Tag Archives: Nipsey Hussle

Song review-Nipsey by Trae The Truth

Song review-Nipsey by Trae The Truth

by Dan-O

I do not feel well. Generally, I am not a neurotic person. My mind is something I manage assertively but the beat on Trae The Truth’s song Nipsey sounds like the buzzing in my head ever since Nip passed. The light piano is the ever-present weeping of those of us that followed Hussle through his mixtape maturation. Everyone is shouting out Nipsey nowadays, at varying levels of stylishly being-in-the-know and authentically dealing. Figures that it would be Trae The Truth that broke me in half and brought me to tears on it.

It figures because this is the guy who punched Mike Jones and evolved into the man who organized the Relief Gang to save people during Hurricane Harvey. This is the kid of dude who only features with people that are known as legit people. You won’t see Trae featuring on a song with some purple haired episcopal white rapper named Ballbag.  When the scariest voice in rap says “Damn, I never picture you leavin’ can’t stop the grievin'” it breaks me to pieces because it is perfectly the dark cloud over my head. Beyond prayer hand emoji’s whipped out for any loss of life… Nipsey was supposed to be old and wise and helping his whole coast!

This song is from Trae’s new album Exhale and the project is superb, maybe a little better than his awesome album last year, Hometown Hero. This isn’t the best song, to be honest, Even Tho Its Hard is entrancingly melodic heartfelt and tough. Trae is Scarfaces legacy pulled through Drakes melodic additions to the format. It is all very serious but it sounds beautiful.

I think that is why I trust him to break me in half and put me together every time I hear his dedication to his friend. The same way the kids at Woodbridge Forest Middle School were so relieved to jump into his truck and bail to safety during the hurricane. I rely on Trae (in a much more low stakes way!) to help me with grief in a way that keeps my head up with eyes on Hussle’s legacy and achievements.  No guns, no needless tough talk.

Is it weird for me to get so emotional over someone I never met? Trae will understand. Trae and I share a belief that you must live with pain to see the other side of it and the songs we listen to, the people in our lives, the days that go right, are all pieces of the correct medicine. The “foundation of integrity” Nipsey speaks on in the ending audio clip is perfect for Exhale. A whole album where Trae flexes by doing what rappers can’t do anymore; step outside their brand. You see, Trae isn’t a brand. He’s a place. He’s Houston.

Five Song Tribute to The Legacy of Nipsey Hussle

Five Song Tribute to The Legacy of Nipsey Hussle

by Dan-O

The night before Nipsey Hussle was killed I was up later than my family bouncing from Youtube video to Youtube video looking for the right end point to justify going to sleep. The one that sealed the evening was a ten question relationship quiz with Nipsey and Lauren London. I’ve had love for LL ever since the movie ATL and honestly didn’t know they were an item (I really don’t check personal life of famous people stuff one way or another). Throughout the video Nipsey is plugged in and genuinely excited to get these questions right. He got eight out of ten right and the only two he missed were purposely phrased oddly to reference some inside couples jokes, Nip was too focused on finding an answer to follow the thread. I smiled all the way to bed because he was so proud to have done well and I immediately thought this connected to the core of who he is. Nipsey Hussle was 100% in everything he did so if someone tells you he loved Lauren London with the intensity of the sun you have to say, “Of course.” Nipsey doesn’t half way do anything. Beyond the genuine chemistry and mutual admiration between them, on a deeper level, Nipsey Hussle wanted to wreck that quiz because if Nipsey Hussle authored the quiz it needed to achieve excellence.  His will wouldn’t tolerate any less. He would marshal all his focus to be the best partner for her the same way he was the best rapper he could be. I was so happy they had each other.

Then the next day happened.

All I can do is give you five songs that show you the size of his willpower, the immensity of his heart and the force he could exert on a sonic landscape.

U See Us from Crenshaw

This might be the quintessential Nipsey song. It’s a stampede of speaker shattering bass and a grandiose hook that pulls you into the purpose of Hussle. No one wanted him to succeed. He didn’t break on a label, when he first dropped I thought he was a basic Gangsta rapper. By the time Crenshaw dropped he was making giant sized workout rap with energy heart and personality. Look at his car, look at his girl, look at his success and see it. See in that success how artificial the ceilings on life’s potential accomplishments really are.

