Hip Hop fans remember Ruthless Records for being an introduction point to N.W.A. [click to read], The D.O.C. and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony [click to read]. Owned by Eazy E, the famed imprint also played home to artists including will.i.am, DJ Quik [click to read] and Above The Law throughout its 23 years in business. However, with few new releases after Eazy‘s 1995 death, and even less after the Bone Thugs camp vacated the label in the early ’00s, the legendary Rap label has overhauled its roster.
In addition to Stevie Stone, one of the label’s new hopefuls is 23 year-old Hopsin. A native of Panorama City in the valley, the emcee, who shares a love of film and skateboarding has brought his many talents to the label that’s negotiated a new distribution deal through Sony Red.
“Before I got the deal, I was doing little Hip Hop showcases every now and then, and basically just promoting myself on MySpace. I didn’t really have a lot of knowledge as far as marketing myself, ’cause it was just me,” Hopsin admitted to HipHopDX, speaking from the Ruthless offices in Los Angeles. “I was making all the beats that I rap to and directing all my videos, but I just didn’t know how to get out there; I didn’t have a manager too.” In an age where artists like Drake and Mickey Factz have created movements without labels, the west coast rapper says label support made him national, “The buzz wasn’t really, really that big. It was nothing, except around my neighborhood.”
Although he appreciates the tradtional label structure, Hopsin is hardly a traditional artist. A triple-threat, he raps, produces and directs his own videos. “Nobody can write my rhymes for me, ’cause they don’t know my life. Nobody can direct my videos for me, ’cause they don’t see my vision,” he said, about his creative demands on his art. In an age pioneered by Dr. Dre 15 years ago, where rappers direct their own videos, Hopsin says his hardest task in the process is creating a team. “Find a good camera-man! It gets real tough,” shared Hopsin, noting numerous occassions where he employed crews that did not measure up.
Being focused on music, the rapper echoes the sentiments heard in the Midwest from Kid Cudi and B.o.B. in the south, as far as isolation and sacrifice. “I had to throw a part of life away. I was in high school, but I didn’t have fun. I didn’t do the girlfriend thing; I was focused on music. It’s now paying off,” he said, claiming his peers today are likely “trapped in the matrix.”
As far as the matrix of the music industry, Hopsin says that Ruthless has innovative plans to unveil their third-generation acts. “I was told that they’re pushing everybody out at the same time. They’ve got an individual focus on every artist. [Label CEO and Eazy E widow Tomica Wright] doesn’t want to specifically brand the label, she wants to focus on the mind of each artist individually. Eventually, you’ll know what label we’re all on, but it’s all about the individual aspects of the artist.”
Asked if he upolds any of the Ruthless traditions in music-making, Hopsin told DX, “I’m all about the rawness – being raw and saying what I want. I’m not gonna say, ‘F the president,’ but if I have a topic to speak on, as far as other rappers, or how I feel about a girlfriend or a homie, i express how I feel. That’s what I feel I bring back to the new roster at Ruthless Records.” Joking that Panorama City is hardly Compton, the 23 year-old also made commentary on Rap’s evolution since the ’80s. “If I rap about guns, not everybody has [used] a gun in their life. But if I rap about fighting, everybody has been in some sort of confrontation in their life. I do it in a way that’s acceptable.”
The fist-fights, break-ups and commentary is reportedly coming together in a 2010 body of work titled Gazing At The Moonlight. With two singles already surfacing (“Pans In The Kitchen” and “I Am Here”), Hopsin explained his title song as, “A deep, conscious song talking about how a lot of people sell themselves out and in a way, sell their souls to the Devil ’cause they don’t have the true skill to do it. I’m explainin’ to everybody that I’m not gonna fall to that influence.” The album will be entirely self-produced, with self-directed videos, including an early work, posted below.
Hopsin is said to be joining a national Hip Hop tour this summer. HipHopDX will keep you updated.