There was a time when the west coast was king, when the entire nation was smoking the chronic,...
DJBooth Album Review
When we talk about the west coast we’re really talking about L.A., and right now you can’t talk about L.A. without talking about Nipsey Hussle (you can’t be from anywhere but the city of angels with a name like Nipsey Hussle). While Nipsey’s long-awaited debut album, South Central State of Mind, continues to be awaited (it’s currently slated to drop this December), Slauson Ave.’s favorite son is continuing to build his buzz with the latest addition to his Bullets Aint’ Got No Names series. His latest offering, Vol. 3, is his strongest offering yet, a wide ranging mixalbum that proves Nipsey has the potential to translate his substantial street presence into widespread national success.
Diamonds are a hustlers’ best friend, so it’s no surprise that Nipsey does some of his best work on the Biggie-influenced Diamonds. Diamonds cruises along on typically laid-back west coast production, a sparsely relaxed beat that holds hints of menace, while Nipsey shows that even at his toughest he can still be lyrically inventive. At one point he even compares himself to French explorer Jacques Cousteau, and still sounds dope. (Although calling yourself a “lyrical Tracy McGrady” might not have been the best choice, considering the man’s playoff record). NBA analogies aside, if anything can be considered a prototypical Nipsey Hussle track it’s Diamonds, except for maybe Speak My Language. Language is Vol. 3’s certified banger, a cut that can’t truly be appreciated unless played at full volume. Nipsey absolutely kills the track, and as an added bonus Lloyd Banks and Cory Gunz add some serious lyrical pyrotechnics. Time and time again on the mixalbum, from the blunted Gangbanging to the creeping Strapped, Nipsey shows that he’s got the potential to be a champion rapper; not as a heavyweight but as a featherweight, dodging and ducking, stinging the track with jabs, fearless, relentless.
The modern music game being what it is, you can’t be successful without some widespread appeal, and gaining that large scale success without losing your core identity is a challenge most rappers can’t handle. Can Nipsey become a national force without losing his distinctly regional style? The jury’s still out. Gotta Make It is the mixalbum’s most radio ready track, a hustler-as-inspirational-figure track featuring a supremely smooth chorus from Lloyd. Nipsey could have easily softened his verses but he doesn’t flinch, spitting the same concrete hard flow he dropped on Diamonds, showing that Nipsey’s decided that if he’s going to make it, he’s going to make it on his terms. That doesn’t mean that Nipsey’s above dropping the requisite ladies jam, in this case the sparkling Rich Roll. It’s not that Rich Roll is a bad track, lord knows there’s nothing wrong with making the ladies happy, but on Roll Nipsey could be almost anyone, any aspiring rapper who can put together a “girl you so fine” line. Unfortunately some auto-tune even creeps in. The road to success is paved with danger and Nipsey needs to be careful to keep making his music, not everyone eles’s music, as he navigates it.
As always we won’t know the true extent of Nipsey’s abilities until South Central State of Mind finally drops. Will he revive the west coast? Will hip-hop nation once again turn its eyes towards Los Angeles? It’s far too early to tell. But he’s the best hope the left coast’s had in years. Make no mistake, the west coast is coming back. You can hear it.
DJBooth Rating - 3.5 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on Aug 06, 2009
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