. There was other things I wanted to get out of rap, and it was a legitimate lane to get a positive outlet for my energy. That was the main reasons I got into rap, because money was never the problem, it was just doing it legitimately. Doing it in a way that don’t end in jail or death. That’s why I call it the marathon, because certain things are a sprint.
Growing up, a lot of people may not know this, but your nickname growing up was Thundercat. Did you have a favorite ThunderCats character from the cartoon?
(Laughs) Naw, acutally I didn’t. That was kind of given to me. We call fighting thunder. That’s what we call fighting. When we fight back in the day you’ll call it thunder.
You had to fight before you could hang out. You had to get carted off. So based on that it was the name that I took, Little Thundercat.
You’ve said the old business model for major labels is becoming obsolete to the digital age. How can they adapt?
I think that they have to be like venture capitalists. They got to let the brands lead that they get in business with. Let them brands and them groups that they find that they want to be in business, they got to follow they lead, because it’s our generation. And we are experiencing content in a different way. Young people from this generation that understand the way we receive content is just not promoted to us on TV and radio and whoever got the biggest marketing budget wins. That ain’t how it go no more. Nine times out of 10 discovery happens on a free project. Biggest stars in the game they broke through mixtapes that was free. They didn’t break through radio hits. They didn’t break through these big cosigns. It came through mixtapes. They dropped a body of work, and it connected. It was released through the internet or their blog or it was word of mouth around it. It was publicity around it based on how good it was. That was the first way we discovered these artists.
I think that’s the main thing that the labels got arrogant about. They feel like, “Well, these young dudes can’t buy radio. These young dudes can’t buy TV.” And that’s still basically controls coverage. And I feel like that’s the wrong way to look at it, because that’s not how these kids is coming across they new artists. They on YouTube. You know, HotNewHipHop. They on DatPiff. They on these different blogs picking up new artists. I feel like a part of it is that labels got to hire these people to understand the new discovery and the new method. They also got to look at things more like venture capitalism. They’re the bank. They are the specialists, but at the same time they can’t expect such a huge returns. The ought to be meet people on better terms to be partners and do better deals so that these artists that know that they can lifestyle that they comfortable with without ever signing a deal go into business with these labels. You can drop a mixtape and tour, and then the lifestyle back then or equal to a signed artist with hits on the radio. So, they want to be in business with cool shit, stuff that everybody is gravitating towards, got to meet them half way, got to be partners. If they don’t I feel like what’s going to happen is all the cool is going to be outside of the label.