Mixtape Review-Mailbox Money by Nipsey Hussle
I have said things about Nipsey Hussle like “If he broke in the 90’s he would be just another West Coast Gangsta rapper,” or “I don’t know why everyone cares so much about Nipsey Hussle?” Scarface turned it all around for me. In an interview he did on the Combat Jack Podcast he passionately defended Nipsey to the point where I took to re-listening.
Enter Mailbox Money. His newest mixtape dropped as 2014 was becoming 2015. Nipsey has always had a great ear for production but this time it’s on another level. The tone of the conversation he’s leading and the assembled sounds that back him are as cool as the icy blue cover of the mixtape.
All the reasons I disliked Nipsey Hussle are still very present. The way he rhymes is not great; his delivery sounds choppy like a man running out of breath, his word choice is predictable. The undeniable counterargument supplied by Mailbox Money is that this music is calm, faultlessly sequenced, and very purposely seamless. Pick the silky Vernardo assisted Be Here For A While or bath in the sneering A Hunnit A Show featuring Rick Ross; its all in that TDE, Jay Ant West Coast anti-ratchet Chillwave style. When he brings in R & B voices for the hook its K Camp (see: Between Us) and not another Skylar Grey hip hop assist situation.
It’s rare to hear a free release, fifteen tracks long, that hangs together so well. THC, DJ Mustard, HitBoy, Scoop Deville and DrewByrd all do very different kinds of production but Mr. Hussle had a vision for what he wanted Mailbox Money to sound like. It’s unified but not boring, Only A Case bubbles up with a wonderful curse-word chorus and almost bangs but it never leaves the chillosphere.
The most important lyric is probably on Count Up That Loot where he says “Built this label up just like Russell do, gimme ten years they gone be like Russell who?” and he believes it. He does not say it with any of the desperation that Kid Rock had when he yelled he was going platinum. It’s a warning from one of the hardest working rappers alive. He drops a mixtape every year and his last one was twenty one songs long(he sold it for a $100 a tape at the release party). He’s already working on another one. So while it’s true that he’s not a great or very good technical rapper, working this hard and crafting this polished a product has to make you great.
Sometimes reviewing music is not about deciding the validity of artistry it’s about gauging the enthusiasm of entertainment product. Mailbox Money as a product is spectacularly entertaining. Much like Dom Kennedy (who pops up on Real Nigga Moves) Mr. Hussle has a personality that you can’t help but get sucked into. At the end of Status Symbol he listens to a 16 year old rapper freestyle and salutes his skill. It’s something we used to hear on every great album in the 90’s and he knows that. He’s big enough to give time to people. He’s also not so big that he feels obligated to shy away from issues like police violence; on 50 Niggaz he goes all the way in on Zimmerman and maneuvers the topic with intelligence and tact asking questions like “Could you just accept that we murdered your children?”
As skilled as Jay-z was for a long time a lot of us didn’t know. We thought he was ok. He outworked all his competition and got where he is. I’m not saying we are looking at young Jay. I just may need to think harder about the components of being dope.
Stream or download Mailbox Money: