LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — He was one of tonight’s nominees for Best Rap Album.
He, of course is Nipsey Hussle, and LA original who hails from South Los Angeles.
CBS2 Anchor Pat Harvey recently sat down with Hussle to discuss the roots of his rap and what he’s doing to safeguard his success.
In a crowded field of talented rappers, Hussle stands out.
He’s at home in Inglewood’s 1500 Sound Academy where he worked on his Grammy-nominated album “Victory Lap.”
She congratulates him for his Grammy nomination for the album.
“Yes, ma’am,” Hussle says, “That sounds good.”
Pat starts the interview by asking about the rapper’s childhood.
“I grew up in LA in the 90s, you know, in the Crenshaw district,” he says. “Gang culture was what was going, outside my family structure.”
“I was raised by my mom, grandma. She was real big on keeping a tight family and big on love. That was my home life,” he recalls. “Then outside it was a little chaotic.”
Hussle was interested in music from an early age. Pat asked him when he started writing lyrics.
“Probably like 9,” he says, matter-of-fact.
In a 2006 interview with Davey D on Hard Knock TV, a then 21-year-old Hussle talked about the roots of rap.
Hussle performs at the BETX Opening Concert at L.A. LIVE on June 28, 2014 in LA (credit: Jerod Harris/Getty Images for BET)
“It come from the struggle,” he said, “People got to express they struggle when you got no other means of liberating yourself. It’s through spoken word and expression.”
By the time he recorded his 2010 mix-tape “The Marathon,” Hussle was rapping about some pretty dark moments.
“My brother was in prison, we lost our home,” he recalls.
He also says he had a run-in with the law. Pat asks him how long was he in jail.
“I was in jail less than 90 days,” he says, “I was on a probation violation. And it was a tricky case. It could have went either way.”
Pat says, “I asked you that question because I heard that you learned something in jail — you make more money selling hair than you can selling drugs?”
In addition to being a song writer and rapper extraordinaire, Hussle is becoming a businessman in a big way.
He has a retail shop at Crenshaw and Slauson. He does big business with imported hair, his Crenshaw-branded clothes, He’s also put some of his money into real estate and music.
Like one of his lyrics says, “I never met a hundred million dollar drug dealer.”
But there are plenty of hundred million dollar music brands. “There’s billion dollar hip hop brands,” he says.
That’s why it’s easy for him to focus on success and keep his eyes on all his goals.
So his rap name begs the question — has Nipsey Hussle heard of Nipsey Russell, the 50s and 60s era comedian, game show panelist?
“Of course,” Hussle says, “I didn’t experience his comedy. One of my older homies threw the name at me. I like how it sounded. I got educated after the fact.”
And Pat asks something few people know. What your real name?
“My real name is Ermias Asghedom. My first name means God will rise,” he says.
The name came from his father who was born in the East African nation of Eritrea.
He’s been to the country twice and “that was life-changing,” the rapper says. “To see my family breathe the air for a little bit.”
(credit: Denise Poon/CBS2)
Hussle has fame, money and the power that goes with it. Pat asked what to do with it.
“My experience with power is you can maintain it or you can get it taken from you. Get you some newfound power, and go crazy. It can get taken from you quick.”
He doesn’t see that happening.
“I’ll try to just ground myself and be focused so we don’t make the mistakes, you know, I mean because it’s easy to fumble.”
Tonight’s Grammys were his first time attending. Pat asked if he had any expectations for music’s biggest night?
“I think that being nominated is a big honor,” Hussle says, “so I’m going to just enjoy the night and whatever happens.”
“We’re happy that we’re on the list,” Hussle says.
You can follow Nipsey on Instagram or Twitter @NipseyHussle.