All Money In, No Money Out: Nipsey Hussle
If there’s anything Nipsey Hussle can do is show us how to be a boss. Nothing can garner my respect from an artist more than one that knows how to handle his business and make power moves. It’s one thing to be gainfully employed; it’s an entirely different ball game to own something you work for. That’s what Nip has been doing for the last couple of years and it’s time we really start to pay attention to what he’s doing and how he is operating without a huge label backing him.
Before I begin, I got to start with a quick background story of how I became familiar with Nipsey. The first time I even heard his music was back in the summer of 2009 when Bullets Ain’t Got No Name Vol. 3 dropped. Two things about that summer stand out to me. The first was the amount of oddball jobs I had over the course of three months. I wouldn’t have any consistent money coming in until the fall semester of college came around and that was when financial aid would hopefully come save my broke ass (I say hopefully because I almost didn’t even get my financial aid and that deserves a separate blog post by itself). So to say money was a bitch to earn in this time would be an understatement. The second thing that stood out was of course discovering Nipsey Hussle’s Vol. 3. There were a number of bangers that I can go through, but the one song that sticks with me to this day is the Rimpau and Yung Brodee assisted Walk In My Shoes. From the Lenny Kravitz sample to the lyrics, it became the soundtrack as I drove to my weeklong job at the fair in which I was working in the 100 degree plus blazing heat from 10am-9pm, for a whole week. Another oddball job I was forced to get into. Every dollar I was able to save that summer was used just to pay for a semester of college.
“Longwinded, running through this life like it was mine
Never settling, but setting every goal high”
Witnessing the growth he has displayed has been a treat to say the least. It seemed from that summer on was when Nip discovered where he wanted to take the next step in his career and he hasn’t looked back since. That motivation music is what he’s been feeding us with the release of heralded tapes like The Marathon, Mailbox Money, and his newest Slauson Boy 2. Although he hasn’t forgotten the streets where he’s come from, he also realizes he has a purpose in his music and that is to show us “the keys” (cue DJ Khaled). And the best part of it all is that he is backing up the talk displayed in his bars.
In 2013, he dropped Crenshaw and to the surprise of everyone, it was priced at $100. Most people scoffed at the idea that someone would offer new music for the masses at the price point; especially considering that we can do “the googles” and find a link for the project in mere moments. So rather than be dumbfounded at the move, I first did research at why he ran with this business model. It turns out that Nip got the idea of the $100 mixtape from a book called Contagious - Why Things Catch On written by Wharton School of Business professor Jonah Berger, the book discusses about marketing through a structure which Berger calls the “six key STEPPS” - Social Currency, Triggers, Emotion, Public, Practical Value, and Story. In the second chapter, Berger mentions a cheesesteak restaurant by the name of Barclay Prime in which the establishment charges $100 for their cheesesteak. Adopting this strategy, Nipsey states in his Forbes interview:
“When you say it’s a mixtape, that has less value to people, but I think the fact that I charged $100 dealt with that issue. It was all original music too, so for all intents and purposes it was an album, but I didn’t want people to mistake it for my debut album.”
Like the Barclay Prime cheesesteak, you aren’t necessarily paying for the mixtape. What you are paying for is exclusivity, value, and word of mouth. The experience from purchasing something “expensive” can only trigger an emotional response and that will get people talking. This method has seemed to work for both parties, as the restaurant is very successful at the moment. And Hussle has made $100,000 1000 copies sold Crenshaw (with help from Jay Z as he has purchased 100 copies himself).
On his Instagram post, Nip posts a picture of his earnings through a digital music distribution company called Tunecore. The key factor of this company is that artists receive 100% of their sales revenue. So for a rapper that has been building his fan base since the mid 2000s, that says a lot of what can be accomplished for ownership and controlling your own destiny. It appears as though Nip isn’t ready to sign for a major anytime soon. And for a man worth 6 figures, I don’t blame him for waiting it out and getting the best deal possible for yourself. Nipsey has various side ventures in the meantime; All money in and no money out.