GEN F: Nipsey Hussle

Photographer Ross McDonnell
September 17, 2011

On an exceptionally cold Friday in January, Nipsey Hussle leans forward in a microsuede office chair, aims a stereo remote control toward the sky like some kind of semi-automatic wand, and says, “Niggas ain’t seen LA like this since Boyz N The Hood.” We’re listening to songs he’s considering for his debut album, and when he unpauses “Rich Roll,” it’s like he’s opening a lens, revealing yet another clip of the ever marginalized, ever fertile Los Angeles gang culture in which he’s been cast for the past 22 years. Rapping since the age of eight, Hussle earned his nickname doing just that on the west end of Slauson Ave, falling into the trap that plagues too many of Black America’s poorer neighborhoods. “I want niggas to be shocked by the reality of what’s going on,” he says. “I know a lot of people think shit done changed since the Snoop and Dre days, and a lot has changed, but it’s a lot of shit that still hasn’t been addressed. So I kinda wanna throw it in they faces.”

Hussle is a member of the Rolling 60s set of the notorious Crips. While some of rap’s most prominent stars fly bandanas like sports pennants, when Hussle describes his block like, Slauson Ave ain’t the side you can truce with/ Homicide City turned these young niggas ruthless, he narrates a hand-held tour of the color-coded zoo festering in urban Los Angeles since the formation of the Bloods and Crips in the early ‘70s. “Because I was always making music for my niggas I wanted motherfuckers to play this shit on their day-to-day,” Hussle says. “If they was gonna rob something, play this on your way to your robbery, nigga, or if you was gonna go fuck a bitch, play this.” I wanted to have music that represented all lifestyles and that was relevant to the motherfuckers around me.”

Hussle has released an Escalade disc-changer’s worth of mixtapes, but the best to date is the two-volume Bullets Ain’t Got No Name. On each he sets a table of Crenshaw cruising music, including a fistful of Ohio Players “Funky Worm” samples, every one iterating his one man G-Funk resurrection more than the last. And then there’s the first street single, “Hussle in the House.” Built on the same loop as Kriss Kross’ Romper Room anthem “Jump,” it epitomizes wild west G: And let your chain swang/ You getting dollars like a doctor, but you gang bang. The mass appeal of a Kriss Kross sample is conniving if not clever, but not quite paramount for a talent like Hussle, who doesn’t need a hook to sound hot. “I’m thinking about how to speak to my area, to my direct region, right here, right now,” he says. “The rest of the world don’t have to understand it, but if you’re from LA, and you from the streets you’re gonna understand what I mean. You’re gonna feel it.”

Stream: Nipsey Hussle, Bullets Ain't Got No Name Vol. 1

GEN F: Nipsey Hussle