Nipsey Hussle Wants to Build an "Urban Sanrio"
A couple months ago, our sister paper LA Weekly published a piece entitled "It's Crunch Time for Nipsey Hussle." In it, writer Justin Tinsley examined the 28 year-old LA rapper's career, and how he believed it had come close to a stall. Barely two months later, and already Nipsey Hussle --born Ermias Asghedom-- appears to have broken through the barrier of a slumping career. Largely due to his sheer perseverance and business acumen, Nipsey has rejuvenated his existence as a rapper. Now, Jay Z's buying his albums in bulk and fans are rushing to shell out a hundred dollars to get copies as well. With his latest release Crenshaw (including executive production from Santa Ana producer Wizzo) and a tour trek in the works, Nipsey may even be at a career high.
"I try and put my art first, and I think that people get that I try and put my message first. Form follows function, and the function of what I'm doing is I want to connect to people; I want them to feel what I'm saying and relate to it and be inspired by it. That's what I want to happen first, and then being successful is secondary," the South Central rapper says.
"First I want people to connect to it and be inspired by it, and feel it on a real level. I think people get that, and when they come to my music they come for a certain thing -- their motivation, their inspiration, some game they're looking for, or just a different perspective. My intentions are what they connect with, and they gauge my intentions off the product that I put out. It's clear to them my intentions are to say something real, and that moves them."
Nipsey's devoted fanbase, who have staunchly stuck with the young emcee throughout his entire career, appear to share the same feelings regarding his music. They ensured his hundred-dollar-a-copy release Crenshaw sold out a pop-up shop in LA a couple months ago, at a time when many bigger artists can barely push their fans to spend a few bucks on iTunes.
The overall concept behind the "$100 dollar album," referred to by Nipsey and his team as the "Proud2Pay" campaign, originally stemmed from a section in the book Contagious, where business owner Stephen Starr successfully began selling and marketing a $100 cheesesteak at his restaurant Barclay Prime. One of Nipsey's business partners and mentors, known as "Big Bob," handed him the book during the completion of Crenshaw, and the idea behind the business of selling a hundred dollar cheesesteak almost instantly struck a chord with him.
"When I read about the hundred dollar cheesesteak, I was so close to being done with Crenshaw I was in marketing mode, and when I read that I didn't necessarily have the full idea but I knew it was time to work. I think the parable inspired me to where I knew something good was going to come from that inspiration, so I just put the book down and started thinking and walking around inside my office, talking to my team, and came up what became the 'Proud2Pay' campaign," Nipsey says.