Did Nipsey Hussle make his mark with Crenshaw? That was the question a friend, a sideline fan to the music, asked me a few days ago.
I’m not on the inside of the equation but, from the outside, I’d say he did. Being honest, most people outside of Neighborhood Nip’s immediate area counted him out. Another one of the lauded XXL Freshman standouts who fizzled out before truly amounting to anything on a larger level. Honestly, being part of those lists may prove to be a curse more than a blessing since the added attention heaps on expectations that may never be met in today’s music climate*. Rap stars turn to pop stars now not because they can rap but by how “entertaining” they can be. Don’t agree? Then explain RiFF Raff. I’ll wait.
Nip may have lost attention over the years but he never lost his punctual flow and all the memories that made his depiction of his Cali stomping grounds so unique. And that’s what gets captured here in the visuals for “Crenshaw and Slauson (True Story),” the closing track from the project. Actually, the clip plays more like a testimonial than typical music video (skip to 4:30 if you want music only).
What we see is people from the Crenshaw district explaining what the tall, lanky guy they know as Thundercat means to them, from his days growing up in the mix of action to his current role as rapper/entrepreneur. Throughout the whole push towards Crenshaw, my mind kept backtracking to Smarter once responding to a question asked a million articles ago now. Maybe a year or two ago I guesss.
The basic question was “does anyone still check for Nip?,” to which he responded something to the effect that people in the area had an undying amount of support for the guy. Essentially, that’s what happens here as folks of varying ages step in front of the camera speaking on how Hussle’s still seen around town not as a guy who didn’t make in rap, but as the one who helped put their area code back on the map and didn’t kowtow to the industry’s rules. Instead, they view their guy as one who stepped back to play the game on his own terms, making his own rules. And he never changed.
Captured in “Slauson and Crenshaw” are the streets and corners, the homies and girls who helped shape and form who he is today. The people who form the cosmopolitan of the “Neighborhood” in his nickname. A girl whose sister once got jipped inadvertently by Nip on a cellphone (which he instantly paid back). Older homies echoing the rappers distant past spent earning his stripes having “never turned down the fade.” The young teens who find a sense of pride when they catch Neighborhood pushing a 600 Benz through their streets.
In the second half of the clip, one interesting guy named Kev Mak (“Thas (sic) my big homie from Rollin 60′s he’s lil Kev Mak aka big Thumdercat I’m lil Thumdercat from Rollin 60′s,” according to Nipsey) gives hands down the best account of how the streets swallowed him but not Nipsey. From the sounds of the story, Mak’s act of faith in a then-seventeen-year-old Nip may have been what set things in motion for where we are today. Per Mak:
“…I asked Nip, ‘Man, why you ain’t rappin?’…So I said, ‘Damn. What do we need?’ I just came home from the pen and my grandma was gone buy me a car. Then Nip said we need a G4 Macintosh. So instead of getting the car, I bought the Macintosh. We went to my great-grandma garage and we learned it. Started pushin’ buttons.”
Getting back closer to the original topic, did Crenshaw make its mark?
I’d say so.
For the past couple of weeks, Nipsey’s regained the rap world’s attention, some ready to grab Crenshaw off DatPiff on Tuesday morning while others came after hearing small confusion generated by the cost of the project. The tape – as well as the loose tracks released in advance – and videos like these brought attention and an audience to hear a voice, no, the voices of Crenshaw again.
* — As I wrote before, expectations can be a motherf**ker these days.