DEVI BROWN: Once an hour, you were going to hear “Hussle in the House” on our radio station.
JUSTIN TINSLEY: Devi Brown and her colleagues at KDAY loved “Hussle in the House.” So much so that they hand cut a clean edit so they could play it on air. The 2008 banger was a callback to the classic LA gangsta rap days of the late 80s and 90s, but now, Nipsey was the charismatic tour guide for this new generation.
DEVI BROWN: This is the first time Nip had been on the radio and had saturation on the radio and the record was doing well, people loved this song.
JUSTIN TINSLEY: Hearing his song blasting on the airwaves in his hometown was a major moment for 23-year-old Nipsey Hussle.
DEVI BROWN: And I remember he was so excited. He used to just call me like, “Yo, how’s the song doing? Yo, we getting requests?” Like, he was so pumped to be able to turn it on and hear himself.
JUSTIN TINSLEY: There was one problem, though: Devi and her colleagues didn’t realize there were so many references to the Rollin’ 60s Crips embedded in the song.
DEVI BROWN: We started getting a lot of backlash from community leaders and activists within LA specifically saying, “Listen, this is out of control. You guys are romanticizing gang culture. You guys are promoting Rollin’ 60s Crips on the airwaves.”
JUSTIN TINSLEY: “Blue Rag, S-hat” — yeah, that’s a Rollin’ 60s reference. “I’m turnt up cause I grew up in the Sixties” — another reference to the gang. You see, Nipsey was a member of the Rollin’ 60s, and he was rapping about what he knew.
DEVI BROWN: And so, we had to make the decision to remove the record. It killed me to do that. It killed me. And so I remember having to call him and tell him, like, “Listen, let me go through some of these voicemails with you. This is what we’re hearing.” And it ended up being a valuable learning experience. You know, having to tell somebody like Nip, like I need you to “Crip” less on your records so I can play them.
Nipsey Hussle: I was damn near gang banging. It was like an anthem for my neighborhood, but you say certain things you’re going to automatically make other people not be a part of it. I learned fast that, you know, I can’t exclude people with my music]
DEVI BROWN: Him just always, still being really a scientist through it all, you know, really just saying, “Okay, so I get it. So this formula for where I want to go in my life and where I want to take myself. I got to elevate. I got to refine, I got a chisel. Okay. Word, note to self.” And so he took it just fine.
JUSTIN TINSLEY: From 30 for 30 Podcasts and The Undefeated, this is The King of Crenshaw, I’m Justin Tinsley. Episode 2: Where you from?
[Hard Knock TV
Interviewer: Let’s get right into it. I always like to start it with, uh, if there was a movie about your life and the opening scene is kind of going through Crenshaw, coming through the front door of your house. What are we seeing? What are we hearing? What are we smelling?
Nipsey Hussle: We seeing a family house, you know, like pictures on the mantle. A bed in the living room. A couch with a roll out bed underneath it. You smelling coffee or like cooking — my granny was always cooking. My mom was always cooking.]
SAM: We lived at my granny house.
JUSTIN TINSLEY: This is Nipsey’s older brother, Sam, aka Blacc Sam.
SAM: My uncle was staying in the backroom. It was a two bedroom. My grandma had her room. And then it was me, my mom, and Nip in the living room on a little pullout bed.
[Hard Knock TV
Interviewer: What are we hearing?
Nipsey Hussle: Man, you might be hearing the Price is Right. Granny had that on lock, you know what I’m saying?]
JUSTIN TINSLEY: From a young age, Nipsey learned to live with his feet in two worlds. His parents divorced when he was little.
[All Money In Records
Nipsey Hussle: You know, we never lived in the same house. As far as I can remember, my mom and him were separated. I love my pops. He’d cooked for us, take us to the movies, clown, watch movies. We was movie buffs, all of us.]
JUSTIN TINSLEY: Nipsey’s father, Dawit, moved to Los Angeles from Eritrea in the 70s. He’d fled the political and social turmoil of his East African home for the promise of a better life in America
SAM: We used to just get up as kids and try to watch cartoons like on Saturday. You know, we’re trying to catch our cartoons and he’ll be up already watching CNN. So we could get damn near anything from Pop, but we not getting them to turn the news off. He like, “No, no, no, no, no. You guys got to wait.” So me and Nip be there, really, just hurt we had to wait an hour or two. Finally, he’d be like, “Okay, you guys can get it.”
