In a hip-hop landscape dominated by tycoons and business men (read: Jay-Z), weve seen the genre grow and mold in to a sort of Old Boys Club, where those who once told us accounts of hard knock living now reminisce on days past amidst their nouveau riche lifestyle. Thats not the case with Nipsey Hussle. On his new mixtape, Crenshaw, Nipsey Hussle provides raw, heavy-based, hip-hop, filled with the swagger and braggadocios air(l)earned from hood living.
Actively rapping for the past decade, Hussles music has only recently begun to rise in prominence. Fueled by his Marathon series mixtapes since 2010, Hussle has been promising to independently release his debut album Victory Lap for the past year. While the album has faced postponement, Crenshaw serves as a foretaste. What was meant to only be a teaser is more like a full-on workout! Clocking in at 83 minutes and 18 seconds, this tape is brimming with a whirlwind of features, producers, and samples. As Crenshaw is not an album, it lacks a cohesive sound orchestrated by one producer, and instead is a more of a showcase of heavy-hitter producers like 9th Wonder, 1500 or Nothin, and The Futuristics. Nonetheless, what is consistent is Hussles crisp, swagger-filled voice projected over every track. Whether paired over a bassy, trap-house sound from The Futuristics or a slowed, soulful R&B sample from 9th Wonder, Hussles cadence exudes confidence and authenticity, which is a part of his appeal as a rapper.
Hussles hood influences are undeniable. Of all the new West Coast hip-hop guard, Hussle is unique in that he directly comes from gang culture. A former Rollin 60s Neighborhood Crip, Hussles tape wastes no time to authenticate itself as a diamond-in-the-rough from South Central. From the first sound bite, clipped from Boyz N the Hood to the track Checc [sic] Me Out, which is dedicated to the Crenshaw folks from Adams to Imperial, Hussle spits out lyrics that are hood-influenced, but not solely about hood-life.
And therein lays the compelling part. The expectation is for gangsta rap to be political. That contrasts to the luxury rap that makes most modern mainstream hip-hop. This dichotomy exists in music where that even those rappers who cannot afford lives of leisure still make songs that glorify materialism and indulgence. Hussle is not that rapper. U See Us exemplifies his appreciation for, even arrogance about, his possessions; but he does not worship them. Moreover, in that same song, he is decidedly apolitical. He does drop a line look at my race as to state that even in being Black and historically oppressed, he still is excelling. Yet this is not the focus of his music. Instead, he is rapping: rapping for rappings sake. There is no ulterior motive or subliminal message he is trying to pass other than music making.
That, to some, could seem vapid or even antithetical to hip-hop music. But when looked at as a creative release for a roughed generation, you can appreciate the gift of free-flowing, authentic MCs. And for Hussle, it works! The best examples showcasing his style are Hate It or Love It (featuring fellow LA young prince, Teeflii) and Slauson and Crenshaw. If these two tracks are any indication, Hussles forthcoming debut album will be a stellar listen in the New Year.
Nipsey Hussle is unmistakably gangster and unmistakably talented. The one pitfall to this mixtape though is its mix of producers leading to different sounds. Some songs off the tape provide an excellent look into what Victory Lap will look like, but other numbers dont add anything to the sound, and slow the tape down. Nonetheless, Crenshaw proves that once again, the West Coast Renaissance is underway, and Nipsey Hussle will certainly play a prominent role!
Tracks We Like: “U See Us”, “Hate It or Love It”, “Slauson and Crenshaw”
Nipsey Hussle Crenshaw Track 2: U See Us
Nipsey Hussle Crenshaw Track 17: Hate It or Love It
Nipsey Hussle Crenshaw Track 21: Slauson and Crenshaw
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