Earlier this week, Nipsey Hussle and DJ Skee announced a partnership that would bring the two West Coasters together, with Skee handling brand development and marketing for Nipsey, while also becoming his manager. The venture also brings each of their companies together, as Skee Music and SkeeTV, which has nearly a billion views across all platforms, will be linking with Hussle’s All Money In imprint, as well as his Crenshaw clothing line. The former XXL Freshman and influential DJ took some time out to speak with XXL about the partnership, Nipsey’s debut album and rumors of him joining Rick Ross’s Maybach Music. Hussle in the house. —Adam Fleischer (@adamxxl)
XXLMag.com: You guys did Bullets Aint Got No Names Vol. 1 together in 2007, so you’ve been working together for a while, but why did you feel like now is a time to partner up in a new way?
Nipsey Hussle: From my perspective, both what I’m doing and what Skee’s doing—we’ve made a lot of progress. The platform that he’s built, with SkeeTV, Skee Music, his whole brand, it compliments what I’m doing as an independent artist. I think Skee saw ahead of time, and he built a home for new artists. I anticipated it also. It was just a conversation, after we worked together on the TMC project, when we brought it up, it just made sense for what we were both doing. It’s an organic fit.
DJ Skee: Absolutely. I’ve always been a fan and supporter since day one. His presence on record is second to none and he’s one of my favorite artists that I personally listen to. But for us, we’re real selective with who we work with, especially on the artist side, because we have to look at everything as a business. We did a corporate campaign with Nipsey and LG, and we did an in store signing to celebrate his mixtape, and we had kids waiting outside at like five in the morning without even a ton of promotion. It’s amazing what he’s done on his own up until this point. So, pooling our resources, we can make everything bigger and create a win-win situation for everybody. And try to do some stuff that a lot of people talk about in the industry—Oh, yeah, I’m doing it independent—I think we can be on the forefront of executing that. Especially with Nipsey, it’s more than just the music. From the art that he has, to his clothing line, it’s a great situation for us.
Nip, you’ve had some ups and downs, and been on the grind for a minute. You’ve been on a major and you’ve done it independently. What have you learned that you’re gonna use moving forward to reach the point you hope to be at?
Nipsey: I got signed at the end of 2007, and in that time since then, it seemed like the game changed. We was right at that transition point. While I was trying to do the label thing, and doing it traditionally—chase a single, get a record to radio—there was also a groundswell movement that I was a part of, too—with the blog sites, the mixtapes, and engaging social networks. I was building myself in both lanes. It seemed like the stuff we were doing outside of the label was actually working more, and it was connecting with the fans more directly. When it was evident that we wasn’t going to go through Epic, I felt like it was more of an opportunity than it was something to be upset about, because we got to step back and put our full energy into what was working for us. We stopped chasing radio and started giving people the music we felt they wanted.
Skee, what is it about what you’ve been able to see Nipsey do on his own that makes you want to get involved, and where do you hope to take this, ideally?
Skee: It always starts with the music. It seems like he’s in the best place in his life. Beyond that, seeing how focused he was. I’ve worked with a lot of artists through my career, and you can only do so much for them; they really have to put in work as well.For where we see us going, I honestly don’t know. Nipsey’s on the road 15 days a month, without any real push. I’m excited to see what us enhancing that can do. We want to put out an album later this year, and if that’s independent, we’re totally comfortable. We’ve all done the major label thing. If there’s stuff that makes sense, we’ll explore it, but we’re just kind of seeing where the wind takes us and doing stuff that’ll be best for the brand in the long run. We’re both about trying to do something that hasn’t been done, and take the world over.
We’ve been hearing about South Central State of Mind for a while. Is that still the title?
Nispey: I wouldn’t go into saying that just yet. I’m recording a lot of new music, so I wouldn’t wanna mislead. It’s a possibility that we stick with that title, but it’s a possibility that we don’t. The closer we get to completing the project, we’ll be able to step back and see what it sounds like and see if that makes sense. Either way, we gonna put out something official.
Will there be a mixtape or anything before album?
Nipsey: Absolutely. Me and Skee are working on some stuff right now. Without going too much into detail, I’m in the studio real heavy. I just went on a crazy feature run. I’ve done records with a lot of artists in the game that I’m a fan of and that got movements and people watching them right now. We back in the studio 24/7, so I’m sure we gonna have more music than we end up using on the album. I’m also doing some collab projects with a couple people that we gonna announce closer to the summer. We gonna put the foot on the gas as far as content. And we not gonna throw out anything just to throw it out there. It’s gonna be upgraded. Like Skee said, I’m in a creative zone right now. The music is better than it’s ever been. The momentum we have, and the excitement, it’s time to really give the people something they can hold onto.
Did you ever find yourself out of that zone?
Nipsey: Never for an extended period of time did I feel like I was out of the zone. But it’s frustrating because at a certain point, if you a person that takes responsibility for yourself, you get to asking: Is it you? Are you doing something wrong? It’s easy to blame the label. It’s easy to blame the teams around you. But I don’t live like that. I share my success and I take all my failures as my own. A lot of times, I would question, Is it something I’m doing wrong? But then my intelligence told me otherwise, like, Nah, it’s just not the perfect fit. Timing is everything. We never dropped a mixtape that wasn’t well received. We never put out a project that the fans didn’t love and we couldn’t tour off of. It was just the situation we were in, the timing wasn’t right. The people that was in the position to push the button didn’t have a full understanding or a full belief in what we were doing. Which is cool, we ain’t at that. But I feel like now, we’ve gotten to step back, reevaluate things, strengthen our foundation, build a power team, and figure out what we doing, where everybody believes and everybody is a specialist in the field that they play. It feels different this time.
There have been some rumors and tweets about you and Maybach Music Group teaming up. Is there anything there?
Nipsey: I’m a fan of Ross, I’m a fan of Maybach, Meek, Wale. From a business perspective and just a fan of they music. I ain’t gona really go into no further details about it, but I’m a fan of it and I feel what they doing all the way.