In some circles 2013 will be fondly remembered as the year hip-hop really got serious about its conceptual-art phase. Right around the time Jay Z was at Pace Gallery in New York doing Marina Abramovic-style performance art for Jerry Saltz, Nipsey Hussle was at a pop-up shop in LA charging $100 apiece for CDs of Crenshaw
, a mixtape
that he’d released online for free—nearly as interesting a commingling of art and profit as anything Damien Hirst has ever done. (Jay bought 100 copies.) While a hundred bucks seems a little steep for what Crenshaw
has to offer, I’d happily pay the normal retail price of an album. Hussle has some of the silky gangster menace that Snoop projected in his early days and a flow that frequently verges on Tupac’s dexterous bark, and though he has one foot planted in his hometown’s history, the other is right in the here and now. —Miles Raymer Erk tha Jerk and Z Money open.