JUSTIN TINSLEY: Their father was determined. His sons would know what was going on in the world, and where they were from.
SAM: He was really adamant about educating us, me and Nip, about where he was from, the history, the conflict, you know, when they ended up finally getting independence. So we just, without knowing it, were real educated on that history, African history, and just really history in general. Pop would always tell us, like, “Yeah, I’m gonna take you guys to Africa.” We still had his mother out there, his sister, all her kids, his brother’s kids. And he’s like, “You know, that’s your whole other side of the family that you guys never seen.” He was the only one out here.
JUSTIN TINSLEY: Their mother was more focused on South LA and protecting them from the reality just outside their door.
SAM: When we were younger, we was a little sheltered. My mom wouldn’t really let us go too much anywhere
JUSTIN TINSLEY: When he was in elementary school, young Nipsey, Sam, their little sister Samantha and their mom moved out of Granny’s house and into their own home close by on 60th Street. And as the boys got a little older, their mom loosened her grip.
SAM: Once we moved on 60th, she started letting us go and walk to the basketball courts, summer camps, summer schools.
JUSTIN TINSLEY: Nipsey and Sam got to go outside and experience Crenshaw — the historic heart of Black LA. Much like 125th Street in Harlem or U Street in Washington DC, it was — still is — a gathering place for Black Los Angeles. You’re liable to see everything from parades of freshly polished classic cars on a Sunday to social justice protests.
COBBY SUPREME: Man, to me, South LA it was always fun. You come outside, it’s sunny. You know, all the neighbors are friendly. It ain’t all like what you hear, like Menace to Society. I mean, that shit kind of go on too, but you know, for the most part it was, it was cool.
JUSTIN TINSLEY: Nipsey’s close friend, music collaborator, and business partner Cobby Supreme also grew up in the 80s and 90s in South LA. So did his day one partner, J-Stone.
J STONE: I can remember getting up in the morning, Sometimes you’ll hear, like, the sounds of Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre. You hear dogs barking. You go outside, you see low riders. The fire hydrant might be broke — water just flying everywhere, kids around playing, you know what I’m saying?
[“Self Made” interview series
Nipsey Hussle: It was a dope place to grow up. It was, like, a really lit up place. Obviously, what we know about Crenshaw Boulevard in the Nineties, it was like a car epicenter. So everybody in LA brought their cars to ride down Crenshaw on the weekend. Really felt like a community. A lot of entrepreneurial, outside hustling going on. Whether it’s the dude selling incense on the corner or Final Call, Nation of Islam. People standing on the corner selling bean pies.]
JUSTIN TINSLEY: But Nipsey and his brother Sam noticed that there was another energy pulsing through their neighborhood streets.
SAM: That’s when we started realizing, like, where are we at. Getting in fights with some of the kids. Getting bikes stolen and then us, on 60th, having to walk over there five, six, thick, take the bikes back. So, we was always seeing and knowing, you know, what neighborhood we was growing up in and, and what it was.
JUSTIN TINSLEY: Cobby Supreme and J-Stone soon learned that the ‘hood was dominated by gang activity
COBBY SUPREME: Well, my first memory of that was, like, the hustling. The richness of it. I seen, like, the glamour and the glitz and I seen jewelry and I seen lowriders and five-point-ohs and Corvettes. I seen things that regular people couldn’t obtain and these guys had it.
J STONE: I was young, you know, in elementary. Coming home from school, it’d be like 20 to 30 dudes standing in front of the building, you know, a lot of activity going on. You know, it just, it becomes appealing a little bit.
SAM: We used to see certain people getting money. We used to see certain demonstrations, like, we going to the ice cream truck and, you know, somebody see us at the ice cream truck, pull up, gold chains, hop out. Don’t say nothing, just look out, like, “Get everybody, everything” and then jumped back in the car.
J STONE: I will go outside in the back and they’d be out there fighting — testing each other hands, getting each other better. And then you see movies and you’d be like, “Damn, I see that outside.” Like, I ain’t even got to go to the movie theater to see this, like, this is actually happening outside.
JUSTIN TINSLEY: Nipsey never shied away from discussing this part of his life.
