In honoring the accomplishments of those from the past during this black history month, acknowledging the melanated men and women who are currently making valuable contributions to the empowerment of black people, regardless of their field of expertise, is important as well.
When you take a close look at the melanated youth in this country, primarily those who reside in economically deprived neighborhoods, Hip-hop has not only been a source of inspiration and entertainment but has also acted as one of the main career aspirations.
Rappers have always appeared to live a particular lifestyle. Money, women, cars, jewelry, all the materialistic things that were typically reserved for the Hustler’s and Drug dealers in the neighborhood, are now appearing in rap videos.
Historically, Hip-Hop culture has served as the voice of the inner city, documenting the injustices that face the black community with a raw and unapologetic tone. When a rapper references their involvement in illegal activity and/or gang culture, what I hear is someone speaking to the ills of economically deprived areas, pointing out the hateful indifferences shown by the U.S. government towards the black community.
Hip-Hop was built out of a rebellious spirit that felt the need to challenge the system at every turn. Once big corporations saw an opportunity to capitalize on this new found art form, things began to change. Record companies became the gateway between an inspiring artist and their dreams, generating onesided contracts that provided recording artist with no real ownership at all.
However, this hasn’t been the case for every artist. Throughout hip-hop’s short history, there has been a long list of independent-minded individuals who have understood the value of their intellectual property, opting to release music themselves instead of leaving their faith in the hands of a record company. Even with that independent state of mind, it’s still natural for a new artist to want that star power that comes with being a powerhouse in the music business.
So, the question becomes, how do you maintain your Independence and Integrity while still achieving the highest plateau the music business has to offer? When searching for an answer to this question, one name comes to mind, Los Angeles, CA rapper and entrepreneur Nipsey Hussle.
Putting in work on the independent scene since the first installment of his now classic Bullets Ain’t Got No Name mixtape series, Nipsey has mapped out a path like no one before him. Using unprecedented methods to market and promote his music, even charging $100 for the physical copy of his 2013 mixtape Crenshaw.
Not only has he became a stable in the independent Hip-Hop scene for his business savvy and consistent catalog but also for the high level of integrity that he operates with. In 2012, it became well known that Platinum-selling rapper Rick Ross wanted Nipsey to join his MMG imprint.
For most independent artist this would have been an opportunity of a lifetime but not for Nipsey, he was quoted in a 2012 interview with BET as stating “I just feel like we weren’t at that point yet to go back into the major [label] situation. One day we might do that, or we might stay independent, but I just wanted to build up what this Nipsey Hussle thing is a little bit more and solidify it amongst my fans before we make that move”.
This mentality has served him well, fast forward to 2018, after 10 mixtapes and years of building his brand, his debut album Victory Lap, will finally arrive in stores on February 16th. Like I said before, this country is full of young melanated men who feel Hip-Hop is their way out. In my opinion, Nipsey Hussle has provided the perfect blueprint for navigating the music business while remaining true to yourself and your community.