Does Nipsey prove he’s worth the buzz with this new mixtape, "Crenshaw"?
Overall, the tape is a good listen and a sound effort.
The production is absolutely amazing. From top to bottom, there’s not a single whack beat on this project. Nipsey’s beat selection is one of his best attributes at this juncture. Every song “feels” like it should. Not once is there a high BPM, bass thumping instrumental awkwardly coupled with lyrics about lost love or something of that nature.
The beats generally follow a smooth, G-Funk-derivative type of vibe. It’s immediately clear that Nipsey is a West Coast artist from the beats alone on this new project.
Crenshaw also features some nice, catchy hooks. Like the beats, most songs on the tape complement themselves with symbiotic, melodious hooks. Prime examples include “Come Over’” with James Fauntleroy on the vocals; “If You Were Mine,” which samples Sade’s “Cherish the Day;” and “Summertime In That Cutlass.”
The problems we find in Crenshaw pop up in Nipsey’s lyrics, flow and delivery. For the first half of the tape Nispey seems locked into a Rick Ross-esqe flow where he slowly spits half a bar, lets the beat rock a bit, then spits the other half of the bar just as slow. The flow matches the beats for sure, but it shows a profound lack of technical skill on Nipsey’s part if he can only rock a beat one way.
Nipsey also delivers the lyrics the same way throughout most of the tape. Too often he raps like he’s somewhere between super-hype and super-tired. Repetitive delivery works well for artists like MF Doom or Earl Sweatshirt, but it’s simply not a good sound for Hussle.
Finally, there’s the lyrics-- the bars themselves. There seems to be quite a few cliche, corny bars on this tape, especially the first half of it. Take “4 In The Mornin’” for example: “ I’m a busy nigga/ You a busy girl/ It’s a fast life we livin’ in this busy world.” Or “I’m on my shit/ Smellin’ my aroma,” a punchline from “Drop Coupes.”
Many fans and critics consider this current period of hip-hop one of artistic and lyrical renaissance. In 2013 especially there’s been a monumental shift in focus toward lyrics (Kendrick Lamar’s “Control” verse and all the responses it spawned). In this climate, bars like those above are sub-par, doubly so since Nispey clearly has writing and rapping talent (see his last mixtape effort for further proof), talent that mostly presents itself in the second half of the mixtape.
“Change Nothing” and “No Regrets,” show that Nipsey has the skill set for writing bars, as he pulls back on the adlibs, changes up his flow, varies the delivery, and straight up raps.
Nipsey proves he has the sonic ability to craft great records and produce some of the iconic West Coast music we’ve come to love. But, too often he makes concessions with the raps themselves.
Crenshaw is a fun, enjoyable tape that is well worth checking out. Whether he stays independent or not, Nipsey undoubtedly has a great career ahead of him, however this tape proves there is some work to be done before his debut album. Nonetheless, we suggest you download the mixtape below, and chime in with your own thoughts on it.