It doesn’t take very long to realize that I am quite a hip hop head. Not only is it the culture of my generation, but I am engulfed in it. More than anything, I’m in love with the music. I like certain emcees and producers and their body of work. However, there is a fairly short list of people that I will say that I am truly a fan of.
I first heard of Nipsey Hussle in 2009. I saw him in a magazine and eventually I came across all of the blogs talking about this guy from South Central, Los Angeles. I hadn’t listened to any of his music because I couldn’t get past his moniker paying some semblance of homage to the comedian best known for playing the Tin Man in The Wiz. Add to that, he was lanky, had long hair, and an affinity for wearing the color blue. I unconsciously wrote him off as a Snoop Dogg clone or something.
One day I perusing through the blogs and I clicked on his video for his single “Hussle In the House.” The track was modernized-yet-wet coasted out version of Kriss Kross’ “Jump,” with the Ohio Players “Funky Worm” and “I Want You Back” by the Jackson 5 looped up just like the 1992 hit. When his raspy voice cut through the track saying “Coming straight outta Slauson…A crazy muthafucka named Nipsey/I’m turfed up cuz I grew up in the 60’s/,” I was with it. In the first two bars he let you know exactly who he was: a Rolling 60’s Crip and he was giving you a small introduction to this Nipsey Hussle music.
I began to listen to more of his music, and there was more to him than just bangin’ on wax. Everything that Neighborhood Nip said-wrong, right, or indifferent-he said with such conviction. He was giving his take on the world and rapped about his truth with such honesty, I couldn’t deny him. There was one song in which he said “I wish we all could play ball or rap.” Man, that was beyond real. Alluding to the two ways that young black men see their way up out of the hood, he lamented that he wished for a better life everyone who was just like him. I’ve already written about “The Hussle Way.”
In 2013, Nipsey Hussle released his independent album, Crenshaw. which was a nod to the famed street that made him into the man that he had become. There was a twist to what he was doing. He gave the album out for free and only sold a thousand copies at $100 each. Those who bought the album at that price point got their money’s worth in incentives. He sold those out and made $100,000 in a day and it had everyone in the hip hop world talking. Jay Z bought a hundred copies to support his movement and took a picture of it with the statement saying “#newrules.” It was brilliant.
I was more than interested in how Nip came up with this. I listened to and read a few interviews on how he came up with this. For starters, the cover of the album is red. As a crip, that was just something you don’t do. Nonetheless, he explained that psychologically, red is the color that draws the most attention. I love the psychology aspect of market research, and he had done that extensively.
In another interview, Hussle stated that his reason for selling his album at a hundred dollar price point was based on a book called “Contagious: Why Things Catch On” by Jonah Berger. There was a chapter in which he read about a Philadelphia man who sold cheesesteaks for $200. At first, people thought that he was nuts. Eventually, the press-including Oprah-followed, and shortly after, the man had a line around the corner for people wanting this $200 meal that they could get for $193 less literally across the street.
Hussle knew his audience and catered to them. He wasn’t trying to be successful based on changing what he did t convert new listeners. He drew attention to himself by doing him and eventually, others would follow.
“It’s not about stepping outside of what I’m known for in hopes of new discovery. What that means less is fans that are better served. I’m more or less focused on fully serving the ones that have connected all ready. That being said its a value over volume thing. if I’m goin to offer a product made with no compromise or concession to the platforms, ect…ect..then the way we sale it has to change.” Brilliant.
Throughout Crenshaw and it’s follow up (that sold a hundred copies at $1000), Mailbox Money, Nipsey Hussle continued to spread his message. He compared the music industry and the internet to the wild west where anything goes. It’s new rules out here and success depends on how you’re measuring it. In music, the metric is the number of sales while movies do by how much did each film gross. At the end of the day, every business measures things by its bottom line and residual income is just that.
When I first started this blog, I was getting lots of traffic effortlessly. I didn’t ask everyone to like my page or do a mass invite; I just threw it out there. By 2015, the internet had changed how things got shared and my visibility was literally cut in half. It was time to change things up. I have a pretty organic and fairly loyal following, and that in itself makes me feel that I am successful. I’m nowhere near rich; but I’m happy with what I’m doing and where it seems that things are going.
The other day, I listened to the finale on Crenshaw, and it resonated with me. Instead of taking a victory lap because he knew what he was doing was going to work, he wrote about how he was just a kid on the streets and with what he had, he found a way to make his gift of being charismatic work for him.