Hopsin took the rap Internet by storm on January 2 when he posted a photo on Instagram declaring that he’d been having problems with his business partner, Funk Volume co-founder and CEO Damien Ritter. The rapper had mentioned the issues had been occurring for some time, and that things had finally boiled over to a point where one of them had to leave the company. “Funk Volume is officially dead now thanks to the monster Damien Ritter,” Hopsin wrote.
I initially called bullshit on this news. Hopsin’s been known to troll in the past, and thanks to years of antics, has a cemented reputation of being Hip-Hop’s boy who cried wolf. His latest act seemed like the ultimate publicity stunt. But then Jarren Benton posted about leaving Funk Volume. So did Dizzy Wright. And Hopsin’s much anticipated punchline never arrived.
So how did we get here?
Funk Volume’s origin story is well known. Almost a decade ago, Hopsin was trapped in the clutches of Eazy-E’s widow, Tomica Wright. Meanwhile, Dame was laid off from his corporate gig at Deloitte Consulting. His younger brother, Justin Ritter, who was rapping with Hopsin under the moniker of SwizZz, made the introduction.
And as Dame told us on our Talking Points podcast last year, he helped Hopsin while the rapper was biding his time on the shelf at Ruthless Records. Then Dame had a lawyer file the paperwork for Hop’s release when the label declined the option on his second album. Even before his official split from Ruthless, Funk Volume was already Hopsin’s brainchild, and together the two partnered up to make the vision a reality.
Former Funk Volume marketing manager Josh Rickards confirmed to TSS that it didn’t take long for problems to begin between Hopsin and Dame. Dame needed the artists to consistently make music, but Hopsin seemed to move to the beat of his own drum. By late 2011, Dame looked elsewhere for new music and began expanding Funk Volume by signing two new up-and-comers, Dizzy Wright and Jarren Benton.
Rickards believed these moves came in part to motivate Hopsin, the label’s main act and source of income, with some friendly competition. The signings also meant keeping the label moving forward even if Hopsin wasn’t working on a record.
Hopsin wasn’t immediately receptive to the idea of adding two artists to Funk Volume, but according to Rickards, as the squad toured together in 2012, they bonded and eventually became friends. Hopsin later admitted to Rickards that he liked that most of Dame’s time was focused on Dizzy Wright and Jarren Benton because it took much of the spotlight off of him.
The disagreements nonetheless continued. Funk Volume’s early days clearly showed that Dame ran the operation even though Hopsin also co-founded the outfit. Dame steered the label very similarly to the way a corporation manages its teams. He held weekly conference calls for the entire company with the intent of updating everyone on the latest moves and making sure the squad was in sync.
“Dame was never really asking Hopsin anything [on those calls],” Rickards states. “Dame just pulled triggers and made moves happen. He just told Hopsin what we were doing. That was the point of the conference calls, more so for Dame to say ‘Hey, this is what we’re doing. I want everyone to be on the same page and know about it.’ And then sometimes they would argue over like ‘Hey Hop, where you at with the music?’ And these weren’t arguments behind closed doors, there were in front of the entire company.”