With hip-hop's history of losing some of its biggest stars before their time, fans tend to fixate on artists' death dates to pay respect and show reverence. This has turned dates like March 9 and September 13—the dates of The Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur's deaths, respectively—into annual cultural celebrations where we reflect on an artist's impact, legacy and artistry. However, in recent years, hip-hop has increasingly put some of that energy towards celebrating an artist's life on their actual birthday instead.
As one of the more recent casualties of the violence that has cast a black cloud over the culture over the years, Nipsey Hussle's death remains fresh in the minds of many, with his peers, family, fans and friends continuing to mourn. While his family has decided to celebrate Nipsey's birthday in private, others have taken it upon themselves to use the day to look back on his talent, achievements and untapped potential, resulting in August 15 becoming yet another landmark date on the hip-hop calendar.
As the hip-hop community gathers to celebrate Nipsey Hussle's birthday and life, XXL compiles a list of 20 of his essential songs that serve as a guide to his extensive catalog.
"Hussle In The House"Nipsey Hussle Featuring Kokane
Producer Detroit Red reworks a sample of Kris Kross' "Jump" for this slapper from Nipsey Hussle's Bullet's Ain't Got No Name Vol. 2. Released as Nipsey's commercial debut following his record deal with Epic Records, "Hussle in the House" is remembered as a landmark moment and one of the rapper's signature records.
"The Hussle Way"Nipsey Hussle
Nipsey Hussle delivers his mission statement via this fan-favorite from his Bullets Ain't Got No Name Vol. 3 mixtape.
"Rap Music"Nipsey Hussle Featuring June Summers
Nipsey Hussle's precise flow is complimented by June Summers' silky vocals on this track from Bullets Ain't Got No Name Vol. 3, which was initially slated to appear on the rapper's intended debut album, South Central State of Mind.
"Feelin Myself"Nipsey Hussle Featuring Lloyd
Cocksure vibes are felt as Nipsey Hussle teams up with Lloyd over production by 1500 or Nothin’ on this tune from Nip's The Leaks, Vol. 1 project.
"Keyz 2 the City"Nipsey Hussle
As Nipsey Hussle made The Marathon the central theme of his rise to prominence, this early classic helped establish the RSC rep as one of the new voices out of the West Coast.
"Blue Laces"Nipsey Hussle
Mr. Lee cooks up a soulful instrumental for Nipsey Hussle to muse over on this salvo from the latter's The Marathon mixtape. Channeling the energy of his stomping grounds, Nipsey floats over the track while putting forth a subtle show of allegiance to his Rolling 60s set.
"Rose Clique"Nipsey Hussle
Nipsey Hussle lets his thoughts flow on this standout from his The Marathon Continues mixtape, reeling off an extended verse that stacks up as one of the best showings of his career.
"The Weather"Nipsey Hussle Featuring Rick Ross and Cuzzy Capone
Producer Cozmo provides the backdrop for this collaboration, which finds Nipsey Hussle sharing airtime with Rick Ross and All Money In artist Cuzzy Capone.
"All Get Right"Nipsey Hussle Featuring J. Stone
Sarah J & Big Blizz helm the boards on this deep cut from Nipsey Hussle's Crenshaw project, which finds him and All Money In artist and J. Stone basking in their glory.
"Crenshaw & Slauson"Nipsey Hussle
An autobiographical tale is spun on this closing number on Nipsey Hussle's Crenshaw project, which finds him recounting the trials and tribulations he'd endured.
"That's How I Knew"Nipsey Hussle
Nipsey Hussle reflects on his marathon with this inspiring number from his Mailbox Money project.
"Ocean Views"Nipsey Hussle
The Futuristiks & DJ Khalil provide the instrumental to this introspective number from Slauson Boy 2, as Nipsey Hussle delves inward while doing a bit of self-inventory.
"FDT"YG Featuring Nipsey Hussle
Nipsey Hussle joins YG to air their pointed critiques of President Donald Trump on this incendiary record from the latter's sophomore album, Still Brazy. Produced by DJ Swish, this track helped galvanize the rap community and let it be known that Trump no longer had any real estate within the culture.
"Rap Niggas"Nipsey Hussle
Nipsey Hussle set the tone for his Victory Lap album with this monstrous single, which saw him differentiating himself from his peers and establishing himself as a beacon of authenticity and a leader of the pack.
"Last Time That I Checc'd"Nipsey Hussle Featuring YG
Nipsey Hussle and YG built on their collaborative chemistry with this heater from Nip's Victory Lap album. Produced by Kacey Khaliel, Brody Brown, Larrance Dopson & Mike N Keys, this record encapsulated the vibe of the West Coast streets and further entrenched the pair as leaders of the new school.
"Dedication"Nipsey Hussle Featuring Kendrick Lamar
Kendrick Lamar appears alongside Nipsey Hussle on this motivational cut from Victory Lap that marks the pairing of two of the top West Coast prospects in recent memory. It's an instant classic.
"Blue Laces Pt. 2"Nipsey Hussle
Nipsey Hussle picks up where he left off with this sequel to his classic deep cut "Blue Laces." This impassioned number puts Nip's prowess as a storyteller on full display and has been hailed as one of the superior performances of his career.
"Grinding All My Life"Nipsey Hussle
Murda Beatz scores this track from Victory Lap, which captures Nipsey waxing poetic about his unrivaled work ethic and the sacrifices made on the road to the riches.
"Racks in the Middle"Nipsey Hussle Featuring Roddy Ricch and Hit-Boy
Nipsey Hussle teams up with fellow L.A. native Roddy Rich for this heater, which was the last single released prior to his death. Produced by G-Dav, Corbett and Hit-Boy, "Racks in the Middle" peaked at No. 26 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was indicative of Nipsey's continued upward trajectory.
"Higher"DJ Khaled Featuring Nipsey Hussle and John Legend
The first posthumous appearance from Nipsey Hussle, this track was initially slated to be released as a promotional single for DJ Khaled's Father of Asahd album, but was pushed back following his tragic murder. With John Legend riding shotgun, "Higher" serves as another addition to Hussle's short list of definitive records.