[97.9FM The Box
Nipsey Hussle: That’s how the streets is ran in LA. Gang banging. Not hustling — LA is bangin’. So it’s like every community is controlled by a gang and got a history — a narrative of what happened and who did what and who stood down and who stood up and who did what they was supposed to. It’s the way of the area that you grew up in. It’s a way of life that your granny know about it, your aunties and them know about, your momma know about it. Everybody — you know, the mailman know the difference between the neighborhoods he was dropping, delivering mail in.]
Nipsey Hussle: As kids we come from nurturing, but there’s a lack of that and a coldness you get from going outside and having to survive. You get in survival mode.]
JUSTIN TINSLEY: Lots of cities have gangs. But for young Black and brown men in LA, there was no way to leave your house safely without understanding their influence.
JORJA LEAP: Gangs are intertwined with Los Angeles culture. If our culture in LA is a tapestry they are several threads that run through that tapestry. The good, the bad, the ugly, and the understandable. I’m Jorja Leap, and even though my full-time job is on the faculty at UCLA, my passion since 1980 has been working in South LA with gangs, with gang involved youth, with families, and with the community.
JUSTIN TINSLEY: According to Leap, there are close to 1200 street gangs in LA County.
JORJA LEAP: Most people think about African-American or Black gangs. The Crips, the Bloods, and all the different, sort of, “sets” they break down into. The Bounty Hunter Bloods, the East Coast Crips, the Rollin’ 30s, the Rollin’ 60s, the Grape Street Crips. There were a series of Crips gangs who took their names from the numbered streets and the Rollin’ 60s were from the streets the 60s — 60, 61st, 62nd.
JUSTIN TINSLEY: 60th — the street where Nipsey and Sam spent part of their childhood — set the boundaries for one of LA’s most infamous gangs, the Rollin’ 60s Crips
JORJA LEAP: In that time in the 80s and 90s, they were very high profile. They were very heavy hitters. They were a large gang with an incredible reputation for being very lethal. In other words, they weren’t playing.
JUSTIN TINSLEY: The number of gang-related homicides in Los Angeles County between 1979 and 1994 — when Nipsey was just 9-years-old — qualifies as an epidemic. During the time Nipsey and his friends were growing up, there was basically a young Black or brown man being killed every single day.
Nipsey always understood there was a chance his life could end the way it did. “Damn right I like the life I built,” Nipsey rapped on “Grindin’ All My Life,” “I’m from Westside 60s, shit I might got killed.”
As Jorja Leap says, the 60s were not the ones to be messed with.
JORJA LEAP: They had, kind of, multiple personality disorder as a gang. They were very violent. They were involved in the drug trade. They were involved in all kinds of brutality, retaliation, enforcement. But they also had a history from 1976 onwards. So, they were well established. They had a history of trying to do things in the community and it was a teeter-totter. And sometimes it went towards “let’s build the community.” Crips is said to be an acronym for “Community Revolution in Progress” or “Continuous Revolution in Progress.” So it would be, “Let’s try to build our community, ‘cause no one else is helping.” And the other side of the teeter-totter was, “We’re bad-ass. You better respect us.”
DEMAR DEROZAN: My whole life I grew up in a culture from the time I was born. I lost a couple of uncles to gang violence by the time I was five years old. So, it was a part of me. It was my first educational tool of understanding what was what. Where to go, where not to go. What color to wear, what color not to wear. It’s part of life. You know, it’s hood politics and it’s something that you comprehend at an early age before you even understand syllables.
JUSTIN TINSLEY: NBA Star DeMar DeRozan grew up in Compton. And whether in Compton, Crenshaw or anywhere else in South LA, you always had to be aware of your surroundings.
DEMAR DEROZAN: It’s the survival of the fittest. And you gotta understand so many rules to be able to be safe and survive every time you go outside. You just be extra aware.You try to be extra cautious. To this day, I, uh, like, it kind of gives you a sense of some sort of PTSD because, you know, your nerves get bad because you just overcompensating with being aware about your surroundings, you know. And that’s how it was for me growing up, my whole life. You had to be that way if you wanted to be safe.
JUSTIN TINSLEY: There was another big aspect to negotiating life outdoors: basketball.
DEMAR DEROZAN: Every corner, every block. If it was the basketball court in somebody’s yard. If it was a crate up on somebody’s garage, you found some way to go out there and play, especially at parks. You know, whether it was my elementary school or everybody meeting up to walk to a park to go play. That was mandatory.
