It's Crunch Time For Nipsey Hussle

It's Crunch Time For Nipsey Hussle

Before Kendrick Lamar, Dom Kennedy and YG, it was Nipsey Hussle who was dubbed the next big L.A. MC.

The Crenshaw neighborhood native was called the next Snoop Dogg and featured on XXL's Freshman cover in 2010 with Freddie Gibbs, Big Sean, J. Cole, and Wiz Khalifa. That same year Hussle left Epic Records to form his own All Money In imprint.

Since then, the momentum for a rapper once seen as a can't-miss West Coast prospect has stalled. What happened?

He hasn't released much new music, for one thing, and there's still no sign of his long-awaited debut album, Victory Lap. A signing to Rick Ross' Maybach Music Group has been speculated for well over a year, and it's unclear whether his Two Of America's Most Wanted mixtape with YG will ever surface.

Hussle's last full-length project The Marathon Continues was released nearly two years ago -- an eternity in hip-hop. Which is why the importance of his DJ Drama-endorsed Crenshaw mixtape -- out tomorrow -- looms large.

"The stuff that I feel the streets need to hear -- like hot verses or content that's going to excite the streets -- I put that on Crenshaw," Hussle said in his self-titled, Karen Civil-filmed documentary. "I know they been waiting. I know it's been a long time. They mad at me. They bashing me on Twitter and all that. But it's well worth it."

Having grown up as part of gang banging culture, he spent a healthy chunk of 2012 touring Europe, where his popularity has grown. (See the above video.)

It was there where he recognized the graphic tales, street gospel and ghetto tragedies from his life could become anthems for fans who never spoke English.

Many of Hussle's fans have remained loyal since his Bullets Ain't Got No Name days. But the importance of Crenshaw can't be overstated. It's perhaps a step toward the release of Victory Lap.

He's got an eye on his core fans with a limited, 1000-copy run edition of Crenshaw, which will sell for $100 each at a Fairfax pop-up spot -- you read that price right, though it will also include a ticket to one of his shows.

Crenshaw features Rick Ross, Z-Ro, Dom Kennedy, Slim Thug, James Fauntleroy and more. But at the end of the day, whether it succeeds or fails ultimately falls on Hussle himself. The outcome will be either increased momentum or a stall.

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