FDT by YG featuring Nipsey Hussle from YG’s album Still Brazy

People who played it cute on Trump are regretting it now. SNL booked him as a host and has been trying to make up for it ever since. Too late. Lots of rappers had made the mistake of using Trump as their symbol of wealth and when he became an Info Wars cult member they didn’t know how to react so they didn’t. They just kept their head down and made music. YG and Nipsey Hussle had the stones to explain the whole situation and declare themselves. YG warns Donald will be a terrible president if elected and Nipsey says he thought Trump for president was a joke and says if we let him win we probably gonna feel broke. Real spit.*

Last Time That I Checc’d featuring YG from Victory Lap

Any song YG did with Nip is solid gold. Those guys are charged up all the time and ready to send shockwaves through tracks. Last Time That I Checc’d is stupid relistenable. This makes it harder because his last album, Victory Lap, was his very best. He mastered his mission statement became a king beat picker with a fantastic ear and sent his hooks into your mind to repeat until everyone’s lips mouthed along. Every time he says he did it all without a co-sign and that he’s self-made know, that information is more reliable than scientific studies of the moon. This dude pulled himself from mixtape dude to best  album of the year list with features from Puff Daddy, Ceelo Green, Kendrick, The Dream and we all got robbed of what he would have built on top of that success.

50 Niggaz from Mailbox Money

Nipsey had a special delivery. He could shout the N word in a way that made it devastating but this song is what I loved most about his pen game. As a writer, he always showed supernatural empathy. The repeated refrain of “Would you just accept that we murdered your children? Could you just accept that we murdered your children?” asks the same white male who is angry about rioting or angry that the victims father had the nerve to say something that might stoke resentment further… to flip perspectives. What would your process be like if you were on the other side? Once he has you there we can talk Zimmerman, Ali, rappers getting unfairly targeted and a picture comes together. This is such a great political song because it’s conversational and unpretentious. Nipsey is not trying to prove to you how smart he is. He’s beseeching you to utilize your emotional intelligence for someone other than yourself and people who look like you.  If he had lived we would have seen a lot more music like this as he elevated in leading by example.

I Don’t Stress from Slauson Boy 2

Nipsey was just a different dude. This whole song his voice is strained, pained and emotional but his lyrics are methodical. He starts the song hurt that his mother is stressing but quickly snaps into his mode. To put it bluntly “I never fold under mental pressure, I get better.” His determination was colder than most in that it was completely unwavering, no matter what the circumstances were. It was hotter in the sense that the fire he had just never burned low. The most Nipsey Hussle lyric of all time might be in this song when he says “Plenty of times I felt like this the end now N_.  But I catch my second wind around the tenth round, N_.” The scariest fighters in boxing history were the ones who could save their real power for the tenth round when the other guy was breathing heavy through his mouth. Those fighters were fueled by something really scary, the type of determination you can see in Bernard Hopkins fights. That’s what Nipsey had on every song.

Every song from now on won’t have that.

*a little P.S. on the FDT write up, if you somehow read my site and love Trump and are offended I have no choice but to stand as tall as Nipsey and YG did, hold your gaze, and say FUCK Donald Trump. Let you feel any way you want about it.

 

 

FME 2016 MVP HONORABLE MENTION-YG

FME 2016 MVP HONORABLE MENTION-YG

by Dan-O

We used to crown “mixtape MVP” but the distinction between mixtape and album is unimportant at this point. Everyone has streaming services and no one pays per album, it is a heartless profit starved reality but it is our reality.

YG was almost my pick for 2016 MVP because he distinguished himself as an artist from everyone else on the planet this year and he did it with his music, his words, and his beliefs. In 2014 when YG released My Krazy Life to an avalanche of critical praise a lot of that went to DJ Mustard.

Mustard was having a huge year and he had hits but it was being presented as if he was the white hot sun of the ratchet movement…which is ridiculous. YG’s follow up album to My Krazy Life called Still Brazy is so important. It features two songs produced by P-Lo of the HBK Gang (IAMSU’s crew) and they were doing the exact same sound at the same time Mustard was. Rick Rock, Droop-E, League of Starz and anyone connected to E-40 predates them.  People following the West knew this. Mustard was a part of it but not an originator and not the best at it. People reading the headlines and not the articles thought Mustard owned the West and was propping up YG.

