The world has been feeling more and more bleak every day. Families fearing for their lives are sleeping on gravel in concentration camps in the “land of the free,” and the hip hop world is spending yet another day mourning the loss of a true champion of community. Nipsey Hussle was killed Sunday in Hyde Park, Los Angeles, a neighborhood in to which he invested much time, money, energy and heart during his 33 years.
Prophetic far beyond those 33, Nipsey was a staunch advocate for black and local entrepreneurship and an embodiment of what makes this art form so sacred. From “straight off the block, selling dope to buy groceries,” Nipsey’s focus was always on uplifting those around him. His goals were loftier than just his block though — he wanted to redefine expectations and change the narrative and mindset from “making it out of the hood” to “buying back the block.”
A man who spoke the language of both venture capitalists and Crips, Nipsey built foundational relationships between those without access and the ideas that could enable them to build new structures of power to control access. Always aware of his position between the two, Nips encouraged young black men and women to focus on equity and ownership rather than advances or endorsements. He was all about hustling to gain influence and then leveraging that influence into true revenue rather than enriching all the third parties who have mastered with surgical precision the process of raising their own value from the exploitation of black art. He knew that it was about owning the supply chain and considered it his mission to empower communities across America to do so for themselves.
Let him tell you about his co-working space and STEM center in Crenshaw:
“It’s called Vector 90 and then, the bottom STEM center part of it is called Too Big To Fail. Basically, … it’s a coworking space for inner-city entrepreneurs, and it’s also an incubator. So, basically, [there are] these different office spaces rented by entrepreneurs that are starting apps, or got skincare companies or product lines. So, they got investors in the building with David Gross, who’s the founder and my partner, and in myself.
And then so, every year we’re gonna be able to do a first round of seeding for one of the entrepreneurs. They can make a pitch and say, ‘This is what I’m doing. This is what we need to take it to the next level,’ and they can have access to investments in the same building … It’s right here in the Crenshaw district. I think that’s empowering and it’s an opportunity that entrepreneurs that are serious can reap the benefit from.”
Nipsey created and inspired the birth of new economic mini ecosystems that could self-sustain marginalized communities, and he will forever be a legend in the rap game. He represents the promise of what rap music can do and his life serves as an inspiration, if not a call to action to not just have pride in one’s community, but to take active steps in lifting it up.
I wish this were all a cruel April fool’s joke, but it’s not. This is real and this is a tragedy. At the time of this writing, his killer is still at large. It’s a cold world and nobody is above this shit. But Nipsey provided a hope that we could find the cracks in an unforgiving system and plant seeds to build, and definitely own the new ones. Cheers to one of the realest to do it. — Harley Geffner
Maxo Kream, Ghost Magneto & BG Kenny Lou – “Trap Replays”
Now there was also some music that was listened to this week and I wrote these up before the Nipsey news. And this video is sort of morbidly related, as it’s a posthumous one. Posthumous videos usually make me sad, but this one feels a little bit different. It’s not emotionally taxing like Peep’s “Life is Beautiful” vid, where the viewer is positioned as staring directly into his eyes while childhood scribbles crawl across the screen.
The “Trap Replays” video is more a celebration of the thriving state of Houston rap than a mourning of the talent lost. BG Kenny Lou and Ghost Magneto tragically passed last year, but not before leaving behind a growing imprint on Houston’s rap scene. Kenny Lou was one of the originators of Scoot Up gang, which has become something of a rallying cry for a city hardened by premature deaths and the devastation of natural disaster.
Maxo Kream has long had national attention and he, along with all the GMC kids currently killing it on the south side, but who have yet to touch too far outside the region, were bred for success in the scene that Kenny and Ghost played a large part in creating. And here is Maxo, on screen with the two immortal figures doing what they do best, having fun trading clever bars over booming church bells by the corner store.
