How Nipsey Hussle’s ‘Crenshaw’ Mixtape Forever Changed Hip-Hop
“I don’t ever make moves under pressure,” Nipsey Hussle told me in 2018, a few days after the release of his debut album Victory Lap. “Or I try not to.” But in October 2013, shortly before the release of his Crenshaw mixtape, Hussle was definitely feeling the pressure. “It’s Crunch Time for Nipsey Hussle,” read the L.A. Weekly headline that ran one day before the highly anticipated release, which launched eight years ago today.
“Before Kendrick Lamar, Dom Kennedy and YG, it was Nipsey Hussle who was dubbed the next big L.A. MC.,” wrote Justin Tinsley, the same journalist who recently produced the ESPN podcast series King of Crenshaw. “The Crenshaw neighborhood native was called the next Snoop Dogg and featured on XXL’s Freshman cover in 2010 with Freddie Gibbs, Big Sean, J. Cole, and Wiz Khalifa. That same year Hussle left Epic Records to form his own All Money In imprint. Since then, the momentum for a rapper once seen as a can’t-miss West Coast prospect has stalled. What happened?”
L.A. Weekly wasn’t the only platform questioning the status of Hussle’s career. After all that he’d overcome in his life — navigating his way from the streets of Los Angeles to the equally treacherous music industry — Hussle wasn’t expecting any problems with Complex magazine. They’d shown love for him ever since he first came to national prominence, and he even allowed Complex editors to preview his erstwhile debut album South Central State of Mind back when he still thought it was coming out.
Then in November 2012 they listed him as one of the “50 Most Slept-On Rappers of All Time.” Though it was a rather backhanded compliment, at least the title of the article implied that Complex believed his talents should be more widely recognized. Less than a month before the list was published, Kendrick Lamar’s album good kid m.A.A.d city had blown up via Dr. Dre’s Aftermath Entertainment, transforming the landscape of West Coast hip hop.
“He was hailed as the next big rapper out of L.A.,” the story began, mentioning Hussle’s collabs with Snoop and Drake, but then things took a turn. “All of his singles failed to connect,” Complex wrote, pointing out that his…