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“Until you put out something garbage, they ‘gon keep listening.”
We’re at Nipsey Hussle’s Marathon store on the corner of Crenshaw and Slauson when the 32-year-old rapper explains why, after over ten years in the rap game, and countless mixtapes, he is only just now putting out his “debut” album, Victory Lap. The store’s name aptly reflects his philosophy on longevity — The Marathon — but it also represents his commitment to both entrepreneurship and his hometown.
His mentality that there’s no time limit on greatness has brought us here, with the release of Victory Lap only days away, to discuss just how well that determination and perseverance has served him and why he believes he’s still only getting started.
With the leverage he’s earned over the course of the past decade of self-released smash hits, Nipsey was able to patiently wait for the right label partner to foment the release of Victory Lap. It appears he’s found that in Atlantic Records, who will be releasing the anticipated debut. Nipsey is cagey about the exact terms; according to past interviews, one of the conditions of the contract is that he can’t reveal all the conditions, but he’s always said that he wouldn’t sign unless they were favorable and fair.
“I always felt like when I get the album out, [a label deal] would be the next move, so I spent a while making this album,” he says of the supremely opportune timing of the deal. “It always feels like the stars line up when you put music out. Sometime’s it’s bigger than others but when I say, ‘I’m done,’ I think my track record has been quality, so people like, ‘If he ready to present it, it’s gone be some fire on there, because he ain’t gone present it if it ain’t fire.’”
Which is why he applied the same rigorous standard of his search for a suitable label partner to his song selection process for Victory Lap’s tracklist — which includes guest appearances from Compton rappers YG, Kendrick Lamar, and Buddy, as well as a return of Sean Combs’ Puff Daddy persona.
“That was a critical selection process,” he said. “A ton of factors went into it, but I developed a formula. It didn’t matter if the verse was tight, or the beat was tight. It was an overall song formula I was holding each record to. The ones that passed the bar made the album, but it was a really high bar — the highest I’ve ever put on any of my records. If they just felt good, but they didn’t live up to the standard, they were mixtape records.” He says that some of the songs that filled out prior efforts were originally destined for the album, but that he wanted to make sure that the label situation was squared away first.