JUSTIN TINSLEY: For kids coming up in these neighborhoods, ball really was life.
DEMAR DEROZAN: It was a different type of comradery. Different type of bonding with your neighborhood. That’s where you, kinda, really get your bravado from, your passion for the game. When you grow up playing in between them lines, growing up in a neighborhood like we did, it make you a man. Being 11, 12, 13 years old — playing 21— and you beating somebody so bad that you basically gotta fight your way off the court at that point. And that’s a whole ‘nother game within itself that you gotta, kinda, be able to make it home and say, you still won. You know, you let your mom and everybody know that I got in a fight too, but I won the game and the fight.
JUSTIN TINSLEY: Basketball was more than a game, more than a passion. Basketball offered choices.
JORJA LEAP: I’m always amazed when I’m in South LA and I talk to young men about what they want to do when they grow up. And they say two things: “I want to be in the NBA” or, “I want to be a rap star.” So, first and foremost, they are the pathway to upward mobility. They are the pathway to success.
JUSTIN TINSLEY: This was true for DeMar. It was also true for Nipsey, his brother, and all his friends, like J-Stone.
J STONE: Growing up, we didn’t have that many opportunities as people have today. Where we was at in the neighborhood that was really our only way out. We didn’t really want to be doctors and firemen and stuff like that.
DEMAR DEROZAN: Growing up as kids, you know, you will never hear nobody say, “I want to be Mr. Rogers,” you know what I mean? You wanna see somebody that they could comprehend — that look like them, that talk like them, that walk like them, and become successful, and see that belief in them becomes more than they ever could have imagined because the person that they watching come from their neighborhood.
JUSTIN TINSLEY: Basketball and rap weren’t the only two options for young Black kids in South LA — but they were two of the most accessible. They filled lots of young minds with dreams and ambition — and most importantly, hope.
JORJA LEAP: You don’t need equipment. You don’t need training at Julliard. In the case of the NBA, you need some asphalt and hoops. In the case of rap, you need someone who’s going to be able to record it. These are things that are accessible. They’re not like being an Olympic equestrian. They are something that is right there, out in the streets, and depend on raw ability and talent. And let’s not forget, in both of those arenas, what kids have seen is that Black men have succeeded to an extent no one could imagine.
JUSTIN TINSLEY: For someone with the talent to make good on those dreams, like DeMar, basketball offered a form of protection.
DEMAR DEROZAN: The gangs was the first one to give me the protection and the positive motivation that you needed because they seen no other way out for themselves, but when they seen somebody else have opportunity to make it out, they made sure of it.
JUSTIN TINSLEY: But, don’t get it twisted — protection shouldn’t be mistaken for immunity.
DEMAR DEROZAN: Like, you still had to live in Compton. You know, you can’t just sit in the house and just go play basketball. You still have to go and get to wherever you had to go. And sometimes that wrong turn, at a wrong place, you could be in a situation you wasn’t hoping for. My only goal every night was always to make it home. You know, that was one thing my mom always said, “I don’t care what goes on as long as you walk in this house at night.”
JORJA LEAP: The minute you’re busy playing sports, you’re less busy with the hood. Pure and simple. You can’t take the hood away without putting something in its place. You got to put something in the vacuum.
MICHAEL ABELS: Hi, I’m Michael Abels and I’m a composer.
JUSTIN TINSLEY: If you’ve watched Jordan Peele’s Get Out or Us, then you know Michael’s work. In the early 2000s, Michael led an arts education program for kids — including a beat making class at the Watts Towers, an historic arts and creative space in South LA.
MICHAEL ABELS: So, I would, every Saturday, I had, essentially a studio that fit in the back of my car and I would go to the Watts Towers and we’d unpack the studio and set it up. And, you know, inside of learning how to set up and break down a studio every afternoon, you end up learning a lot about how studio gear works and “signal flow” and, and the things that you might actually learn in school, but it was all done in this way of like, “Hey, free studio time.”
[“Self Made” interview series
Nipsey Hussle: Before the 2000s, equipment was really expensive. So, I could never afford to buy equipment or pay for studio time.]
MICHAEL ABELS: So, at that time, one of the hugest challenges for artists was access to technology. It was possible to have a studio in your home for maybe only the first time in history, but that technology was still out of reach for students in poorer communities.
