Strictly Business
Nipsey Hu$$le's taking a whole new approach to the rap game.

Words Dan Rys
Image Jorge Peniche

Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the December/January 2014 issue of XXL Magazine.

On Oct. 7, Nipsey Hu$$le watched in real time as $20,000 flooded into his PayPal account. The next day he added $100,000 to that total. The cash influx came from the sale of Nipsey’s latest mixtape, Crenshaw, which he put out on his own for $100 a pop. The bold move signaled another win for artists who keep it independent and even earned the L.A. MC some love from Jay Z, who ordered 100 copies.

With his major-label issues over and the beginnings of a new independent movement blooming around him, the 2010 XXL Freshman spoke about his big business moves, the bumping Los Angeles hip-hop scene and why he’s finally on the right track.

What was the biggest takeaway from the Crenshaw experience?
How fast we ran through the units was kind of surprising. The idea was new, and by the end of the day we had sold 200 units just off the website. PayPal called me and was suspicious. They called it “explosive growth.”

Jay Z sent Roc-A-Fella to buy a hundred copies?
I never spoke to Jay personally, but Roc Nation [was] like, “That’s all he’s been listening to, and he respects the move.” It wasn’t solicitation for me to come to Roc Nation. The way I viewed it, we know Jay’s story, we know he started out the trunk, so I think that he probably sees that in what we’re doing, and it just reminded him of the struggle.

Did you see the success of people like Macklemore and say, “I could stay indie and get just as big”?

Macklemore’s success definitely confirmed one of my hunches, that you can do it on your own. There’s a new business model that I don’t think we have fully seen come to fruition yet. Everybody’s doing their own version—Jay doing the Samsung deal, Macklemore hiring the record label to work an indie record. I think the I Am Proud 2 Pay Campaign is another example of an artist trying to figure out the new business model.

Do you see the L.A. scene exploding?
Yeah, I do. It’s funny, because we’re not doing nothing different. I think when you do something over and over, you learn, you do it better, and we’ve just been re-upping and repeating the cycle. Eventually we were gonna reach the tipping point, and I think that’s what’s happening.

What are you working on now?
All my energy is going toward Victory Lap; that’s gonna be my debut album. I don’t announce [release dates]. I’ve done it before, and I’ve found myself scrambling and considering the rest of my project. I’m gonna make sure I’m in love with it before I put it out, but it’s gonna come out in 2014. We got a tour coming up top of 2014. It’s gonna be all over the United States, Europe, Japan. We got the [Marathon] clothing line; we’re getting ready to expand that. I’m working on the concept for a store.

So far, how do you like performing the new material?
The good thing about my records—and especially the new ones—I’m really connected to them. You don’t want to have a gang of “big” records where you don’t really feel what you’re saying, because it’ll be a different experience at the show. When I’m up there like, “Look at my life/Came up nigga/We came so far,” they like, “Yeah, you right. You were selling your shit out the trunk—that’s true.” I think that’s how you prepare—make sure that it’syour truth. ♠