Mousa Hamdan is a self-made dude. He could have very well gone along with the flow, like many other abiding sons do, and followed the path of working at the grocery store his father owned. But that wasn't what he wanted. He doesn't like to follow anybody else's terms. So, he decided to make his own, building a music label and starting a humble little rim shop down in Louisiana.
That rim shop is now a complete car care shop called New Orleans Street Customs Motors, and he manages by the same name Street Customs MGMT. His long-time friend Curren$y is a co-owner of that car shop and is Mousa's No. 1 artist, so when we orchestrated a cover story with Spitta in Detroit, it was only natural that we'd take the opportunity to talk shop with Mous. Get the scoop behind the garage doors and find out exactly the path these two have taken.
This feature is a part of Complex's Corvette Week.
Interview by Tony Markovich (@T_Marko)
How did you get to know Curren$y in the first place?
I had a record label, when I was younger. His older brother was signed to my label. And I also had Fiend, formerly of No Limit, who is now with the Jets. So, I knew Curren$y from a young time, just from hanging around the neighborhood. And then, when Jadakiss first came out for his first album, Fiend was signed to Ruff Ryders, and I brought Jadakiss down to New Orleans for the first time. I brought him through the neighborhood and shit, and that's when Curren$y was like, “I know you're into music, and I know I want to do this shit. I want to get with y'all.” He saw we were making moves.
It was like, ‘Jadakiss in New Orleans?’ Kiss didn't even want to come. This was his first album, he was going on a promo run, and he was like, ‘I don't know nothing about the south shit and all that.’ I was like, ‘nah, brother, they love you in New Orleans, man. They fuckin' love you.’ So, he came down, and it was crazy.
So, Curren$y and I had that relationship starting up. Then, right before he signed to Cash Money, he used to always come to the shop with his cars. I opened that shop up in '98? So, he was coming to the shop, and when he first thought that he wanted to get with managing him, he was talking with Lil Wayne and working, but he didn't have a manager yet. So, that's when I came on board as his manager. Then we did the Cash Money and Young Money deal. We did a couple of tours with Wayne. And that's how it started.
How did you start the shop?
I always loved cars. My brother used to always do street racing when I was probably 9-10. I used to always see him in the driveway messing with his own car. I didn't know how much he really knew about the shit, but I did always see him under the hood playing mechanic. I was always fascinated with the speed, the sound, the different types of cars since I was young.
I never was comfortable working for anybody. My father had a grocery store, and that was cool, but it was still a grocery store life. I was like, 'I don't want to work in a grocery store.' Then I was just like, lemme try to start a business. I started the rim shop. It was only a rim shop at the time. I found a spot, rented it, got some display rims and started that.. As things were happening at the shop, at the building I was at, the guy in the back who had to buy the shop decided to move right after Katrina in '05. I talked to the landlord and ended up leasing the entire building and opened up the body shop. That's when we were able to start building these cars ourselves, rather than me wanting to build them and bringing in different people to do stuff for me.
How did Curren$y get involved?
Me and Curren$y was doing the music thing, and he had his infatuation with cars. I told him I thought it'd probably be a good look for you to come on as a partner in the business. For both aspects. You love cars, I love cars, but it could bring both worlds together. My management company, Street Customs Management, of course, comes from the title of the shop, New Orleans Street Customs, so that's pretty much how it came together.
What was your first car?
My first car was a 1989 Beretta GTU, and it was crazy, because I didn't think I'd get the car. It was brand new on the lot. I was 16 years old and I was lookin' at this car. I knew how my father was with cars and money. He don't like spending that much money on cars. This car was like $19,000 in '89, and that was a crazy price for a car. It had a spoiler kit, a sunroof, and wheels on it. It had like 16-inch wheels, which I don't think anything had 16-inch wheels on it. I was like mannn, I gotta have this car. I went home and I said, 'pops, I want this car. I'm ready to put up every dime I've ever saved. I want to put it toward that car, and he asks me how much it cost. And I'm like, 'you know ... it's not that expensive, you know, so, I finally convinced him. I worked a deal out.