[“Self Made” interview series
Nipsey Hussle: So, my mom, just knowing I had a passion, she found this community center at the Watts Towers and was like, you know, they offer a class once a week. It’s, like, electronic music. I used to catch the bus to the train and go to the Watts Tower on Saturday.]
MICHAEL ABELS: So, really the nature of my program was to give people access to technology — not to teach them arts, not really. The real emphasis was to give them just the access to get their hands on the stuff that people were using to make music and then just turn them loose.
[“Self Made” interview series
Nipsey Hussle: He taught us how to use the MPC, which is the beat machine. Yeah. The 16 track recorder. That was my first exposure to production.]
MICHAEL ABELS: There was a group of about, I don’t know, maybe a couple kids, sometimes half a dozen. And Ermias was one of them.
JUSTIN TINSLEY: Teenage Nipsey was still known to most by his given name — Ermias.
MICHAEL ABELS: What he was was really quietly confident. There are people who are quiet, who are shy, but there are people who are quiet because they’re just waiting and they know who they are. He wasn’t there to prove he was the best. He was like to say, “Here I am, and this is what I’m about.” And I also saw that he was very thoughtful about his lyrics and what he wanted to say was well thought out. He was not, he was not speaking just to hear himself talk. He really wanted to say something meaningful.
Nipsey Hussle: You know, I thought I was going to be like Kriss Kross, bro. Really. I thought I was going to be like, like a young artist signed when I was a little kid. I was writing raps and like, you know, just, um, I guess when I was probably eight, nine my goal was that by the time I’m 12,13, I’ll be signed and cracking as a little kid artist. And when I wasn’t, I was like, “Fuck rap.”]
JUSTIN TINSLEY: Nipsey, like his brother, like so many of his friends, like so many young kids growing up in South LA needed something to fill the vacuum. And when music was taking too long, the ‘hood came rushing in.
[97.9FM The Box
Nipsey Hussle: You got a perception that to be a gang member, you just gotta be this cold-hearted calculated killer. And that’s far, farthest from the truth. You know, you got young people that were sport prodigies and, you know what I mean? They had dreams to be chefs and they just grew up in the area that was gang-banging. You go outside and that’s what’s going on. And then, you know, as a man, you want to identify with strength. You know, you ain’t got no strength in your house. You go outside who’s respected outside? Who got confidence? Who got pride? You know what I mean? Cause I’m a pattern myself out of them and that was gang members.]
J STONE: You know about like 13,14, like, my brother had got shot and then he died. That’s what kinda like turned me up a little bit. Just turned my heart a little bit cold and just turned me up in the streets, you know what I’m saying?
JUSTIN TINSLEY: Nipsey and J-Stone both joined the Rollin’ 60s Crips around age 14.
SAM: I remember one time seeing him and he had black eyes. And so I’m like, “Man, what the fuck happened?” And he wouldn’t say nothing. And I’m like, “What happened?” You know, if we ever get in a fight with anybody, he gonna tell me. So, he wasn’t saying anything and it just hit me. I’m like, “Aw, this nigga done got put on.” So, at that point I was just like, “damn.”
JUSTIN TINSLEY: Sam — three years older than Nipsey — had already gotten tangled up in the streets. So when Nipsey came home all beat up, he knew exactly what was going on.
COBBY SUPREME: For me, it really wasn’t no thought. It was like, it was like in a family. It was just, it was regular, you know. I was raised up in it. I was, I was born of it. So that was me.
JUSTIN TINSLEY: Like Nipsey, his friends — rappers Cobby Supreme and Pacman da Gunman — understood the dangers of what they were getting involved in, but they also appreciated what it offered them.
PAC MAN: It ain’t all violent. It’s pros and cons to it. We ain’t just running around crazy, murdering people. We really help out in the community when we was young, you know what I’m saying? Even helping the old ladies with the groceries. I used to be in my building taking out everybody trash. Yeah, it’s all love. It ain’t just all murder like the movies with how they portray it to be.
Nipsey Hussle: The good part about gang culture — if you could even say that without being attacked — is that the world said we was wrong, but the set embraced you for who you was. And that’s the allure of gang banging. In the gang is that you might’ve been broke, your mama might’ve been on drugs, you might have not had the material success, but the gang don’t judge you on that. The gang judge you on your heart. If you got heart, we ‘gon embrace you and we love you. And that’s the only requirement. And so a lot of young people, that’s all they had to offer. You know what I mean? They didn’t have none of the qualities that made the world value you. But the gang was pure in the sense that we was strictly off the heart. That’s it. And it’s considered violence ‘cause we gonna make you fight to show your heart, but if you show your heart, we gonna embrace you and you’re gonna rise in the hierarchy and you’re going to be somebody. For better or for worse, that’s the allure to a young kid.]
