Nipsey Hussle On Major Labels: “We’ve Been Colonized; Hip-Hop Is Like Africa”
You said the other day that you think that the major label music industry, for the most part at least, is a dead industry. Chance the Rapper said the same thing, and he’s another who has resisted the offers of labels. What do you think the industry is going to morph into?
Music is always going to be present in our lives; we need it to live. I think there will always be people who stand to gain from this economy around music. But I think that the business model that these major, giant companies are attached to, I think that if they don’t adapt, they’re gonna end up like Blockbuster. Like Tower Records, in a warehouse. We’ve seen it happen; it’s an arrogant business model. Because when you get an artist like Nipsey Hussle at the table and he’s telling you, “Look man, let me be involved in ownership, it’s gonna cost you the same amount of money, I don’t want a check up front, I just need production, marketing, distribution and access to your network of retail.” And we’re at the table and they’re arrogant enough to let me walk out, tell me that they’ll write me a check but that I can’t have no ownership. That’s not how we work, that’s not how we operate. That’s the reason they’re gonna turn into Blockbuster. And we’re gonna be Netflix. When I say we, I mean the new generation of artists. They’re gonna create their own business models, and we’re gonna give up this idea of super-sized celebrity, and we’re just gonna get back down to the bottom line of doing what we love and getting paid for it.
“I’m personally offended by the business models of these major labels…and I feel like the culture should be offended. We should give all the labels the boot, and tell them we don’t want them no more unless they get their mind right.”
Who else would you say is in that new generation of artists alongside you?
Dom Kennedy, Curren$y. I think Wiz Khalifa—even though he’s on a major label, he built his situation outside of the majors first, which gave him a unique situation. A lot of these artists coming up after us—especially with what just happened with this Crenshaw thing—I think the game has reset. It’s now, make a hot mixtape, be a good artist, and also having an innovative business model is now a requisite.
What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned from this experience?
Honestly, not to sound arrogant, but I think I proved what I had been trying to scream out for the last couple years, or at least took a step toward proving it. I think that a demonstration on a small level in the battle, the war that we’re fighting, it represents a win. It’s like David and Goliath to an extent. They threaten artists—you’re gonna become irrelevant, you better sign, you can’t do it without us—whether they do it overtly or not, that’s the relationship. It’s like, well, go ahead and do it on your own, but I hope you got a million dollars to promote yourself, because you can’t compete with us at radio, you can’t get your shit in chain stores because you don’t have the relationships. It’s an arrogant stance, and this is our culture. It’s like we’ve been colonized. Hip-hop is like Africa right now; our natural resources, we’re watching them get taken from us. The people that control and own the lion’s share of the assets aren’t indigenous to the culture at all. It ain’t about white or black or race, it’s about love for the culture of hip-hop. I just feel like things are necessary, things like this have to happen, or we’re gonna end up raped. We’re gonna end up like other genres. And then the people move on.
I feel like hip-hop is the culture of the world right now. I’ve been to every country, and I’ve seen it—they may not speak English, but they know who 50 Cent is, they know who Jay Z is, they know Tupac. I was in a remote part of Africa, and they got Tupac tacked on the wall. That showed me the power of hip-hop culture. And the natural resource—the pain, the struggle, the story—I think the people that are indigenous to that should have some control, or some stake in it. I’m personally offended by the business models of these major labels. When you walk in with an artist with a built brand, a built fanbase, who understands what he wants, and you say you can’t do it, but you can cut me a check? I’m offended, and I feel like the culture should be offended. We should give all the labels the boot, and tell them we don’t want them no more unless they get their mind right.
What else have you been working on? I know you got Victory Lap on deck.
Yeah, you know, that’s like the Detox of my catalog. [Laughs] There’s more of a vision for that project, but it is a time thing. I think that’s another thing with hip-hop artists; we’re under scrutiny as far as how long it takes us to do this. If we wanna have timeless projects that live forever—I wanna make a Dark Side of the Moon, I wanna make an Adele, 21-type album, at least once in my career—I wanna have one of them where you can look on the charts and see it in the Top 40 in history. I think hip-hop can do that. One of the things that will stop us is having these time restrictions and these social pressures of being in the marketplace every six, seven months or else you ain’t hot anymore, or you fell off. I think it just takes somebody secure enough in themselves who can withstand the social pressure and just stick to their guns, and that’s what I’m doing with Victory Lap.
When it’s ready, I’m gonna give it to the people, and until them I’m gonna keep feeding them with music just so that the people that are out in the barbershops arguing for me, out in the streets arguing for me, just so I can give them ammo. That’s why I’m gonna stay in the marketplace, just for them. Not for the people that say, “Oh, he’s hot.” None of that shit. My brand evangelists, the ones that are out here fighting for me, they already know. They’re fighting for me, and I’m gonna give them that ammo. I don’t want them out there with empty guns anymore.