All Money In (2013)

It definitely feels like a renaissance – or a deluge, depending on how you look at it – for Los Angeles rappers these days. With a new Game mixtape releasing out of the blue and Dom Kennedy’s highly anticipated album Get Home Safely dropping this week, South Central-bred, second-generation Eritrean-American rapper Nipsey Hussle sure picked an interesting time frame to release his latest mixtape, DJ Drama-hosted Crenshaw.

Never mind that Neighborhood Nip features the aforementioned emcees on the project; no one comes close to stealing his shine for the simple reason that Nipsey’s rugged, over-the-top flow makes him stand out in the same way that Young Jeezy’s did when he first emerged in Atlanta and across the South.

Do mind that Nipsey is a savvy independent artist – who eschews the major label system on Twitter with hashtags such as #fuccthemiddleman – who happens to have one the most fervent fan bases of any rapper. To test out that fan base’s loyalty, Nipsey and his marketing team devised an outrageous idea that worked to the tune of $100,000 in 24 hours when they sold 1,000 Crenshaw CDs for $100 each at a Fairfax boutique. The one-day pop-up shop was supported with social media campaign #proud2pay while the project was also made available for free download/stream.

While there’s absolutely a connection between how a rapper handles his business and fan perception of these moves that leads them to support a project, Crenshaw is a very impressive body of work on its music merits. More than a handful of tracks here should resonate with newer and older fans alike. The stand-outs on the rather lengthy (21 track) mixtape are 9th Wonder-laced “Face the World” and the Southern-influenced “Go Long,” which features Houston heavyweights Z-Ro and Slim Thug. Nipsey zones in and delivers his best and most focused bars on the former, while the latter all but oozes candy paint.

For all its fierce rhymes sprinkled with street gospel, Nipsey at times does come up short in regards to discovering new ways to describe his cars, women and money – in other words, typical rapper spoils. However, that’s about the only negative to Crenshaw overall. Nipsey’s superior delivery and energy is established early with “U See Us” and doesn’t stop until well into the end of the tape’s last track “Crenshaw and Slauson,” a 12-minute composition with hidden track following a spoken-word outro.

Crenshaw’s best attribute isn’t beat selection or the actual lyrics; it’s Nipsey Hussle’s persona. He’s larger than life and relatable at the same time, not just rhyming but relating to listeners in the same fashion that Tony Robbins speaks at his seminars. Even though drug and gang references are still frequent, the value of Crenshaw as motivational music can’t be discounted.

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