Maxo crowns them the kings of the jungle “like Simba, Mufasa // choppa start singing, hakuna matata.” And lest you forget, Kenny reminds us that we should “know that we come through the back do’, know that we strapped, me and Maxo,” while bouncing around the store with a 24-pack of Top Ramen. And both Ghost and Kenny hit some classic Keef “Ay” flows to top it off. As Maxo said in the video’s comments, “scoot up forever Ghost & Kenny Lou ♿🛴”
YS – “Bompton”
Here you have it: The hardest entrance to a verse of the year. “Flag on the right side, so is the pistol.” That’s it. Doesn’t look too overly impressive written out, but delivered in YS’s confident stomp, it’s simple and effective in charging up the ode to “Bompton.” That singular line has been popping into my head at random intervals throughout the last few weeks uninvited, but surely welcome. He continues, waving red flags all over the city, shouting out the Stanford Ave apartments and gettin brackin’ in the alley over the West Coast bass thumps punctuating the haunting string and piano patterns throughout. He’ll “send a message with these TECs, but nah we ain’t textin // wrap his body up and send it to his ma like a present.” That’s-called-baaars.funkflex.gif.
My only qualm here is with the kickin like jiu-jitsu line that’s way too common for jiu jitsu not to be a striking sport.
Lil Uzi Vert – “FreeUzi”
First things first, Uzi is the best dancer of our generation. He hits a woah dance sent from the heavens for a good 40 seconds starting at 1:53 in FreeUzi. With perfect shaking and blurring cinematography from Qasquiat, Uzi pulls every spaceship lever imaginable in a rhythmic empty hall act of brilliant goonery. It’s the type of dance that boroughs in your mind as an unrepeatable act of inspiration. Like Thugger dancing around the kitchen in the Blanguage video that I’ve unsuccessfully tried to hit thousands of times in the mirror.
With all these Uzi Woah snips that have circulated instagram for the past year, he’s been in the conversation just as much as any rapper who’s actually dropped music. Regardless of his label situation in which he was apparently bailed out by Hov (I still need more details before I say this is definitive), the hype machine is rolling out in full force.
Every man, woman and child in America is so eager for new Uzi music that a fake Eternal Atake full of old snips made the Apple Music charts last week. Uzi is the most likeable human on Earth, so I get it. I haven’t gone an hour since seeing him make walking into a store hilarious without thinking about it. If he can inspire that reaction without uttering a word, he might actuate the meme where his new music brings futuristic looking public rail systems to the sky. Especially if he’s back on his rappity rapper shit like he is on this pitched up run.
Side note about viral dance videos: Everyone is pissed about the 12-year-old kid being offered 6 figures by labels to make songs pop on Tik Tok with new Woah variations. I’m pissed too, but not at the kid (Seth). The creator of the Woah, 10K Caash, said Seth is good in his book and that he actually told him to start asking for more money (thank you Nipsey) from the labels and artists hitting him up. Profit off your art and thrive yung’n. But the real issue is with how the labels value this shit over the actual music. Some of the biggest producers in the world are scrapping to get by and have trouble getting labels or really anyone to pay them for their work. They need a union or a CBA or something man, because they’re the geniuses behind viral songs, not the people who artificially blow them up.
Birdman x Juvenile – “Newly Exposed”
I spent last week in New Orleans and basically all I listened to was old B.G. and the Hot Boys discog that recently made its way onto streaming. So what a delight it was to return home to a new Juve and Birdman drop. I didn’t expect much but some novelty from the tape after listening to the most formative musical happenings of my era from these same artists, but the whole thing was a real pleasant surprise. When Birdman dials it up, he can still deliver luxury rap heat reminiscent of the “marble floors, gold toilets and chandeliers” days and Juve isn’t phoning in anything. The B side of the album is phenomenal and has sweet, soft-tinged melodies and enough well-placed Rich Gaaang tags to give me the heebie jeebies. Newly Exposed is the one to me, as Juve and Bird rap about their vet status to these rookies, but Dreams with NLE Choppa shows another side of the 16-year old phenom and serves as an intro to his more melodic side.
Black Fortune – “Gorillaz”
I know it’s been litigated a hundred times over how Valee had the most influential flow of 2018, but here it rears its head again. Maryland’s Black Fortune isn’t ripping it like the egregious Lil Pump and Smokepurrp impersonation, it’s more a phasing of that laid back whisper into his arsenal. The flow is in almost direct contrast to the dread-waving energy he conjures up with the video, but it works.