Interview: Hopsin – Breaking the Norm

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Marcus Hopson –who goes by the moniker Hopsin– is not your average rapper. He’s not average when it comes to his lyrical game, nor is he your average-looking MC. We all do things to separate ourselves from the pack (admit it, we try to make it look cool while doing so) and in Hopsin’s case, the 26-year-old rapper hailing from Panorama City, Los Angeles found his niche through the white contacts he dons throughout his music videos. The white-contact-wearing, skateboard-rapping MC can be found on your television screens, having recently been featured in Tech N9ne’s Halloween-like music video for “Am I A Psycho?” alongside B.O.B. It’s a fitting record for Hopsin to appear on, coming in on the second verse and ripping it to shreds both lyrically and well, literally, as he bursts into the scene holding a chainsaw and shows off his “psycho-like” side.

In addition to “killing” it on Tech N9ne’s music video, Hopsin has also been killing it in the rap game lately. Just last week, he caught the attention of hip-hop heads from all around the world by making it onto the highly coveted yet always scrutinized XXL Freshmen 2012 cover. He, alongside 9 other talented, young rooks got all wild and crazy during the cover shoot, showing off their unique personalities (being the out-of-the-norm character that Hopsin is, he would be the one holding onto a brick and looking like he’s about to drop it on Iggy Azalea’s head). Hopsin’s personality and character is all over the place. He’s different and sometimes “out-there” in his music videos (check out the white girl in Ill Mind of Hopsin 4) and doesn’t shy away from controversy. Not scared of awkward or controversial moments, Hopsin has a knack of hopping on records and dissing numerous artists in the game right now. Listen to a few of his tracks and you’ll most certainly hear him name-drop some rap figures in a not-so-polite way.

That’s fine with him, however. He says it’s not personal and it’s all hip-hop and competition –something he attributes to his upbringing– saying that it’s healthy for the game. It keeps him on his toes and is trying to bring that competitive edge back into the game, something that may be considered missing in today’s realm of new-school hip-hop.

Consider him old-school due to his environment growing up, but also don’t mistake the fact that he’s current, marketable and has a cult-like following on the interwebs. He’s independent, he’s a music video director, producer and actor who had gone through some difficult times back in his early school days. Now, having honed his rap skills for 12 years and counting, the Funk Volume star is about to build off the success of making the XXL cover by releasing his “Hop Madness” music video in the upcoming week as well as dropping his upcoming Knock Madness album, which has no release date as of now.

But in the moment, he’s going to enjoy the success and continue to push his movement for the rest of 2012 and let the world know that the Eminem-influenced MC is here to push his music into higher limits and reach out into an even wider fan base, all while doing so in his own unorthodox and sometimes twisted way –something only fitting for this self-proclaimed “crazy-looking black guy with white eyes.”

So first off, congratulations on the XXL cover.
Thanks, man. Appreciate it.

So what was going through your head when you were told you made the list?
Well, it’s about time. I’ve been working for 12 years on my rap skills and it’s about time they finally acknowledged me.

When you were nominated at first, did you think that you would’ve made the cut?
Yeah. I felt like I would. I felt like if I didn’t make it, they would be hating on me because 100 per cent, there’s no independent artist out there doing it bigger than me right now. I felt like I should’ve made it because of my numbers and my fan base should be enough.

With all you guys getting together, can you describe how the cover photo shoot day went?
It was cool. It was a lot of fun. We got to break a lot of stuff. I didn’t pick up any negative vibes from anybody. Everybody was cool. I got to talk one-on-one with Machine Gun Kelly. He’s a really cool person. He’s the coolest one of them all, in my opinion. We did our freestyle thing. It was a fun day.

It looked like you were going to drop that brick on Iggy’s head…
Yeah, I did that on purpose. [laughs] Not as any subliminal. It’s supposed to be wild and entertaining on the cover, so I did what I do.

So are we going to see you collab with any of those rappers?
As far as now, I don’t know and I probably wouldn’t collab with everybody on that cover. Probably one or two people, but as far as right now, nothing is set up.

