The Marathon: Inside Nipsey Hussle’s ingenious ‘Victory Lap’ rollout
Nipsey Hussle has perfected the rollout to his first studio album Victory Lap, due this Friday, with a strategic series of promos and partnerships.
Since last summer, the Los Angeles rapper’s name has remained ubiquitous through a variety of different moves, both in and outside music.
When Nipsey recently went on Big Boy’s Neighborhood a couple of weeks ago, the radio host commented on the anticipation of Victory Lap:
“The promo game never stops through social media, so we been waitin’ on it. And then we’ll see pictures of you recording, so we always knew Victory Lap was coming.”
And while plenty of artists gather hype and excitement surrounding an upcoming project, Nipsey has seemingly perfected this process. Last June, Nip opened his own brick and mortar store at the intersection of Slauson and Crenshaw in downtown LA, a rapidly gentrifying area that stood as the center of Nipsey’s come up.
On top of opening his own store for his Marathon clothing brand, Nipsey has partnered with Atlantic Records, got into the cryptocurrency lane, begun plans on his own inner-city STEM school, and obviously, on top of all that, released music to keep his voracious fanbase satisfied in the meantime.
We’ve seen Nipsey Hussle make innovative moves in business and music before. In 2013, Nipsey sold 1,000 copies of his Crenshaw mixtape for $100 each and in 2015, he provided 100 copies of Mailbox Money for $1,000 each using his #ProudToPay marketing strategy. In the ever-changing landscape of the music industry, Nip is constantly finding new ways to monetize and promote his music.
Here’s a quick look at what Nip has been up to on his Victory Lap rollout.
The Marathon Store
In June, Nipsey opened up The Marathon Store in Los Angeles. The opening was a star-studded event with 21 Savage, DeMarcus Cousins, Russell Westbrook, Jim Jones, and others in attendance.
Nip told Billboard about wanting to open his store, which includes ‘smart’ features where customers can buy merch on an app or preview new music releases.
“I wanted to open up a brick and mortar [with] physical retail in this area, and thought, ‘What’s the trajectory and likelihood of being successful as e-commerce grows?’ And it brought me to understanding retail. And when I focus on retail, anything that’s not experiential driven, I think you’re seeing it crumble right now. I think you’re seeing Blockbuster getting shut down by Netflix. You see Tower Records get shut down because of iTunes. Because the digital versions offer the same thing the physical versions offer, except a line or a parking ticket. All the conveniences of being in the real world.”
Nipsey has basically made a tech-proof brick and mortar store in that, by combining the typical storefront model with tech activations, customers can experience the store however is most comfortable and convenient for them.
Customers more familiar with the retail model will shop that way and those who are more tech-oriented will use the ‘smart’ features.
Nipsey further explained his idea behind The Marathon Clothing store, where the content is surrounded by product. The “FDT” rapper looks to companies like Sanrio, Disney, and Knotts for inspiration to provide product around content.
“The goal is to be an urban Sanrio — Sanrio is a five billion dollar company. These are content characters that exist in the screen first and real world products were created around it. Disney is the same example. All of these cartoon characters existed first as content. Disneyland is the world and it’s surrounded by products. We haven’t seen brands that have been created through content. Just like Sanrio, just like Disney, just like Knotts, whichever amusement parks that owns the characters to Snoopy. We haven’t seen that in hip-hop. We haven’t seen someone create a real world place where the brand lives, and there’s products.”
Nipsey has content that his fans love, his goal is to put product in front of them as well, with the idea that his listeners will turn into purchasers. As fire of an MC as Nipsey Hussle is, he might be even more prolific for his sharp business mind.
To that end, he told Billboard about his vision to be “vertically integrated”:
“I want go on record to say I want to be the first artist in hip-hop to be vertically integrated. This is a part of that long-term vision. We want to be able to deliver our products that we own 100 percent to a retail experience we curate and control in an environment that is strategically designed to create an experience that’s engineered. This is the first step in that.”
In 2010, Nipsey founded his own label All Money In. While the independent lane allows artists to guide their own career without label oversight, which Nipsey has clearly benefited massively from, for Victory Lap, he partnered with Atlantic Records.
