“The whole thing that got me here was controversy,” admits Hopsin. In 2010, The Panorama City, California native’s back was against the wall. He was unhappily signed to Eazy-E’s former label with a debut (Gazing At The Moonlight) failing to meet his artistic and commercial expectations after years of acting on a major network and a feature film. Hardly a “kiddie rapper,” the emcee took to the Internet and released, Sag My Pants, an instant rewind.
“I lashed out against Ruthless Records. I knew that would have some shock value. But at the time, I had to do whatever I could do.” Hopsin’s survival mechanisms have guided him through life. As a youth placed in Special Education classes, Hop overcame the obstacles to become a video editor, music producer in addition to rapper. He is also co-founder of the low profile indie-powerhouse Funk Volume, currently with 100,000 YouTube subscribers and 145,000 Facebook Likes. This 2012 XXL Freshman is at the top of his class.
In an era defined by cosigns and flashiness, Hopsin and his Funk Volume cohorts took to the rapper’s basement. Raised on the music of Eminem and 50 Cent, Hop studied how to engage fans, both with sharp lyricism and careful branding. Also having a passion for video production, Hop succeeded in going viral without big budgets. “I want people to know it’s a Hopsin video. A lot of things matter: Colours, cuts, wardrobe, and acting. Some rappers come out and look so fake instantly. You just gotta learn how to make yourself into something that there’s not a lot of things about you that people can knock.” On his self-released sophomore album, Raw, Hopsin embodied a confidence in the vein of Hip Hop legends. “I realised we had something. I made $4,000 in one day off that album. It’s still a lot to me today, but back then, I was living off just a few dollars a week.” Following that, Hop was performing for hundreds nightly on the I Am Raw Tour. The mastermind recalls, “I knew things were taking off a lot bigger and faster than we expected.”
In the three years since Raw, Hopsin has steadily supplied his thousands of album-buying fans with free music, notably his Ill Mind Of Hopsin series. The artist is still fearless in maintaining the spirit of lunchroom battles with SwizZz years ago; “I don’t care to burn a bridge if I didn’t want to cross it anyway.” In the meantime, he appeared on Tech N9ne’s video single Am I A Psycho? as well as a Top 3 album by Insane Clown Posse, The Mighty Death Pop.
With cover stories and a plethora of seven-figure YouTube content, the self-made talent is sticking to his formula on his third LP, Knock Madness. “It’s gonna be hard to top - I’m calling it right now,” he boasts, claiming it’s just “an enhancement” of his work. Moreover, he wants to punctuate his career. “This will probably be my last album for a long time.” Elaborating, the recluse promises “the biggest tour I’ve ever done, and I’m leavin’ for a while” as devotes his attention to Funk Volume.
While controversy may have made Hopsin a star, skill and courage made him a fan favourite. Whether making art in his basement, crowd-surfing or skiing Down Under, Hopsin has the attitude and charisma that makes hip-hop unpredictable again.