Would those two people you mentioned be Machine Gun Kelly and maybe someone like French Montana?
I definitely want to collab with Machine Gun Kelly. I don’t know about everybody else. Everybody else there was bullshit, but a lot of people were. Some of them were dope MC’s and some of them weren’t.  But it’s not French Montana though. [laughs]

So what inspires on influences your music videos concepts? For example, on Ill Mind of Hopsin 4, you’re rapping inside a bedroom and it has over 8 million views.
Just old-school music videos. When you look at it, in the late 90s and early 2000s, they’re all really dope back then. It’s just that nobody does that no more. Nobody has an actual character that really stands out, so I wanted to bring that element back and come off fresh and dope. That’s what I learned from and that’s the environment I grew up in hip-hop. I was just showing people what I do and what I’m used to. It’s my world. [laughs]

In addition to rapping, you also produce, direct, act and edit. Do you put as much emphasis on those as you do with rapping?
Yeah. Not fully but rapping is just 100 per cent what I do. With directing and all that, I’m still learning how to do things. I have a lot to learn. I don’t have as many years under my belt in those areas as I do with rapping. With rapping, I have 12 years. Editing music, I probably have 9 or 10 years. I’m pretty good at that but directing, I only have like four years. It’s difficult editing videos. There’s a lot to learn.

Do you teach yourself or did you learn from somebody else?
I just had to learn it all myself. Through trial and error, learning, making mistakes and learning from them. As time went on, you just pick up the right way to do it and that’s the way it’s going. I still have a long way to go with videos and editing. I’m trying to learn mastering. I’m not good at it but I’m trying to get it.

I was watching the “Sag My Pants” video, and in the beginning, you said “Hollywood rappers.” So in your opinion, what makes or what is a “Hollywood rapper?”
A Hollywood rapper is a rapper who acts like life is about money, who tries to be cool off who he knows and who’s constantly trying to be fresh 24/7 and be “that guy.” Someone who is pretty much a program that doesn’t have a heart. A rapper who just walks around being completely ignorant and pretend things that aren’t important really are important. That’s what I consider a Hollywood-ass rapper.

Do you think there are a lot of Hollywood rappers out there?
Yes. Flooded with them.

You also diss rappers in your records, so is that like a personal thing or is it just hip-hop and competition?
Most of it is just hip-hop and competition. That’s the environment I grew up in and I’m keeping that element alive. Personally, I don’t have anything against anybody. I never say “Fuck you Lil Wayne” or “Fuck you, bitch-ass Drake.” I never do that because I don’t know these guys personally. It’s nothing personal since I don’t know them. There are things that I dislike about rapper’s messages, but overall, I do like competition. I’m a competitive person. I’m the guy that’s like, “You think you’re good? Check me out” and they go, “Oh you think that was good? Then check me out.” Then, I’ll be like, “Oh yeah, check this out.” I like that. It keeps people going and I think it’s healthy. It forces people to push themselves to the limit, like “Damn, this guy came pretty hard. I got to come correct.” Also, it’s the same if anybody bashes me. I got to come correct if I ever feel insulted, too.

You also don’t shy away from controversy, either.
Yeah, yeah. A lot of it depends. There are a lot of people who try to diss me. I’m not going to diss anybody that disses me because that’s just a lot of people I’ll be dissing. [laughs] It definitely has to be someone who I really feel insulted by or they have to be somewhat of a voice. If a guy just came out and starting rapping today and he disses me, I’m not going to respond because who the hell is that guy? What is he going to do with my life? Nothing. There’s no consequences and no pressure at all. Let’s just say Tyler, the Creator responded to me. Then, I can put pressure and wake up in the morning with people going, “You see what he did? Ohhh.” That’s when I’m like, fuck, I have to respond otherwise I’m a bitch. [laughs]

I wanted to ask you, do you feel like you get a lot of comparisons to a young Eminem?
Oh yeah. I get those a lot and there are definitely comparisons. I’m not going to ignore them. Eminem is dope and he’s been my biggest inspiration in hip-hop music so I learn a lot from him. He’s the type of MC where it’s hard to diss that guy because he knows so much. He’s just good all around in different types of styles and he also exposes himself. He calls out his flaws and he’s dope. It’s hard to attack someone like that. When I first saw Eminem, in my mind, I wanted to be that type of rapper where I’m limitless and I can do whatever I want and get away with it.

