Nipsey Hussle has had an incredible year. First he built a deafening buzz on the streets with his Bullets Have No Name mixtape series, then he earned a spot on tour with Snoop Dogg and things are continuing to look good in 2010. Now Neighborhood Nip has found himself up in the mix with some of the music industry’s biggest stars on Quincy Jones’ updated version of “We Are the World.” XXLMag.com recently had the chance to chop it up with the West Coast up-and-comer to speak on his role in the song, get a detailed description of how the track was recorded and find out about his close relationship with Jones and teen sensation Justin Bieber. Put ya lighters up.
XXLMag.com: What was it like working on a record like “We Are the World?”
Nipsey Hussle: It was kind of like crazy to see so many world-renowned celebrities and established artists in the same studio. I ain’t never been a part of something that big. Obviously for the cause, it was for the redevelopment of Haiti, which is a cause that I believe in and everybody that was a part of it believed in. So it was big to be involved and for them to think of me when they called the artists up, being an artist that hasn’t dropped an album yet, and really just building a buzz on a street level, I was honored and humbled by them even including me in it. And like I said to just seen so many different artists from different genres of music, like Quincy Jones, Lionel Ritchie, down to Lil Wayne, myself, Kid Cudi, Drake, Trey Songz, Wyclef, LL Cool J, Jamie Foxx, Snoop Dogg… I couldn’t quite grasp it for a minute, like, “Wow, this is huge,” but the cause it was for it just goes to show that people are just in touch with the struggle, like nobody is too big for their britches to devote some of their time to something that it is in light of a tragedy on the other side of the world.
XXLMag.com: What was the vibe like in the studio?
Nipsey Hussle: The best word I can describe it was just “epic.” You know obviously 25 years ago [when] they did the original “We Are the World,” I was a little kid for that. I’m 24 right now, so I wasn’t even born for that but Quincy Jones was producing the session so he was behind the board, listening to the tapes, telling niggas, “Nah, go back in, do it again,” so we got a chance to do a record produced by Quincy Jones, that was big… You seen artists like LL Cool J and Jamie Foxx who had a little disagreement in the past, get together on the same record and do they thing. It was just like you would never see this many artists collab on a track, just naturally, so you felt like you was being a part of history just being in there. And like I said, with me being a new artist who ain’t droped a new album yet, being in such good company I just felt honored. I just wanted to show up and do what I do.
XXLMag.com: Did you get to chop it up with any of the other artists, like Wayne, Kanye and Quincy? Or was it all business in the studio?
Nipsey Hussle: Yeah, I hollered at Quincy for a minute because you know me and [Quincy's son] QD3 is real good friends and he produced a record on my project that we gonna keep for the album. Besides from Quincy and anybody that I was a fan of they music or I was big on they work, I just reached out and touched ’em, and hollered at ’em and 90 percent of them were like, “Yeah, man, we know what you do, you killin’ them, keep doin your thing.” I hollered at Kanye, I hollered at Swizz, me and Wyclef is real cool, we did records together. I didn’t get a chance to holler at Wayne, though. I hollered at his manager and he was like, “Yeah, man, Wayne is real big on your shit” and you know me and Drake did a record before so we just chopped it for a lil’ bit. Snoop my homeboy so we was in there… A lil’ bit of everybody. The girl from the Pussycat Dolls, I got to chop it with her, she was real cool.
XXLMag.com: Was it weird being in studio with cats like Justin Bieber?
Nipsey Hussle: Justin Bieber? The funny thing about lil’ dude is that before his record came out, right when I got signed to Epic, he was in the office at Epic and he was playing his guitar and I’m like, “Who is this lil’ White boy, this boy singing, sounding all crazy down the hall” and I went and hollered at him. I felt his star power way back then, and I’m like this nigga got it. And we met up again at the session and he [was] like, “Yeah, I told you I was gonna do it, Nip.” And I was like, “Yeah, my nigga, fa’ sho, keep doing your thing.” So I got a lot of love and respect for Justin Bieber.
XXLMag.com: So what were you talking to Quincy about?
Nipsey Hussle: I just introduced myself and was like, “Yo, QD is my nigga” and he got back at me like, “Yeah, QD is my nigga, too.” [Laughs] We laughed at that but Quincy was cool, though. He was humble, he took time and chopped it with me and just to be in the same studio and involved in a piece of work that somebody so great had they hands on, it was a good experience, and it was motivational. Like I went back to my studio and went into beast mode after that… That was really a battery in my back. I need it. I’m focused again, not to say that I lost focus, but you know lil’ things will be like check points and reinvigorate your grind. That was definitely one of them.
XXLMag.com: Can you break it down like how the song was recorded?
Nipsey Hussle: The singing part, everyone was doing individual tracks on top of the group tracks. Like, Justin Bieber would do his, the girl from the Pussycat Dolls would do hers, Busta did his and they would just stack it on top of each other like how you do a hook. But as far as the rapping, LL did the original lead vocal for the rap. Everybody rapped the same verse, we stacked our vocals and then after, LL, will.i.am went it, then Jamie Foxx, Snoop, myself. And what it was, after we laid our vocals in the studio, we all got together to record the visual, and that’s when everybody had their individual mic and we rapped it at the same time. As far as the recording, everybody did it individually and for the video part of it, everybody had their own mic and it was kind of like a choir type situation.
XXLMag.com: Oh, so there’s an actual rap part on it?
Nipsey Hussle: Yeah, I’m like at first when they called me, I’m like, “Shit, am I gonna write, you gonna have me write my shit?” But it was a 12-bar verse. I think LL wrote it and it was just talking about the disaster, similar to how everybody need to come together, it was you know uplifting lyrics. It wasn’t nothing corny, it was something that people would be able to relate to but still universal.
XXLMag.com: Was Jay-Z and Em there? I read that they were, but I didn’t see them in the group pictures.
Nipsey Hussle: By the time I got there, Jay or Em wasn’t there but I heard that they was there earlier, and they was a part of it but I guess they isolated the booth when it was their time or something but I cant really confirm ’cause I didn’t see them in person. —Jesse Gissen