JUSTIN TINSLEY: The reality is gang life comes with multiple negative connotations, pitfalls, and dangers. But it’s where Nipsey met the friends he would trust for the rest of his life. That he’d create music with and start businesses with. And it’s true that, as a teenager, Nipsey chose that over school. He dropped out. He operated on street code. By the time he was 18, Nipsey Hussle was fully cold.
Nipsey Hussle: I’m gonna be honest and speak blunt. I’m like, you know what, man, as a gang banger, right, when you go on a mission,when you’re looking for your so-called enemy, you driving through a different hood down the street. You know, it’s an invisible line.You cross this street now you’re in another hood and you hunting. And when you looking, you’re gonna pass up the dude that’s dressed square, right? You’re gonna pass up a dude from a different race. When you see somebody that’s dressed like you dress and got the walk like you got and got the body language like you? You’re gonna say, “There he go. Get him.” And that’s deep.You know what I’m saying? When you really unpack that, you’re looking for yourself just on the other side of town and you’re going to hop out and attack him and try to down him in a real way. And being caught up in gang banging culture, you don’t think that deep, you just think of, “These niggas came through and shot the ‘hood up. We about to go back through there and, and return the favor.”]
SAM: And, little by little, you know, his reputation started growing and people started like, “Oh no, you know, your brother, man, you know, he, this, this, this.” And I’m just like, “Damn, he’s fully in the streets, hanging out, doing everything.”
JUSTIN TINSLEY: Knowing full well what that life was like, Sam was concerned.
SAM: He’s frontline gang-banging. So I’m just like, “All right, we got to… number one, I got to kind of tap back in and, and try to pull him and make sure we straight” ‘cause it’s a lot of shit within the ‘hood, inner politics that could’ve went bad. Be in jail for life or be dead at a young age. So, I think that’s one of my main things. And I know he was really focused on the music and I’m thinking in my head at this point, like, this is the one for sure thing that I know he would go hard on is the music. And, um, take a lot of his focus and time out of the streets if we really focus in on this. So, that’s when I kind of like full throttle switch gears to, like, help him as much as I could with the music and let him know I’m here to support.
JUSTIN TINSLEY: In other words, Sam wanted to find something else to fill Nipsey’s vacuum with. But, first, they had to find a way to raise money for recording equipment.
Nipsey Hussle: I used to have a Lincoln when I was 19. I had a white Lincoln on Alpenas. You know what I’m saying? And everybody’s just trying to buy that car from me. And I was getting girls, I was turned up, so I’m like, I ain’t selling his car. I had reached my little adolescent dream that I had for myself. And I could either go to my next level with this and that was to, like, fully, fully pursue what I had my hands in at that time. Or I’m like, or I could fuck with what I’ve been having an itch to do, which was the music. And at that time, you know, I felt like a star because I was like, my charisma was on 10. I was ballin’ for the first time. I had thousands in my pocket for the first time. I knew how to get money out the streets. You know, I was like, had the reputation. I’m a star in my mind, this LA you feel me? I felt like, I don’t gotta change up to be a successful rapper. I just need a camera on me. And just, you know, I just need to talk about what’s going on. I don’t have to, like, put no scoops on it to come up with no persona, no shit like that. It’s done. And so I’m like, this is probably not going to be too hard if I really fuck with the music. And I’m like, “Fuck that.” I called D-Mack. D-Mack was been trying to buy the car from me. I’m like, “You still want this car, bro?” He like, “Yup.” He pulled up right here in the low rider with a Ralph’s bag with racks in it. And then he gave me the cash and I gave him the key. And then I went to, um, I hit my brother, like, “I’m about to go buy some equipment.” And he like, “How much you got?” And I told him what I got. He like, “All right, Imma match you.”]
