Native Son: Compton’s Very Own HITTA J3 is the Streets Smartest New Artist. Period, point blank. End of Discussion. CASE CLOSED.


Ink Tone Swep 
Images c/o TML 
Location Compton, California

Talk to me about Albertson and 142nd. What surrounded you as a youth coming up in Compton? Man! Where I come from it ain’t easy. All we know are the streets. That’s literally all that is surrounding you in every direction. We didn’t have the right influences coming up, weren’t shown the right examples. It’s difficult being raised in a place like my city, and Compton is a small city. It’s not big at all and there’s a lot of people packed in this small area. So as a Compton resident, you could just be going to the store and run into a random person scheming to kill you. It’s just a lot of hatred and jealousy. The neighborhood is not safe but by this being your home you protect it, and eventually in time you learn to see all the chaos and street activity as just a way of life. I adapted. And I found peace of mind through music.

I interviewed DJ Quik years ago, who said living in Compton was like being on top of a volcano. Calm one moment then things would suddenly erupt. How about now? Especially when Quik and his generation was coming up, the 80’s. Compton was a war zone. After so many years things change, though. People get focussed on other things. With each new generation more and more youngsters are honing in on other things. The internet gives them that access to see something different and then strive for that. We grew up only seeing what was surrounding us, they have a broader view to set their sights on. But when you live here you also have to accept the fact that a lotta things haven’t and won’t change, too. For example, my Granny and my Mama still live in my city. I pulled up on them in the Bentley truck today and brought some things home to them. They’re not going to allow crime in the streets to take their city from them and I respect that.

Has gang culture and structure changed considerably in the last 10, 15 years? Yes, definitely. We’re starting to see that we can come together. And I’m one of those artists who sees everyone coming together. That connection between Bloods and Crips is a big focal point of my music, because that’s been my whole entire life really. The gangs. The streets. Bloods and Crips can build together, because we aren’t each other’s problem. We have a lot of common enemies, though, like poverty for example. Like the lack of opportunities for our kids, like corruption in law enforcement. Those same problems belong to Bloods and Crips. We both see that now, but at the same time gang-banging ain’t dead. No matter what I choose to do with my life it’s not going to stop what’s going on outside in these streets. I can have a positive impact and I can help make my city a better place to live but there will always be gangs in LA.

Has gangsta rap made a resurgence? Seems like LA rap was recently more popularly linked to the creative, emo, artsy side, or conscious side of hip-hop, movements like Odd Future, Kendrick Lamar, Vince Staples, Casey Veggies. Of course, one could argue that these elements are also found in gangsta rap. I feel like it’s happening now because the right doors are opening for the right people, it’s coming back around to what’s real. It’s recycling back to how it was when you had Cube, Eazy, Tupac, Ice T. But a lot of people try to compare me to this person or that person. I can’t be compared to anyone really because I’m really from this and really lived it, so I’m rare. There’s no fraudulence with me.

How did life change after “Do Yo Gudda” and The Collect Call tape both hit so hard? After Do Yo Gudda I was able to see that it was possible. I got a bond with God, so I was positive the entire time, but that’s where it all materialized. But me, I’m still growing into being an artist and being off the streets. It ain’t been easy to go from this to that, the streets to the industry. The hardest part has been transitioning my friends, because they were so used to being in the streets, being in the neighborhood, being active. They have to break ties with certain things. It’s a process with a lotta growing pains.

“I’m Gone” and “Buss Down” off the Case Closed album are moving through the streets, getting a lot of play. And I like “In The Field” with Mozzy, it reminds of when you two did “Head on a Swivel”. But man, “Awake The Dead” with Boogie is the hardest song on the album to me. That’s a dope song. That’s one of my favorites. To be honest with you, I was just going through instrumentals and with me it don’t matter if I’m driving or whatever I’m doing, if I hear a dope ass beat I’m writing to it. So first I wrote the verse, then I heard the beat and it got me interested. The people I’m discussing in that song I brought up intentionally. They are not physically on earth, but their spirits are here. I have been shot twice, been on my death bed, felt like I was gone and saw a light that brought me back. From there, I know what it takes to awake the dead. People that lost their child, their friends, their families. Now you got that chance to speak to them. Boogie is the up-and-coming sound, he got his own fan base. That’s why I wanted him on it. If it’s a record no one thinks I’ma make, then I will make it. Me and Boogie grew up in the same neighborhood. He’s from around the corner, Kendrick is from around the corner, YG is from around the corner. So I feel like we’re all connected. We all saw the same things and got different things out of it, and that is the difference in our music.

Talk a little about TML, The Music Life. Who comes after Hitta and what other ventures do you have lined up? My brother Saint Malo from Compton. He’s been in my corner the whole time. We’ve been planning a way to make this shit pop. I been ready to eat. But what we learned is patience. You want to get your music and your company to the right people. It’s not easy because I’m around Crips. Saint Malo is a Crip. Our neighborhoods used to really beef, and I mean, ride through each other’s hoods shooting and in the streets fighting. Real beef, not some diss on a song. We both decided to put an end to it through music. To this day some of my homies don’t approve of it but they will have to respect it. We’re going to be better examples for the next generation, give them good examples. If I’m sidin’ with Crips they can too. There’s no conflict. The conflict starts with you, and that’s what most people don’t realize.

Here is a scenario: Suge Knight, Jay Z, Dr. Dre, and Russell Simmons all contact you, make similar offers for a TML label deal. Where do you take your company and why? That’s a good one, and a real thing at the same time. I don’t want to say Dre because so many others are over there, like Kendrick. I wouldn’t want to sign to another artist or feel like I need a super producer like Dr. Dre to make my career. I’ll say Russell, because I don’t need a cosign from another artist. He doesn’t have any history as an artist. Jay and Dre have both been artists. And Suge, I wouldn’t take that step because I ain’t no yes man. I’d go with Russell. He’d keep it all business. 

LeBron’s in LA now, better than Kobe? Hell Naw!! (Laughs!) Hell Naw!! I’ma be honest. I’m a Kobe fan. That number 24? Where I come from we rep that 24 and it reps us. I come from that block. That’s the neighborhood. But I was always more of a Kobe fan than a Lakers fan. I’m more into music than sports. But you are more likely to see me riding to Rick James or the Isley Brother’s than what’s out now. I don’t really vibe with the new school. You’ll catch me riding to the Hot Boys or some old school. I can’t really relate to this new shit and these new artists. A lot of them are really just creative players, get them some face tats, cut they hair a certain way, wear the right clothes and that’s their image. I wear the red flag on my head because I want n!66as to know this is what made me. This is the history of who I am. I’m going to take this flag and go global.

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