What’s your favourite Eminem song?
Right now it’s The Way I Am because I feel that song more right now than ever. I’ve known the song for years, but right now, I’m at a point in my career where I can understand what he was going through when he wrote it and I can really feel it on a whole new personal level. Before, it was just a dope song of yelling and talking shit about people, but now, it’s like “Damn. I get that. I understand that shit.”

And with the Eminem comparisons, does it ever get annoying?
It can. There are times where it gets annoying, but it’s starting to die down. People are starting to accept it like that’s who Hopsin is. A few are starting to look at me like Hopsin –this is what I do. It used to be a lot crazier. I used to go on forums and I would see Eminem, Eminem, Eminem, Eminem. But now, I’m into different styles. Me and Eminem have a lot of similarities but there are also a lot of differences.

I also wanted to talk about this: Your eyes. Are they contacts?
Yeah, they’re contacts. White contacts.

What made you want to wear them?
There are a lot of African-American rappers and I don’t have a record deal. I don’t have anything. I’m not on the radio. It’s hard for people to remember my face so I needed to find a way for people to remember me by. I was just going to be that weird skateboarder kid who wears white contacts and raps. With the white contacts, it wasn’t to be creepy. It was just so people can remember me. A lot of rappers have something you can remember them by. Whether it was Nelly coming out with his band-aid, Eminem with the blond hair, 50 Cent with the bullet-proof vest, Kanye with the broken jaw. [laughs] I don’t know, rappers just have different shit where people can look at him and be like, “Oh yeah, I remember that guy because I remember seeing that.” I want to be that guy where people remember seeing something. It’s like, “Oh, I remember those eyes.” That’s why I did it.

How did people react to the contacts when you first came out?
They were hating, of course. People hate on things that are different, but I don’t expect them to understand because if they understood, that means they probably seen it before or it wasn’t too hard to figure it out to begin with. If somebody says they’re going to build a spaceship out of this metal, somebody will be like what the hell, you going to make that spaceship fly? They’ll hate on it. They’ll be like “There’s no way he can make that bunch of metal fly. How is that possible? They don’t see the vision because they haven’t done the research on how it can work. But once that person makes the spaceship fly, they’re going to be like, “Oh shit! He did it. I knew he could do it the whole time!” Normally, a crazy-looking black guy with white eyes –you would think that it’s so un-cool that there’s no way that could fly in the rap game. There’s no way people could possibly accept that because it looks ridiculous. In my mind, I thought differently and I will always think differently. I feel like if you’re good at something, you can pull anything off. I learned that from Michael Jackson because the outfits that he wore were ridiculous. The crazy outfits –nobody could wear that stuff without getting laughed at, but Michael Jackson could. He was so dope where it’s just like people can’t hate on it. If you have a really good skill at something, you can come out as whatever you want.

Definitely. You can make it look cool if you’re talented.
Exactly. It can actually become a trend and that’s something I picked up as well.

You also mentioned skateboarding earlier. So what’s your worst skateboarding injury?
I broke my wrist when I first tried to drop in on a half-pipe. It was a half-pipe that was five feet high and I dropped in, slipped back and landed on my wrist and broke it in half.

Oh shit.
Yeah, it was horrible. It was my right wrist. I had to get a cast and it was so painful and I felt like quitting, but I didn’t. [laughs]

And you’re back at it.
Yeah. I still skateboard. I’ve been skateboarding for about 14 years going on 15. I don’t skate everyday so I’m not one of those guys you see at a skate park ripping everything up. I have my areas where I’m really good. You can definitely see my 14 years experience in some of the tricks that I do because they’re clean, but I don’t hit end-rails or go pro. I do hit nice, clean tricks and I can do all the basic, generic shit really well.

Follow Hopsin on Twitter

Interview by Michael Nguyen (xmikeynguyen)
Photos courtesy of Hopsin

 




  • fred

    hopsins the man. better rise to the top

  • Carlos Cjay Decayed

    Great interview keep up it up Hop!

  • http://paulanasmelange.com Paulana Lamonier

    Really good interview. Helped me really understand who Hopsin is as a person.

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