James Fauntleroy And Larrance Dopson’s 1500 Sound Academy Aims To Enri icon

The Grammy Award-winning production duo speak on their philanthropic endeavors and the legacy of Nipsey Hussle.

With countless checks and accolades earned over the past two decades, Larrance “Rance” Dopson and James Fauntleroy are now looking to pay it forward.

The Grammy Award-winning production and songwriting wizards have made it clear that the dividends were a major incentive from the outset of their career, but are currently working towards a greater purpose. The SoCal natives, who are part of the renowned musical ensemble 1500 or Nothin’, are using their resources and platform to help enrich the next generation of creatives. In 2021, Dopson and Fauntleroy launched the 1500 Sound Academy, an educational program located in Los Angeles that teaches local residents the fundamentals of music and industry. Targeting students of color in the greater Los Angeles area, the 1500 Sound Academy provides annual scholarships to attendees and offers instructional courses at affordable rates in comparison to other programs in the city.

Having played an integral part in the creation of hits from some of the biggest stars on the planet—including Beyonce, JAY-Z, Kendrick Lamar, and Bruno Mars—the duo’s list of credits are both star-studded and endless. One collaborator the duo forged a special connection with was Nipsey Hussle, whom they worked extensively with throughout his career prior to his tragic death in March 2019. Having helped mold his sound and contributed to the rapper’s Grammy-nominated debut album Victory Lap, Rance and Fauntleroy were well-versed in the creativity of Hussle, as well as the essence of Ermias Asghedom, the man behind the music.

VIBE spoke with Dopson and Fauntleroy about their ultimate goal with the 1500 Sound Academy, the program’s global expansion, and their creative and personal synergy with late West Coast rap legend Nipsey Hussle.

You’ve worked on some of the definitive albums of the past decade. What would you say were the most immersive musical experiences for you?

Dopson: I’ll have to say Victory Lap, Nipsey Hussle’s album. We worked on that for about 12 years and that’s really my real friends, so it was a great experience. Everything he talked about happened in real life, he didn’t lie, at all. So sometimes we weren’t doing music because it just wasn’t nothing happening. So it took literally 12 years to build that album, but we took our time and it became a classic. I learned a lot from Nip.

What are some tidbits about Victory Lap that other people may not know?

Dopson: It was a lot of songs the last week that wasn’t done. Like “Real Big” was our first song that we did for Victory Lap. “Last Time That I Checc’ed” wasn’t gonna make it. Nipsey had like five songs on the album with a bunch of features from Future and all types of people, [including] Cardi B. And the last week, he was just like ‘This album for my fans,’ you know. ‘This is for the people, for the hood, so this first album gotta be super authentic. I gotta tell my story and it’s about me.’ So we switched it up and changed a couple beats and that week was like a hell week. We really damn near put that album together in a week, man. Seriously, like the end of the album. It was crunch time. It was amazing, though.

Knowing Nipsey and having worked with him closely, what is it like to see the impact that he’s left and him becoming an icon?

Dopson: I feel like he stays in hearts and in the minds of people because he had a purpose and he believed in something. A lot of artists just don’t have that. And I feel like he was like the street Bible for the hood. He was somebody that we can listen to and relate to and it was just different. Nipsey was just different, man. It’s tough even talking about it, man.



That’s a fact. The two of you, along with Twila True are the three co-founders of 1500 Sound Academy. What’s its origin story?

Fauntleroy: Honestly, man, it’s like our whole careers, we’ve been talking about just the seemingly permanent experience of people in the music business always being bad. Like The Temptations movie, Michael Jackson movie, The Five Heartbeats. Everybody has a rough time in the business, still to this day. And one, rough just because of the terrain of the business, but also, it’s hard to have a long career. The typical lifespan of somebody in this business on our side, on the creative side is one to three years max. And if you get one good year off, you did well because most people don’t get that. So us doing this for over like 15, 16, 17 years, because we had just been able to navigate and been exposed to so many things, going around the world and getting to do this and that, we just were always talking about how many things we could’ve skipped had we known this information. What would that be like? What would it be like if we could just have gone around some of the things that no one was willing to tell us. So really, this is like an experiment in [seeing] what happens when we start the new generation off where we left off, you know what I mean? We were able to get this far, we’ll know how far can they go if they’re picking up from where and what got us to this point

Students at 1500 Sound Academy are exposed to guest lectures from veteran artists and moguls, with Kendrick Lamar, Bruno Mars, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Master P, Snoop Dogg, and more dropping game to the next generation. What’s it like to see the reaction from the students when those types of figures come through?

Dopson: The cool thing about us and how we do it is we don’t tell none of the students when they’re coming or what time or who’s coming, so every day it’s a surprise.

Fauntleroy: Sometimes we do [laughs].

Dopson: It’s always a little wow factor that and they’re super blessed and honored that people are taking time out to give a game that you just get on the internet. A lot of these conversations they have, they’re talking about life and stuff that they wouldn’t talk about on camera, you know what I mean. To where it changes their lives and and just seeing that it’s just a blessing, man. ‘Cause their lives are really changing by the information that these people are given.

Both of you are from Los Angeles, which is where many of the 1500 Sound Academy students live. Describe the economic conditions in Inglewood and the role 1500 Sound Academy will play in providing access and opportunities to local residents?

Fauntleroy: Well, the first thing we did was we looked at the average price of comparable education across the area, and once we got that number, cut it in half. That was the first step that we took. In our opinion, it’s the best experience of education you can get for half the price, so that’s the first level of access. But then also, aside from a bunch of different community things and people that we know personally, we have a partnership with the Urban League. They’re our non profit partner and they have programs where they send students in from the area and the community that are part of this program. We just have like a bunch of different ways; there’s also a partnership with the whole Unified School District, which has classes here. We have a partnership with a couple schools in L.A. USD also. So we have a strategy for K to 12 and also post-high school of how we’re gonna be reaching out and involving people that are from the area or wherever they’re from. People that just don’t have access to this kind of education under normal circumstances.




What advice would you give to anybody looking to get into the music industry?


Dopson: I was gonna say don’t suck [laughs].

I’ma put that, too [laughs].

Fauntleroy: Yeah, don’t be wack, please. No, stop it.

Dopson: And by not being wack, I’ll say learn all the rules to break the rules. […] You know, we’re teaching music and production, but we’re teaching life skills, too. And it’s gonna be very tough if you don’t know how to deal with and know how to make people smile and feel good. That’s what music is, it’s about how you feel.

What do you have on your plate that we can look forward to in 2023?

Fauntleroy: I say one of the big things we can say right now is we’ve had our first global 1500 Sound Academy location open in Taiwan in Taipei for almost a year now. It’s been really super exciting with virtual shops and we’re planning on opening another location somewhere.