I’ve been wanting to start a blog for years. I didn’t do it because of fear: fear of being made fun of, fear of it not being perfect, fear of failure. As I was encouraging my best friend to document and share her life in Hawaii, I felt the strong urge to remind her to tell her truth and to just let it flow. When we try to make things perfect, we can try to force creation from the mind instead of letting it flow through us through our divine inspiration and intuition. Things can sound stiff and unnatural. Above all, the most important part is that you begin creating.
At the Nip$ey Hu$$le popup shop, I met a hip hop blogger named Tommy. He told me about his process starting his website in 2009 and he encouraged me to start my own. I saw the pieces falling into place and finally decided to take action. I had come up with the name, “Beats Rhymes N Life,” two days before while listening to the Tribe. It fits perfectly with my life experiences and passions: spirituality, hip hop, and personal growth. As I wrote my first post, I found the distracting thoughts passing through inquiring what my blog was about, what format it should be written in, who the audience should be, etc. All the things I learned in marketing about having a target audience and general direction to move in had me feeling a little trapped. So instead of closing the computer like I’d done several times in the past, I decided to just do my best. I wrote a few paragraphs on the popup shop and posted it. Although I’m happy I began the blog, looking back on that post, I was reminded of what I had encouraged my best friend to do, tell the truth and let it flow.
So here’s the truth about that day:
When I first moved to LA, a friend of mine who used to live here would drive up from San Diego to come visit me. She’s wild, British, and obsessed with Nip$ey Hu$$le. She lived down in the 60’s neighborhood where Nip$ey grew up for a few years and loved driving down Crenshaw and Slauson bumping her music. She could not stop talking about this rapper that was taking over the west coast and took to me to the liquor store down in the 60’s to buy his mixtapes. As we were leaving, she told me how the liquor store had been shot up several times while she had been living down there. We stopped by Nip$ey’s clothing store and witnessed a crazed lady run in and start knocking all the “Crenshaw” apparel of the shelves screaming at the top of her lungs until she was restrained. It was only a twenty minute drive from my apartment in Hollywood, but it felt like a different world.
I’ve always been interested in other cultures, particularly in urban culture, as I grew up heavily into hip hop. As a kid, I remember listening to Pac’s “Changes,” over and over again, wondering how such pain and poverty could exist in such a prosperous country. I’ve always been interested in the dichotomy between the extreme wealth and extreme poverty present in urban music and culture. Being down in the 60’s neighborhood that day gave me a glimpse into the surroundings Nip$ey came up in, a place laden with fear, poverty, and violence.
Over the next several months, I had Nip$ey’s mixtapes on repeat, soaking up every word, vibing with his confidence and intellect. While attending a charity shoe giveaway at Crenshaw High School, I met a few other people that had grown up in the neighborhood and been heavily involved in that life. I learned how minuscule their school’s funding was compared to other districts, with kids lacking basic necessities like books and school supplies. I got an up close and personal look at how the system is stacked in some people’s favor, while others are left to fend for themselves. The more I learned, the more intrigued I became with Nip$ey, a true outlier in a community where all the odds were stacked against him.
To have the vision, persistence, and faith to believe that he could make it as an independent rapper, takes the rarest form of confidence. To know his worth so intrinsically despite circumstances saying otherwise, is a gift few experience. In “Crenshaw and Slauson,” he talks about his vision and the process he took to see it through:
“I had a vision nobody else could see/Sold my shit to D-Mac, a little less than 10 Gs/Brought my grocery bag of cash back to Blacc Sam/He matched a n****, next day we went to Sam Ash/We bought a pro tools and a microphone/Studio was far from plush but the lights was on”
I was watching some of his interviews the other day and learned that he got his Proud2Pay $100 mixtape idea from this book someone had given him called “Contagious”. I ordered the book and within the first three pages read the story of a restaurant in Philly who sold $100 cheesesteaks. The novelty item matched with the absurd price tag brought in droves of business and publicity. Nip$ey ran with the concept for his “Crenshaw” mixtape, offering a free download on DatPiff in addition to a $100 signed copy including a live exclusive performance. No one in history had ever sold a $100 mixtape. He sold out all 1,000 copies the first day and was written up by Forbes.
This brings me back to day the at the pop-up shop and why it was so special. When you witness someone succeeding in such a big way with so much stacked against them, it’s a beautiful thing. There were people wrapped around the block for 6 hours, patiently waiting in the rain to meet Nip$ey. The pop up shop was showcasing his newest collaboration with Young&Reckless, another amazing feat considering Nip$ey’s background. A lot of labels and brands will not touch artists with gang affiliations, mainly out of fear. To have such an incredible collaboration with one of the most popular streetwear brands in LA is no small feat.
I know that even 10 years ago, the things Nip$ey has accomplished would have been damn near impossible. Breaking through in such a big way while remaining independent and creatively in control is a huge step forward for the culture. Seeing such a large and peaceful turnout at the popup shop really moved me. It’s these brave artists who have unwavering faith in themselves despite all odds that shape the culture. It’s the NWA’s, the Lupe Fiasco’s, the Kanye West’s that get people thinking outside the box and questioning societal norms. These are the people that pave the way for the future, that give a voice to the voiceless, and show people how far creativity and faith can take you. It’s a beautiful thing.