My brother also, who was racing cars, his cars, being race cars, always had problems. So, he wanted and needed a car. It was my last year in high school, so I was like, maybe I'll get the car. I made the deal that I want the car, but since I can't drive it to high school, my brother could use it for like the first year or six to seven months until I graduate. So, I was able to get it. He didn't help pay for that shit. He saved up to get his own thing. It was a Cutlass Calais, though, which was the four door. But it was amaaazin'. It had burgundy leather, and it was black, and it had a wing on it. The cutlass Calais was never really an attractive sports car, but this bitch was amazin'. It had a nice motor in it, and it had some speed.
Do you work on the cars yourselves?
Yeah, the shop is hands-on. I get home and I like to put my uniform on and do what needs to be done. If there's something to help with. Of course, we have people that do the work, but we like to contribute ideas and make sure that everything is movin' the way want it.
Where did you learn the mechanical stuff?
Just standing over a mechanic's shoulder. No schoolin' or nothin'. Just watching a bunch of car shows and mechanic shows, and thank god for the world wide web. You could always YouTube some shit. If you workin' on your own car, you fuck it up you fuck it up, but I'm always on there, if there's something I'm not familiar with. I look it up and see exactly how it's done. If there's a special trick to it or somethin'.
How has the shop progressed?
It's complete service now. There was another dude that had a car wash there and another that had a body shop. Since Katrina, everybody left, and I was able to secure the whole building, as far as leasing it, then we took over the wash and the shop. Now we got painters, full-time mechanics, so we kind of do everything, but we definitely do prefer the older, vintage, the stuff that doesn't make the money—just the stuff that you enjoy.
But you do some of the exotics,too?
Oh yeah. We had a few over there. And of course Curren$y owns his share of vehicles that we take care of.
Why do you think cars and the culture of hip-hop go so hand-in-hand?
As kids we came up always looking and seeing that we thought we could never afford. Looking in magazines, we were always like, 'nah, that shit's too high.' You know, you look at your mom and pop, and they come from an era that they didn't spend that kind of money on vehicles, or maybe they weren't interested in them, and they couldn't afford them. And you think, 'Well, I might just be following in my parents footsteps, and I'm never going to get this shit.' Then you start getting the money, and you're like, 'I can afford this.' And you always wanted it, so it's like, let's make this dream come true and start buying some of this stuff. So, I think that's how a lot of people in hop-hop are buying a lot of these things. Not just cars, but anything of value that you feel you couldn't afford at one time or another.
How do you think Chevrolet became so prominent in hip-hop?
Chevy is definitely an affordable brand, but as far as I go, you were either a Ford man or you were a Chevy man. I was raised Chevy. Always was. What's crazy is that my father worked on Ford's assembly line, and he put cars together, but he was a Chevy man. Don't get me wrong, he had a Ford Grand Torino, probably because he was workin' at Ford, but once he left that, everything he had after that was Chevy.
I feel like the Chevy brand, to us, was more reliable. They stood the test of time. They're sturdier cars, and there's always jokes about the different brands. Ford was always (F)ix (O)r (R)epair (D)aily. Or (F)ound (O)n (R)oad (D)ead. Chevy didn't have something like that. You couldn't do it, because they weren't breaking like that. And they had the nicer styling. You got to be honest. Through the years, they've had nicer designs.
Curren$y cuts in: Ford didn't make the Corvette. Or anything that could compare. Ford just took their loss and focused on the Mustang. They weren't about to make another platform.
Mousa: And even if they tried, it's like, you know, if you tried to make another platform, it'd have to be an entirely new platform, and when are you going to introduce that? In 2006? Like Corvette's been around forever. That's a platform that's been there since Chevrolet has damn near been there. So, Ford couldn't introduce nothin' to compare to the Corvette. Then you still can't compare it to the classics. You can't compare the '57 Corvette to the ... '57 ... what? Ford what? There's nothing there. If it's Mustang, it's Camaro, if it's Corvette, it's nothing for Ford.
What was it like growing up in Detroit and having a father that worked in a plant?
We came in as immigrants, of course. He worked at that and then he worked at Montgomery Ford hospital as a janitor. As a child, I didn't see him much. Then, once we moved to New Orleans, when I was 6 or 7, that's when they started doing the grocery store business. The boom was happening down in the south for Mom and Pop stores. So, he made that move. I went to fuckin' 2nd grade here. I remember snow and cold. New Orleans is home for me, that's all I really know.