Life has never been easy for Nipsey Hussle.
Growing up in what he deemed as “a city full of gangbanging,” the LA native’s daily to-do list often ended with the simple task of survival. But rather than fall victim to a life of illicit activity and dead ends, he committed himself to lay the foundation for a self-sustaining ecosystem consisting of music, clothing, and savvy investments.
With a recent announcement of the partnership between his All Money In record label and Atlantic Records and his debut album Victory Lap on digital shelves, Hussle’s career, in some respects, is just beginning. For the past half-decade, the lyricist and businessman endured the unpaved path of independence and mastered a number of self-taught lessons along the way.
DETERMINE YOUR OWN VALUE
In the unwritten rule book of hip-hop, mixtapes are considered to be free pieces of promotional content. The premise is, in the future, the artist will earn revenue on touring, merchandise and any form tchotchkes that can be monetized. Nipsey Hussle, however, believes in earning revenue from every product line.
In 2013, the rapper sold 1,000 copies of his Crenshaw mixtape for $100 (Jay Z purchased 100 copies) through his Proud2Pay campaign. The album was also available for free download, but those who shelled out a crisp Benjamin received a plethora of rewards from concert tickets to priority access to new material and one-of-a-kind gifts. Two years later he upped the price for Mailbox Money, offering only 100 units at $1,000 per. More recently, he announced that pre-orders for his limited edition The Marathon photo book will be sold at a $500 value.
DIVERSIFY YOUR PORTFOLIO
In addition to music, his All Money In label, and Marathon Clothing line, Hussle added cryptocurrency to his investment portfolio. Though it’s unknown what to make of the intangible asset just yet, the rapper senses that its potential impact on hip-hop, and vice versa, is worth exploring.“Entertainers and influencers have been leveraged to create value for a lot of the companies that have taken precedence in Silicon Valley, but we haven’t been included to the degree that we should be,” he says.
KEEP GOOD COMPANY
When Hussle began his career in music, his access to information about the music business was limited.
“I had a loyalty clique but I didn’t really have an expertise-in-music clique, so I had to dive into the info,” he said.
Now, he can call on fellow entrepreneurs like Gary Vaynerchuk whenever seeking counsel. In Vaynerchuk’s vlog, the two spend nearly an hour discussing the nuances of hip-hop culture and effective branding strategies. Though the two come from vastly different backgrounds, Hussle appreciates Vaynerchuk’s “unique knowledge in categories that don’t normally relate or intersect.”
Additionally, Hussle’s brother, Samiel, is one of his most trusted advisors and business partners. Many suggest to refrain from entering business with family, but again, typical norms don’t apply to Nipsey Hussle’s business model.
“I don’t know nobody else that hustle better than my brother,” he said. “And I ain’t saying this for the interview...If he wasn’t my brother, I would try to make him my partner. It just so happens that we are brothers and I have insight on his character that a business partner wouldn’t have.”
ALWAYS TAKE NOTES
Hussle candidly expresses his admiration for hip-hop’s top entrepreneurs such as Jay Z, Kanye West, Dr. Dre, and Diddy. But his fandom extends beyond those who trade spots atop the Forbes list. The Victory Lap rapper has taken copious notes on companies with long-term track records of success, such as Disney and Sanrio.
“The relationship between all these examples is that enterprises are built around content and tangible products were sold around intangible content. If the opportunity existed for Disney and it existed for Sanrio, then it exists for Nipsey Hussle."