For his latest mixtape, Crenshaw, hosted by DJ Drama, Nipsey Hussle, an LA underground king who has yet to release a studio debut, decided to make a statement to the record industry that he and artists like him would not stand for corporate pressure. He sold 1,000 physical copies of the mixtape for $100 a piece. In less than 24 hours they were gone (including 100, which were purchased by Jay Z).
Smart marketing move, but it didn't fit the project. Like most collections that are not quite albums, Crenshaw suffered from too many tracks and not enough focus. The tape didn't really wake up until about track No. 8. The first few songs, "U See Us," "Chec Me Out" and "The Weather," were slow to build and anti-climactic despite notable cameos from Dom Kennedy and Rick Ross.
The beginning is also where Hussle's flow was decent, but didn't really connect with the beats. Rhymes like, "I'm the sky to you, ocean and the clouds, birds and the bees/Your friends proud when they know you f----n' with me/I got you poppin', I take you shoppin'/Around the world, started on Slauson," from "4 in The Mornin'" miss the mark.
Things pick up a bit on "Don't Take Days Off," an effective reminder of what Hussle is capable of when he's at his best. "All this stress on my brain, right/Poker face I'm in the game right/Need a week to think, maybe eight nights/Some promethazine and a straight flight/Let me cut off my phone, Let me get in my zone/Let me sit on myself, Leave a n---a alone/I'll be back in a few, got some rappin' to do/Got some stackin', still runnin', got some labbin' to do," he raps with his signature precision.
He links up once again with Dom Kennedy for "H-Town," a good, mid-tempo flow that moves the mixtape a bit more.
North Carolina beatsmith 9th Wonder then gives Crenshaw one of it's best songs with the funky "Face the World," a retelling of Hussle's come up. His voice has a fire in it when he spits, "Don't cry tears they don't fly here/And if you don't die here you supposed ta fly Leers/365 here's like a dog year/Ya wonder why these n----s 20 and got white hair."
1500 or Nothin' lay it down proper on "Blessings," giving him the most real sounding drums on the whole tape (for his part, Hussle talks about asking God for protection, loyalty and riches). The Futuristics made a beat that favors Kendrick Lamar's "The Recipe" with "Summertime." "If U Were Mine" uses a sped up Sade sample and a classic R&B sound. "Go Long" brings out Slim Thug and Z-Ro in a straight Texas way. "No Regrets" is one of the tape's hottest beats.
Hussle links up with 1500 or Nothin' again on "Change Nothing" and "Come Over," both of which are two of the mixtape's better tracks. His rhymes are extra tough on the former, "Smiling faces rockin' diamond bracelets/Murder cases got probation when your pockets major/I'm stuntin' in something that cost a lotta paper/I ain't f----n' with nothin' that don't look like a spaceship."
Then, on the closing track, "Crenshaw and Slauson," Hussle merges three songs into one 12+ minute tune — ironic because the whole experience has been long — roughly one hour and twenty minutes.
Overall, unlike his Marathon and Bullets Ain't Got No Names mixtapes, Crenshaw does not feature much of a classic LA sound, which incorporates funk, bass and just a touch of jazz to create a lowrider friendly vibe that's helped usher the region into the national spotlight. But it doesn't sink Hussle's rep any more so than it simply doesn't elevate it — and at least it can also be downloaded for free.
(photo: All Money In Records)