Hop is Back: Catching up with Hopsin on the Knock Madness Tour [Interview]
Edmonton, AB – On May 9, our friends at Nightshift Entertainment brought Hopsin to Edmonton to perform at Union Hall. The Los Angeles native just kicked off his Canadian leg of the Knock Madness Tour three days prior, and we all knew we were in for one hell of a show. I was fortunate enough to sit down with Hop before he hit the stage – and I’m not going to lie – I was nervous. Real nervous. I’ve done interviews before, but this was my first interview solo-dolo. (Wait – what? No Sarah Sussman in sight). However, I knew that an opportunity – such as this – was huge. I had a job to do and I wasn’t about to let nerves get the best of me.
Hopsin arrived at the venue about an hour before he was scheduled to perform. The local opening acts were just wrapping up and the energy throughout the building was on 10. With bass pounding and the crowd screaming in the background – Andrew Lynn (on the snap-shots for HipHopCanada) and I entered Hopsin’s dressing room. Hopsin’s DJ (and Funk Volume label-mate), DJ Hoppa was sitting in the corner with his MacBook on his lap. Whatever it was that he was engaged with in that moment – he stopped – looked up with a friendly smile and went right back to work. Hopsin stood casually beside DJ Hoppa as he shook our hands to greet us. In an instant – my nerves vanished. Hopsin’s cool and welcoming demeanour gave me the sense of ease that I needed. I was more than ready to get things poppin’.
“…I do feel like I’m truly an outcast. It’s hard for me to make “rapper-friends” because I just don’t have anything in common with any of the people that I run in to.” – Hopsin
Hop was open and honest as we chopped it up about the success of his founded label (Funk Volume), his opinion on XXL‘s 2014 Freshman Class, the concept behind the iconic Ill Mind of Hopsin series, and finding his place in this machine we call the rap game.
Interview conducted by Rosa Jason for HipHopCanada
Photography by Andrew Lynn for HipHopCanada
Rosa Jason: It’s Rosa Jason here with HipHopCanada and I’m fortunate enough to sit here with West Coast rapper, Hopsin. We’re here at Union all at the Knock Madness Tour in Edmonton. Welcome, Welcome!
Hopsin: Thank you, thank you.
Rosa Jason: Is this your first time here in Edmonton?
Hopsin: Umm no – I’ve been here before. I think in 2011 for I am RAW Tour.
Rosa Jason: Since 2011 you have blown up. How has the second time around been so far?
Hopsin: It’s a big-ass crowd out there.
Rosa Jason: The line-up was around the building – that’s huge!
Hopsin: Yeah that’s crazy. When I first came up here it was a small crowd. Very small crowd.
Rosa Jason: Well to start things off – I wanted to congratulate you for all of your success with your founded label Funk Volume.
Hopsin: Thank you.
Rosa Jason: Not one – but three artists from FV have made the XXL Freshman Class. Yourself in 2012, Dizzy Wright in 2013, and now Jarren Benton has made the 2014 cover that was just released this week. So how do you feel about all of this?
Hopsin: I mean – to me – I always had the idea of building a dope label. So I truly believe that Funk Volume has a real ear for hearing talent. And getting the XXL covers for all the artists – that’s just one step of many steps to come. To us that’s just – it’s easy – but I don’t want to make it sound like it’s too easy. But to us – we got that in the bag. And it’s not because connection wise, it’s just that we grind a lot. So why not? I feel like we deserve it one way; whether we’re picked from the fans or if XXL picks us, we deserve to be on there every year. Every time we bring a new artists on.
Rosa Jason: Absolutely. And not that you have anything to prove, but that’s never really happened before. So that’s a huge accomplishment.
Hopsin: Yeah – we’re definitely making independent history.
Rosa Jason: So I gotta ask: what are your thoughts on the rest who made it on the cover this year?
Hopsin: I haven’t got a chance to look up a lot of the guys. I’m a fan of Chance the Rapper. Rich Homie Quan, I like his stuff too. Oh – and Jon Connor – he’s the homie. I like Jon Connor’s stuff a lot, so he deserves to be on there. But…I still got to look them up. I haven’t had the chance to get to it.
Rosa Jason: Oh I get it. It’s hard to keep up sometimes.
Hopsin: Yeah. But besides Jarren Benton; Chance the Rapper is my favourite person on there.
Rosa Jason: I just wanted to ask you a little about the Ill Mind Series. It’s received a massive reception on YouTube; millions and millions of hits between all six videos. Where did that original concept come from? Was making the series part of the plan or was it something that just kind of progressed naturally?
