Interview: Rapper Nipsey Hussle on West Coast Hip-Hop and Rolling Sixty Crips
"I mean Aspen, Portland: They're on the West Coast, but for an L.A. dude it's like the middle of nowhere. We got U.S. Marshals hopping on the bus in Salt Lake City."
Not since the emergence of The Game on the national hip-hop scene has Los Angeles had such a promising new rapper as Nipsey Hussle. A member of the notorious Rolling Sixty Crips from the Crenshaw and Slauson neighborhood of Los Angeles, Nipsey has--on the strength of two volumes of his Bullets Ain't Got No Name mixtape series, narrated in a sing-songy flow that recalls an edgier Snoop Dogg--steadily gained national attention. It's a fact not lost on his musical sponsor, Game, who has brought Nipsey along on his most recent national tour, which stops at the Blender Theatre on Saturday. We talked to Nipsey about his youth, his music, and touring in America's other badlands.--Chris Ryan
Tell me a little about growing up in LA
I grew up on the Westside of L.A.: Crenshaw district. That area was controlled by gangs and in my teenage years I got involved with that lifestyle. I like to say I grew up better than some and worse than others. I don't like to tell no sad story about how it was so rough coming up. I had the same drama a lot of young black kids had: drugs, gangbanging, violence. But I also had a love for music and when I saw a lot of my friends, a lot of the people around me going off to jail, music is what sent me in a different direction.
Were you more of a child of N.W.A, or was it more Death Row?
Definitely Death Row. Born in '85, grew up in the 90's so definitely Snoop, Dre, a little bit of Ice Cube, but mostly Snoop and Dre. Me and my friend would rap the whole Chronic album. I'd be Dre and the lil' homie would be Snoop, and then we'd switch off--just rapping along with the words. Half the stuff we didn't know what it meant, we'd just be saying it. We were just fascinated with the sound.
I always kind of wondered about the way that album, and the Death Row stuff that came after it, how much it impacted people's lifestyles out there. Like did the lifestyle make the music, or did the music make the lifestyle.
Yeah, chicken or the egg. One thing I can say is that The Chronic really impacted the suburbs. I think that certain areas, like where I grew up, obviously that had an impact on the music, but the music transported that lifestyle all over the map. The kids were a little more impressionable and I think some of those records took ideas about gangbanging and spread 'em around. For us, in South Central, that was like, "Finally someone is talking about us." But we weren't infatuated with khakis and Chucks or anything. That was already the style, you know?