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Today marked the release of Nipsey Hussle’s new project Crenshaw, a solid mixtape that could see Nipsey Hussle finally receive the attention that he deserves. To mark the occasion, we dug up our article on Nipsey in our 19th issue, from back in 2009, when he was still a relative unknown. In hindsight, he might of came out the gates just a little too early considering the massive West Coast revival that is taking over music right now, thanks to some guy called Kendrick. He’s equal parts throwback and new-school, has co-signs from Snoop, Jay Z and Rick Ross and claims to have made $100 k off his mixtape on release day alone – could Nipsey Hussle finally break through in 2013?

Photography Jorge Paniche.

Nipsey Hussle is definitely not a character you’ll forget quickly. The newly crowned “Saviour of the West” has that special X-factor that other artists spend years finding, and, with a rap sheet bigger than most, he’s certainly got more than a few stories to tell. With his next-generation gangsta rap reminding you how it felt the first time you heard The Chronic, Nipsey is bringing back that West Coast sound that we’ve missed all these years.

When I first heard Nipsey’s mixtape Bullets Ain’t Got No Name (now up to volume three), the first thing that hit me was the powerful way in which he delivered his lines. As a well-known member of the Rollin’ Sixties Crips (RSC), Nipsey has gone through a crime life only to find an outlet in his music. “I’m bringing that ‘All money in; no money out’ mentality. It’s a hustle out here and everybody’s trying to make it. I’m just trying to improve my situation,” Nipsey explains in his Cali drawl.

That West Coast swag behind verses is ever-present. His sound not only pays tribute to the classic hardcore rap of the ‘90s but also brings a new raw feel that draws comparisons with veteran 21st century gangsta rappers like The Game, T.I. and The Clipse. He walks a fine line that not only has a commercially marketable sound but also a gritty undertone that’s actually credible. Just like how you believed Malice and Pusha T were riding around spending that dirty money (dirty money!), when Nipsey explains in Kush and Haze, “When I was dead broke I was bagging up candle wax, selling fake dope”, there’s no doubting he could’ve done that.

Growing up on Slauson Ave in South Central LA, gang banging was just a way of life. Joining the RSC in his teen years (“You know man, we can’t even get into nothing like that,” Nipsey quickly adds), the self-confessed Crip has tried to find other legitimate ways to get money before making it big with his music, opening up a clothing store in the middle of South Central with his brother. “That was my big brother’s idea, he’s always been a day-one grinder. He was like ‘We ain’t making enough money doing what we’re doing to attract money.’ It was a down spot in the game you know what I mean, and my brother was a hustler. So he went downtown and got some wifebeaters, some t-shirts and shit, and the way he did it he just generated that loot, to the point that we’ll be selling the t-shirts on a fold-out table on Slauson and Crenshaw, and we just kept doubling up those stacks and not too long after we had enough to open up our own joint.”

After the store received several raids by police due to links with gang activity, Nipsey decided to go back to grinding on his music. After hearing a few of Nipsey’s songs, well-respected tastemaker Felli Fel started playing his tracks on his hit radio show. From there on, his popularity grew in the underground, snowballing until eventually breaking out with Hussle in the House, a catchy song built over a classic Kriss Kross sample that is undeniably LA. Just finishing his tour on Snoop Dogg’s How The West Was One, Nipsey Hussle has already been crowned West Coast royalty by a long list of co-signers that include the likes of DJ Quik and The Game. His album is due to drop, and with the buzz he is creating on the streets with his heavy-hitting mixtapes, it seems like there’s nothing stopping Nipsey Hussle bringing back that South Central state of mind.

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