It isn’t a typical “signing,” rather Atlantic will help where possible as Nipsey taps into their network and resources. He explained the partnership to Complex:
“Basically, it’s a strategic partnership to take the next steps with the Nipsey Hussle story. It’s between the company All Money In, which I’m a part owner in, and Atlantic Records for services of Nipsey Hussle. It’s not a traditional artist to a label signing, you know what I mean? It’s more of us partnering with Atlantic and utilizing their specialties and their strengths to move what we’ve been doing to the next platform in terms of recognition, fan base, access to radio, access to retail, and utilize their staff, and tapping into a specialist.”
Independence is great but it’s important to know how and when to use a larger enterprise to your advantage.
With Victory Lap slated to drop All-Star weekend in Los Angeles, the campaign has been strategic since the start.
Nipsey Hussle has a tangible stake in multiple different cryptocurrency companies. One of his investments includes Follow Coin, where users can buy, sell, and trade cryptocurrency and get advice from experienced traders.
Nip told XXL about his desire to get into the crypto lane, especially as a rapper and wanting to make sure that hip-hop culture wasn’t left behind by the latest trend.
“The hip-hop culture shouldn’t be left out like we always are. Our influence is leveraged, but we’re always left out until it’s too late. That’s why I thought it was important to be involved as an entrepreneur and to be vocal and bring it to the hip-hop consciousness, so that people who have resources and assets available can participate.”
While he’s specifically talking about cryptocurrency here, this is a pretty accurate summation of Nipsey Hussle’s general business philosophy.
He’s gotten himself into multiple lanes that haven’t typically been occupied by rappers or ‘hop-hop culture.’ There’s serious power in that.
“Vezt is a revolutionary new platform that gives artists and rights holders control over their new or existing songs and allows them to easily capitalize on their work by choosing portions of their songs to offer for sale to fans, friends, rights-buyers and brands.”
Not content to reap his success by himself, Nipsey is also setting up his community for the future. He and business partner Dave Gross are working on plans to build a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) school in inner-city Los Angeles.
Nip explained his mission to Complex a couple weeks ago:
“It’s basically a science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) compound that we built in the hood. It’s a 5,000 square foot compound—[it] used to be the Wonder Bread factory. And us, as All Money In, and our real estate development partner, Dave Gross, partnered up.”
Nipsey wants to take the school beyond LA to underserved neighborhoods in Atlanta, DC, and Baltimore in order to form a sort of bridge between these communities and Silicon Valley.
Nip spoke to Complex about how Silicon Valley has claimed there’s no connection between the inner-city and Silicon Valley. He wants to change that.
“It’s gonna be two-fold. The bottom level will be a science, technology, engineering, and math resource center. What Silicon Valley is saying to justify that lack of diversity is that there’s no pipeline from the inner city to Silicon Valley. The reason that there’s no pipeline is that we lack science, technology, engineering, and math skills, and you can’t teach a 13-year-old that; it’s too late. They gotta be trained in that.”
By creating that bridge between the inner-city and Silicon Valley, Nipsey wants to force the hand of the tech giants to improve diversity. They can’t claim there’s no pipeline if an entire generation of inner-city kids are STEM proficient.
A fire business model only has utility if the actual work is good. So Nipsey has made sure to drop absolute bombs of singles in lieu of Victory Lap.
He dropped the epic “Rap N****s” on December 1st, closing out a wild 2017 with his first single off Victory Lap, on which Nipsey articulates just how different he is to his contemporaries.
Then on January 19th, Nipsey released “Last Time That I Checc’d” with YG. Both of these songs were accompanied by huge, big-budget videos.
Nipsey wasn’t holding anything back for his fans.
He also included a 10-minute 10 Rings documentary exclusive with Tidal.
Nipsey Hussle has tapped into his loyal fanbase and found innovative new ways to monetize his music, set up his community for the future, and just made fire music. Any aspiring artist looking to enter into the industry should watch his steps.
This is why Nipsey’s fans are #ProudToPay. Mogul talk!