Hopsin: Making the series was part of the plan – but it was never supposed to be just rapping every time. It was just going to be something different that just deals with my life. It could be; day in the life, could be me rapping, could be me skateboarding, maybe me drawing something. But then I just decided to start making it about rap. And every year I just wanted to do something different that I haven’t done [with the Ill Mind]. The Ill Mind 4; that’s when I took it to a whole new level with me. Then Ill Mind 5; I talk about something that we don’t really talk about in society. So that one blew up. Then Ill Mind 6; about my friend who was on crystal meth. I always want to – it’s pretty much whatever I feel like doing that year. I’m not sure if I’m going to do one this year or not.
Rosa Jason: No? Well – you probably didn’t – did you expect?
Hopsin: Oh no. I didn’t expect it to be big like they are. I thought I’d stop at three, but I don’t know.
Rosa Jason: It’s amazing. I was just watching them this week, it’s just crazy. Millions and Millions [of hits] on every single one, so congratulations on that.
Hopsin: Thank you very much.
Rosa Jason: So you don’t drink.
Rosa Jason: You don’t smoke weed. Or any drugs of that kind.
Rosa Jason: I think that’s such a positive influence to your fans – because you really don’t see a lot of that in hip-hop these days. Do you find a challenge sending those messages? Because a lot of rappers are talking about; lean, “turnin’ up”, and molly…
Hopsin: Yeah – sometimes it is difficult to find my place in hip-hop because I do feel like I’m truly an outcast. It’s hard for me to make “rapper-friends” because I just don’t have anything in common with any of the people that I run in to. I don’t feel too many connections [off that] because I live a different lifestyle than a lot of the people I run in to. And – sometimes – I wish I did make that music because I feel it’s easy. And it’s easy come up. But at the same time; that’s not me though. I’m not gonna rap about some fake shit that I can’t stand behind. I just find ways to put myself into all the songs that I do. But it is difficult because I actually have to strategize. There’s a way it can come off too corny; if I’m going too preachy on drugs and alcohol [and all that]. So I gotta find a balancing point to where people can hear it; but they won’t really feel like I’m saying – what I’m saying – until they actually listen deeply into it.
Rosa Jason: Regardless. It’s such a good message. And you say it with such conviction that for me – personally – I wouldn’t think that it’s corny. You can tell you are just spittin’ the truth. It’s dope.
Hopsin: Thank you.
Rosa Jason: As I was doing my research I read that once this tour wraps up; you’ll be taking a hiatus off of being in the public eye and focusing more on music. Can you tell us a little bit about what projects you’ll be working on?
Hopsin: I still have this EP that I’m working on with Travis Barker. We gotta finish that. I’ve been busy flying around everywhere so we haven’t got the chance to finish it up. We gotta couple songs done, we don’t got a title for that yet. You know – I’m just trying to find what’s next for myself. I feel like I’ve kind of maxed out on the stuff that I’ve been doing. I know how to do – and I keep doing it – but as an artist I want to do something new now. I’ve been that crazy rapper with the white contacts. I don’t know if I’ll lose the white contacts or not.
Rosa Jason: No?
Hopsin: Sometimes I want to – sometimes I don’t – but just music wise I want to figure out which direction I want to go. I want to go back to the drawing board; do something new, challenge myself. You know? And aside from that; I don’t want to tour too much over the next year or so because I want to focus more on my personal life as well. I’m gonna be 30 in like a year in a half or so…
Rosa Jason: Ohhhh welcome to the club! [laughs]
Hopsin: Yeah [laughs] and then you just think like, “Man I’m gonna be 30. That means I’m gonna be 40 in 10 years.” So I gotta start planning my future as far as wife and kids – and things that I want to do – cause I don’t want to start that at 40. I don’t want to be 40 and…
Rosa Jason: Havin’ a baby?
Hopsin: Yeah. I want to be already working on it, I want to be able to bond with my girlfriend. I want everything to be solidified in my personal life. I don’t want to give my whole entire life to the music game, it doesn’t feel good. I’ve done that before and it doesn’t feel good. It destroys everything and you come home to nothing. So I just want to balance music and personal life. Just hop-in and do tours whenever I want [maybe]. Or just a few shows here and there and go back home – skateboard, be with my girlfriend, and just live.
Rosa Jason: That’s the way it should be. And – I mean – you came up so fast. It would be overwhelming! Things just happened so quickly that you wouldn’t have time to think about finding yourself.
Hopsin: Yeah, it’s crazy.
Rosa Jason: I get that. So we’ll just wrap things up here. Any final thoughts – anything you want to share with HipHopCanada?
Hopsin: I appreciate all the support that Canada has been showin’. You guys have been down with me since [back when] I dropped my RAW album, so I appreciate everything you guys have done for me. You guys are definitely one of the first hardcore fans that I’ve had – as far as me building a fan base – so thank you guys.
Rosa Jason: Well we’re so happy to have you here – and again – that line up was around the block. So they are ready for you.
Hopsin: It’s crazy. And thank you as well.
Interview conducted and recorded by Rosa Jason for HipHopCanada
Photography by Andrew Lynn for HipHopCanada
Tweets by @HipHopCanada