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This or That? Ganksta N-I-P vs. Nipsey Hussle

Ganksta N-I-P is, was, and always will be a psycho. The Houston rapper who wrote rhymes for Bushwick Bill and penned ‘Chuckie’ for the Geto Boys started out in The Forever Def Crew with Klondike Kat before both of them joined up with the S.P.C. (South Park Coalition). In 1992 he dropped his debut album ‘South Park Psycho’ on Rap-A-Lot, arguably becoming the first rapper to ever market himself as a horrorcore artist through and through (Esham, we see you). The album covers every disturbing lyric from force-feeding babies gasoline to draining urine samples out of arms, and while it may seem kitschy now, in ’92 this s–t was groundbreaking.

Yet what’s even more amazing about N-I-P (Nation of Islam is Powerful) isn’t that he was nice on the mic, but that his psycho killer schtick worked for at least three more albums on the historic Houston, TX record label. His sophomore LP ‘Psychic Thoughts’ might not be better bar for bar than his first album, but Mike Dean stepped in behind the boards, giving the whole project a breezier air of production. NIP continued dropping worthwhile projects through 1998′s ‘Interview With A Killa,’ his last record for Rap-A-Lot, and he even dropped a project earlier this year called ‘God of Horrorcore.’

Most enduring of all, however, is NIP’s legacy. He was one of the artists cited as an “influence” on Ronald Ray Howard, the 19-year-old kid who shot and killed a Texas highway patrolman on the night of April 11, 1992 (stories say NIP’s sophomore album was found in Howard’s car, but that doesn’t make sense, since ‘Psychic Thoughts’ came out in ’93). For better or worse, it catapulted NIP’s name into the headlines alongside acts like 2Pac, Ice Cube, and N.W.A. and afforded him national publicity. Then there’s the story of how the photographer Peter Beste was confronted by NIP after trying to have the S.P.C. member participate in a photography project. You can read Beste’s account of the incident, but suffice to say that homie was scared s–tless. Luckily, Beste released the incredible ‘Houston Rap’ book earlier this year, so his bonding time with NIP was well spent in the end.

Nipsey Hussle has been lost in the wild for awhile now. His Marathon’ album was supposed to come out years ago, but instead he’s dribbled out EPs and collections of random singles/leftovers. He was allegedly on the cusp of joining MMG, but it fell through, and the last time we heard from him, he was selling his mixtape for $100.

How did it come to this? In the mid-to-late 2000s, he started with Jonny Shipes at Cinematic Music Group, where he made his name with the ‘Bullets Ain’t Got No Names’ series. He was a tad reminiscent of Kurupt, which bodes well for his lyrical ability but not as much for his albums (or his career). He signed to Epic Records but left once the people that originally signed him were no longer at the label, and soon after he released ‘The Marathon’ and ‘The Marathon Continues,’ two of his strongest offerings to date despite being mixtapes in disguise. But fans have been dismayed about his output for years now as interest has waned since the days of hailing Neighborhood Nip as the next Snoop. The album still doesn’t seem to be anywhere on the horizon, and without a bigger platform (or a gimmick) to market the project on, we might never get the Nipsey album we deserve.

NIP was truly original. Rap-A-Lot artists had a penchant for mentally disturbed music, but their skill level was what made it dope. Acts like Eminem and Odd Future might not be possible without the Houston rapper’s music; he made it okay to be f–ked up in the head. Nipsey Hussle, as of right now, is just another blip on the vast radar of rap today. Five years ago the story was different, but now he’s almost completely faded away, managing to stay relevant with a mediocre mixtape boosted by a $100 price tag. Live by the gimmick, die by the gimmick.

Ganksta N-I-P’s legacy has endured for over twenty years as one of the most demented, innovative and original MCs of all time. Nipsey has nothing like that to his name, and probably never will. There’s still a ton of potential in Hussle’s corner if he pulls off an album that’s as concise as his earlier rhymes, but if he continues to veer towards rapping like Dom Kennedy, he’ll get pigeonholed. Maybe it’s his only option, but his appeal was never explicitly cross-over. If he can get back to that murderous style of rhyming, where every bar was like a bullet in a clip, he might start to regain the public’s attention. It’s either that or marketing stunts at this point.

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