YG charged into 2016 throwing B’s at the listener and smashing each song with his impactful delivery.  Terrace Martin brought the burbling West Coast thump and the Roger Troutman talk box to Twist My Fingaz, Swish used all his colors to render the deepest most beautiful landscapes behind Still Brazy’s best tracks (Gimmie Got Shot, Don’t Come to LA, Who Shot Me, FDT). The guests are impressive from Lil Wayne and Drake to Kamaiyah, Slim 400 & Sad Boy.  YG became a central part of this year’s narrative by releasing  the smash mouth election anthem FDT (featuring Nipsey Hussle) and in a real way he had all the West Coast artists shouting “F_ Donald Trump!” Many were making references to Trump as not a reputable character (see Smoke Dza-Don’t Pass The Blunt to Trump) but YG is way more straightforward than your “lyrical” rappers and way more lyrical than your fun “party” rappers.

Before the end of the year he dropped an eight song project called Red Friday. It featured fun anthems full of braggadocio like I’m A Thug but also serious venting on police brutality (One Time Comin’).  When  I heard him on Left, Right in 2014 I thought to myself  “this is a real move the crowd rapper” someone with a voice and tempo that needs all your attention. Still Brazy and Red Friday add more to our shared definition of YG. On songs where he feels personally affronted by someone it is shocking and powerful because he has deep wells of anger that are fascinating. The songs that are about his beliefs resonate because he can’t help but make his views of right vs. wrong vigorously present. His gang lyrics aren’t sensationalist but grounded, straightforward and powerful. Everything he speaks is vivid. He doesn’t approach these songs like Ali did Frazier, more like how Tyson approached Spinks.

He was one of the first names I thought of because he destroyed the box he was put in and that is what everyone is trying to do. It is not what he did wrong that cost him the award it is the unthinkable performance of the winner.

Mixtape Review-Preacher’s Son by Tut

Mixtape Review-Preacher’s Son by Tut

by Dan-O

In my mind Nipsey Hussle Mailbox Money is the most important mixtape I count as being 2015. Preacher’s Son is right after it. So many narratives come out of the first few listens that you can’t help but keep pursuing them. The battle between the knucklehead Tut who could be one of your loose cannon friends and the spiritual Tut who is proudly the son of a preacher. Also the three songs (Sheba, Holy Water, Living On The Sun) featuring Angel Mae carry uncharacteristic chemistry. For my money most rap songs with the R&B hook sound stapled together but Angel Mae is made for Tut (and yes I desperately want a full collaboration between the two).

Preacher’s Son is comfortably grounded in the battle between looking for truth and spirituality and being a man with all the negatives, positives and silliness that carries with it. You can just take a glance at the tracklist and get an understanding of this push and pull. Track 2 is Fall of Goliath which is very high orchestration twinkling 1950’s Sinatra production packed with biblical references and evocative imagery. Track 3 is Corner Stories which starts “Crackhead sitting on the corner, looking like he might be in need. Wondering if you can give him a little bit of cheese for another crack rock and a little Mickey D’s.” This is a song that lives so close to the street you can feel the cracks in the sidewalk. Just when you forget this is the same guy who gave you Fall of Goliath, angelic female voices hum in the background.

Tut never feels like he’s trying to prove his street cred with stories. He’s just flushing out daily life through poetic imagery and trying to find the divinity in it. Hangin’ is consecrated by the delicate brass saxophone in the background and stories about friends and dick jokes. His flow can shift up out of the mellow vibe song so pervasive on Preacher’s Son, on Kids These Days he turns up the tongue speed and the results are 8 out of 10 on the head nod scale.

The most impressive moments on Preacher’s Son are meditative and songs with almost no pacing to them. Living On The Sun is infinitely re-listenable. Tut gives you bravado, a sense of purpose, and words for ex-girlfriends while Angel Mae blesses the track with the tape’s best chorus (I assume Swayvo Sax is who laid the great saxophone solo). By the end Tut is repeating the catchy chorus and so are you while everyone outside your headphone universe thinks you’ve lost your mind (ok maybe this is just me).

The second best moment on the tape is Live From Chattanooga and its all Tut. No chorus assist, no deeply impressive beat just some plinking piano and his sticky Southern flow. It’s profane and poignant and this kid is twenty two years old having carved out a piece of the mixtape universe all his own. The number of rappers who can keep spirituality as a vital part of their art is slim and the ones who can do it without beating you up about it is an even smaller number. Nobody in that group is this young. Are you intrigued? You should be.

Stream or download Preacher’s Son below:
http://indy.livemixtapes.com/mixtapes/31855/tut-preachers-son.html

Mixtape Review-Mailbox Money by Nipsey Hussle

Mixtape Review-Mailbox Money by Nipsey Hussle

by Dan-O

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: