Aux Cord Chronicles XXII: The Nipsey Hussle files
‘Checc’ out this playlist before or after tapping into ‘The King of Crenshaw’ podcast
30 for 30 Podcasts and The Undefeated present The King of Crenshaw. This four-part series dives into the connection between the NBA and the late rapper, entrepreneur, philanthropist and activist Nipsey Hussle. Listen now wherever you get your podcasts.
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If you’re here, then hopefully you enjoyed the first four episodes of The King of Crenshaw. Of all the interviews we conducted for the series, two of the more enlightening ones were with Nipsey Hussle’s production teams of 1500 or Nothin’ and Mike & Keys. They’re at the center of our bonus episode, and trust me, you’ll want to hear the stories they have to share.
In all our interviews for the series, we asked people for their favorite records. As you can imagine, there was some overlap because the classics are the classics. For our 22nd (!) installment of Aux Cord Chronicles, I’ve compiled a list of the responses and combined it with some of my own favorites. Listen to this before our bonus episode. Or listen afterward. Or listen before and after.
“Hussle In The House” (2008)
Recommended by: Hussle’s brother, Blacc Sam, and business partner, David Gross.
I’ll never not get chills listening to this standout record from Hussle’s mixtape Bullets Ain’t Got No Name Vol. 2. When I heard this for the first time in 2008 – a transformative year in my life as I was graduating from college right into a recession – it let me know something new was on the musical horizon. I didn’t know what Hussle would ultimately become, but he took me straight to Crenshaw and Slauson and I had never been to California.
“They Roll” feat. The Game (2009)
Hussle was a Rollin’ 60s Crip – and a proud one. But he also understood the value of crossing color lines. Even before his storied friendship and collaborative history with YG, Hussle’s gangsta duet with The Game was one of the hardest records from the early part of his career.
“Keys 2 The City” (2010)
Recommended by: Matt Barnes, former NBA player and co-host of the All The Smoke podcast.
After hearing this record – one of the best Hussle made in his entire career – you wonder how Epic Records could just let him walk. The triumphant hook, the dizzying beat and Hussle’s supreme confidence made for a record that sounds as fresh now as it did more than a decade ago.
Emani ain’t gon’ know the streets/ Gotta keep her close to me/ Put that on the man that’s on the cross on my rosary/ Wasn’t always banging, but I speak about it openly/ No shame in my game/ I did my thing on the coldest streets/ Who the hottest on the West/ All you n—as know it’s me/ So tell whoever got it locked that Nipsey Hussle stole the key.
“Fly Crippin’ ” feat. Cobby Supreme (2011)
Recommended by: NBA player DeMarcus Cousins.
I’ll keep it 100 with you. I always loved this cut from The Marathon Continues. But it wasn’t until I attended a day party while living in Los Angeles in 2015 that I saw the reaction this drew from the crowd. Crips loved it. Even Bloods were rocking out to it. And everyone else was singing “FLY CRIPPPPIN’!” like it was choir rehearsal. It was an incredible sight.
“Fountain of Youth” Stalley feat. Rick Ross and Nipsey Hussle (2012)
There was a point in time when Rick Ross made no secret that he wanted to sign Hussle to his Maybach Music Group imprint. It never worked out, though the two maintained a close relationship. It’s easy to understand why Ross wanted Hussle to be at MMG, especially after his verse here.
“Checc Me Out” feat. Dom Kennedy and Cobby Supreme (2013)
Recommended by: NBA player Isaiah Thomas, and Cobby Supreme and Pacman Da Gunman, Hussle’s friends and artists on his label, All Money In Records.
I said it in the podcast and I stand by it: This is one of the greatest West Coast rap anthems ever recorded. I know it’s a long shot, but I’d love to see a video for this now. It would give one of Hussle’s best songs the visual it always deserved.
“All Get Right” feat. J Stone (2013)
“They love me all around the world, my n—a, what’s your problem?”
Here’s another heater from the Crenshaw mixtape and this one features one of Hussle’s longest, most loyal friends in J Stone. This song hits differently once you understand how Hussle helped J Stone keep his sanity while he was locked up.
“4 In The Mornin’ ” (2013)
There’s something about hearing Hussle say, “When I’m gone, s—, play this.” That Floetry “SupaStar” sample is perfect.
“Crenshaw & Slauson” (2013)
Recommended by: Marcus Hunter, associate professor of sociology and chair of the department of African American studies at UCLA.
Over the year and a half it took to make this podcast, I came back to this song often. In a lot of ways, it’s “The Autobiography of Ermias Asghedom.” The song is 12 minutes long, and leaves you with a deep understanding of where Hussle came from and what inspired him to keep moving forward.
“Question #1” feat. Snoop Dogg (2014)
When I was trying to come up with titles for the episodes in this series back in 2020, I was listening to this song. And, boom, just like that, Hussle and Snoop Dogg titled episode two for me: Where You From?
“Where Yo Money At” feat. Pacman (2014)
Recommended by: LA radio personality DJ Hed.
It’s best just to let Pacman himself speak when he broke this song down to me this year.
“It was random because I popped up on him at the studio. As soon as I walked in the room, he like, ‘Hey, bro, say this. Big guns, big guns. I got big guns.’ He made me do that. Took probably like 50 times. He’s like, ‘It’s gonna be like a little bridge just saying that.’ And I got to be a feature. Then so one day I woke up to a gang of notifications on IG. He put the record out. I was like, ‘That’s big!’ ”
“Only A Case” feat. G.I. Joe and Conrad (2014)
Whenever I drop that, they feeling like ‘Pac back/ Hussle in Crenshaw is like O’Shea in a Sox hat/ Classic LA, n—a, stay out my way, n—a/ We ain’t the same n—a, simple and plain/ From reputation in these streets to where you sit on your plane.
Hussle floated on this verse something crazy. Floated, I tell you.
“Can’t Spell Success” feat. Cuzzy Capone (2016)
Recommended by: Barnes.
Hussle and Capone went crazy on this Mike & Keys production. Close your eyes and it feels like you’re riding in the back seat with them.
“Ocean Views” (2016)
Recommended by: 1500 Or Nothin’.
As Hussle waxes poetics about everything he’s survived and accomplished, hearing him request that Stevie Wonder sing at his funeral – and then it actually happened – just makes it feel even more heaven-sent than it already did.
“Ain’t Hard Enough” feat. Mozzy (2016)
You saw the way Russell Westbrook was vibing out to this record. It’s been a gym mainstay for more than five years and counting.
“I Don’t Stress” (2016)
Recommended by: Marc J. Spears, senior NBA writer for The Undefeated.
This song really feels like a South LA pledge of allegiance. Especially that part about Blacc Sam telling him to poke his chest out.
“Thug Life” feat. Young Thug (2016)
A Hussle x Young Thug project would’ve been flames. Hussle’s verse is so raw, but at the same time so melodic. I’ve always imagined myself listening to this in a dimly lit cigar bar with a glass of whiskey neat. Then again, I think about this kind of stuff way too much.
“FDT” feat. YG (2016)
Recommended by: Culture critic Gerrick Kennedy.
When you really, really, really think about it, some songs are better off speaking for themselves. This is one of them.
“Blueprint” feat. Bino Rideaux and Dave East (2017)
Hussle and Rideaux’s No Pressure EP is one of the best joint projects of the last decade, and I stand on that.
And this s— realer than life when you raised so f—ed up you start feeling this right/ When you seen so much death you start dealing with Christ/ If you ever make it out you give ‘em different advice/ Put my truth in this music hope I’m givin’ ‘em light/ Just another flawed human trying to get this s— right.
That’s really all that needs to be said about Hussle’s intentions and what he hoped people got out of his music.
“Stucc In The Grind” (2017)
Recommended by: Bryan Robinson, my college buddy who first introduced me to Hussle’s music.
Gas isn’t exactly cheap these days. But if you need to take a long ride, make sure this is on the playlist.
“Rap N—as” (2018)
Recommended by: Mike & Keys.
The hardest part about this list was not including the entire Victory Lap album. But there was no way I was leaving this one off.
“Last Time That I Checc’d” feat. YG (2018)
Recommended by: Gerrick Kennedy.
During All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles in 2018, it was legitimately impossible to go to a happy hour, kickback, party or the All-Star Game itself without hearing this banger from YG and Hussle. Glorious times. Glorious times, indeed.
“Blue Laces 2” (2018)
Recommended by: Cousins
This song was already hard as nails, but hearing Hussle speak on the Rap Radar Podcast about the last verse being a true story makes it hit even harder.
“Hussle and Motivate” (2018)
Recommended by: Blacc Sam
Come for the “Hard Knock Life” sample. But make sure you stay for the bonus episode of The King of Crenshaw to hear the hilarious backstory behind this record.
“Double Up” feat. Belly and Dom Kennedy
Recommended by: Brian “B.Dot” Miller, co-host of the Rap Radar Podcast
Hussle said he wouldn’t release Victory Lap until he was sure every record was undeniable in his eyes. Trust and believe “Double Up” is one we’re going to be playing when folks my age are in their 60s and 70s.
“Racks In The Middle” feat. Roddy Ricch and Hit-Boy (2019)
Hussle was so proud of this record, the last single he’d release while he was alive. There have been a lot of prophetic verses in rap over the years, but it’s hard to think of many more so than Hussle’s second on this. I wish Fatts and Hussle were still here.
“Higher” DJ Khaled feat. John Legend and Nipsey Hussle (2019)
It’s an incredibly beautiful song, arguably the most beautiful one Khaled’s put together. But, damn, if the reality of it all doesn’t hit like a ton of bricks when you realize that the filming of this video was one of the last musical moments of Hussle’s life.
“Zero Tolerance” Pacman Da Gunman feat. Nipsey Hussle and Mozzy (2021)
This is one of my favorite tracks of the year, with all three participants delivering standout verses. But man, those posthumous Hussle verses send chills up your spine.