SAM: He had already had studio equipment that he put together. Built a computer. Had the mic. Had the inbox. So he’s recording things, letting me hear shit. And I’m like, “Damn, you wrote that?” I’m like, “Man, this shit is crazy.” I ended up trying to write a lyric. That shit took me like seven days. Trash! Everything. I just threw it away like, “All right, I’m done. This shit ain’t for me.” But I’m like, “Damn, this, this nigga wrote this? I got to give it a shot.” But it was not…it was different. So, you know, I knew he was very talented. And I told him this too: “If you was trash, I would have told you like, ‘Hey bro, fuck music. We not finna do this. Let’s do something else.’” We gon’ make it work. But it was, it was the total opposite. I saw it as like, “Oh, anything I throw at this with bro behind it, we gonna win. We gonna win.” And, um, whatever I had, I remember telling him like, “Look, man, this is what we got. This is what I got towards it, man, I’m all in.” And, uh, you know, same thing with him. He’s like, “I’m all in, too.” He sold his car. Sold his jewelry. Bought better equipment and it just went, started going all in. I remember bro telling me, like, “This is my plan. This is the label that I started, Slauson Boy Records. This is my business cards.” And I’m like, “Damn, okay.”
JUSTIN TINSLEY: Those Slauson Boy Records business cards are how my friend Bryan first heard about Nipsey.
SAM: So, Nip ran point on everything. I matched some of the money and we had business cards. We had promotional flyers. We had posters. Nip had CDs. And we just hit Slauson. Hit the whole Slauson. Hit Crenshaw. We… Nip had every homie, every female putting up posters and just hit it like nobody had ever seen it. Hit the streets passing out the CDs. The real packaged CD looking like it could go in a store with barcode and everything.
JUSTIN TINSLEY: Those CDs were Slauson Boy Vol. 1 — that’s the first music of Nipsey’s I ever heard. It was — as Bryan had prepared me for — full of gang bang talk. It was a world that I didn’t know firsthand. But I didn’t have to. There was something about it that was honest and raw.
Nipsey was rapping about his reality — and he wasn’t ashamed of it. He didn’t downplay it. He didn’t glorify it. Or exploit it. He owned it — and provided nuance when so much of the conversation around gangbanging is rooted in stereotypes. He saw a chance to use music to give something to others who would walk the same path — representation.
Nipsey Hussle: I wanted my message to impact gang culture. I wanted what I had to say to impact individuals, like myself. Young people that was in these areas that was controlled by gang bangin’. I didn’t want to preach to the choir, but I wanted to be able to say, you know, “I’m one of you and where I’m gonna go, wherever I end up, you’re gonna know that you can end up there too.” I came from this and it’s authentic and I’m not on the outside of this culture. I came in and said, “This where I’m from this is what I represent,” but it was for a reason. I wanted to establish, you know, what I belong to. I looked at it like jail, that’s what I used to tell my homies, because when you walk into a dorm, the first thing you establish is where you from.]
JUSTIN TINSLEY: Nipsey knew where he was from. He’d never lose sight of where he was from. But now, he needed to figure out where he was going.
Reporter and Host: Justin Tinsley
Senior Producer: Joanne Griffith
Production Team: Gus Navarro, Dave King, and Derwin Graham
The series was edited by: Julia Lowrie Henderson, Senior Editorial Producer for 30 for 30 Podcasts, and Steve Reiss, Deputy Editor for The Undefeated
Executive Producers: Erin Leyden, Brian Lockhart, Kevin Merida, and Raina Kelley
Additional Production Support: Meradith Hoddinott, Mitra Kaboli, and Eve Wulf
Original Music: 1500 or Nothin’
Mix Engineering: Ryan Ross Smith, Ben Tolliday and Garrett Lang
Project Manager and Licensing: Cath Sankey
Additional Licensing Support: Jennifer Thorpe
Development: Adam Neuhaus & Trevor Gil
Talent Producers: Chantre Camack and Sharee Stephens
Music Director: Kevin Wilson
Fact Checking: Roger Jackson
Legal Review: Alan Lau
Special thanks to the Estate of Nipsey Hussle
Audio provide courtesy of:
“Self Made” interview series hosted by Brett Berish, CEO of Luc Belaire, Bumbu Rum, McQueen and the Violet Fog and Villon
97.9 The Beat
97.9 The Box
ABC7/KABC-TV Los Angeles
Big Boy Radio Network
iHeartMedia’s The Breakfast Club
Genius Media Group, Inc.
Justice for Murdered Children
LA This Week
© 2019 The Recording Academy