Since the release of Marathon four years ago, fans have been waiting patiently for Nipsey Hu$$le's debut album Victory Lap. The West Coast MC has steadily been building his fan base from the ground up, expanding his reach from the streets of Crenshaw and Slauson to around the country. His popularity was strong enough that last year for the release of his latest mixtape Crenshaw, he started the Proud 2 Pay campaign, where he sold hard copies of the project for $100 dollars each. Crazy, right? Jay Z liked the approach so much that he bought a 100 copies of the album, totally a price tag of $10,000.

Fast forward to now, Nip announced last week that he is dropping Mailbox Money, the "album before the album," some time this month to prepare fans for the Victory Lap, which drops early 2015. He insists that this is far from a mixtape and will sell 100 hard copies of Mailbox Money through P2P for $1,000. XXL spoke to Nip on the phone over the weekend to ask about the increase in money from last year's P2P campaign, what exactly "album before the album" means and how it feels to see that his debut album is finally being released. —Emmanuel C.M.

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XXL: What does “album before the album” mean?
Nipsey Hu$$le: Just in terms of what we calling it. It’s not a mixtape. No jacked beats, all original music. So I didn’t want to devalue it by calling it a mixtape. It’s not going to be in Best Buy, etc. When you say an album you think traditional retail, so that’s why I said the “album before the album.” This is still a release that we made hard copies for through our Proud 2 Pay campaign. It’s not a mixtape. I just wanted to be clear on the terminology. It’s not an album.

Why charge a $1,000 and not $100?
It’s some things that come with the private pay package. We’ve been building this Marathon store in L.A. at a secret location. It’s basically going to be the home base of our brand (Crenshaw clothing line and these Proud 2 Pay products). They’re going to live and exist at the store. So if you buy Mailbox Money you’ll get a product that I haven’t announced yet, access to the secret store that we’re getting ready to have the grand opening for and you get to hear Victory Lap exclusively with me in this place that we built. It’s an experience. We can’t fit more than a 100 people in the store. We just wanted to do something different this time.

What does Mailbox Money mean? What was the concept behind it?
That’s boss money, that’s ownership money. They got advances and they got royalties in the game, in terms of how the money breaks down in music. The whole structure of the industry is to give the creators the advances in return for the ownership, the masters. Looking at 2014, I look back; we made more money off Mailbox Money than we would have made off taking an advance from anybody. We made more money letting our fans buy the stuff directly from us than what any label could have offered us. From the clothing to music, just looking at our life and business operation, at the high levels of business it’s a bunch of equity. They looking at catalog, two years down the line you’re getting legitimate checks out of the real estate and it’s just coming in the mail and it’s real.

Photo: Jorge Peniche


What’s the purpose of the store?
From the beginning of my rap career, since I was seen and heard, I always had a store. That’s been my brother and a couple people on my team that’s been really hands-on and making sure that it’s successful; all the Crenshaw hats, beanies, shirts, all of that was manufactured at our store. We shipped them internationally now and people come when they come to L.A. It really just started off like a local thing.

As my music success started taking off, people just started coming to the store. It was a mom and pop store at first but we just started getting lots of traffic and really doing numbers. It was always a plan that we were going to have a retail side with what were doing musically, like an Apple store or Nike Town. I wanted something where you can come get everything—Marathon or All Money or Crenshaw—and make it like an experience. Especially with what Crenshaw and Slauson meant to my story. To start from selling out of my trunk, it grew from there.

It was always an idea and concept but after Crenshaw dropped and we was on tour we just start talking about, the next move is going to be in a retail store, like a boutique destination. This is something that we blueprinted to since the beginning. We thought about everything. Even to what’s the reaction we want people to have when they walk in. Now that Mailbox Money done. We’re going to debut the new store for the people who buy it through the Proud 2 Pay.

Photo: Jorge Peniche


Victory Lap seems to be almost here. Are you happy it's finally coming out?
I just feel like I got a new wisdom of life, to be able for my seeds to bear fruit. It’s a process that takes time, to see you eat the apple off your apple tree. I think 2014, it was just a year where your hard work and vision becomes visible. It becomes clear. Victory Lap, even the title. It’s the accumulation of trial and error that’s what I represent; trial and error. It’s not genius. Even outside of music that’s my life story. I’m going to figure it out through trial and error. I’m not afraid to fail.

It’s like looking at my position in the game. Looking at my fans. What I’m able to do internationally without too [much] outside help beside my team, my family, and my friends. To see all that I’ve done and see these fans and these dope boys pull bank out their pocket and buy a grand of Crenshaw merch out of respect. We inspire. It feels dope.

That’s what I want to make the whole moment, give what I’m supposed to give. It’s about what I’m going to give to it, all my energy and tell the stories that are most important to my life. Something people can really hold on to and love. Its like crossing the finish line with people and wanting to walk across that finish line with me. It feels dope. I’m just focused. I’m just trying to make sure the music is the best thing I've ever done.

What can you tell me about Victory Lap?
It’s being worked on. We got a ton of music. Its coming, top of the year, you’ll hear more news about it.

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