Nipsey Hussle, A Hip-Hop Hero , gone at 33
The impact of Nipsey Hussle's mission and why his loss is a devastating blow to our community
I stared at my phone Monday night looking at a flyer created with the headlines, “Nipsey Hussle Candlelight Vigil.” I stared at it for a long time. It still didn't feel real. This isn't what I'm supposed to be looking at. This is not the story I should be writing.
At approximately 3:25 pm, on Sunday March 31st, Nipsey Hussle, real name Ermias Asghedom, was shot and killed in front of his Marathon Clothing Store. It gets more devastating every time you repeat it. Such a man of honor did not deserve to go out like this. No one does.
Nipsey Hussle was amongst three people shot by a former associate and was the only one pronounced dead. I have no interest in reviewing the situation that caused his untimely death, as I feel something so petty does a dishonor to the life that he lived. Something tells me that although he would have preferred to go another way, taking his last breath on Crenshaw and Slauson, a corner that he gave his all to, would ring as fitting for him.
Affectionately called Neighborhood Nip by those around the way, Nipsey Hussle gave so much to his community and the L shaped plaza on the intersection of Crenshaw and Slauson. He was raised a couple of blocks away and grew up on that corner and was initiated into gang culture and became a member of the Rollin 60s Crip. He began rapping and sold his tapes out of the trunk from that same corner. He eventually obtained enough success to buy the entire lot and open several businesses there. He hired former gang members, people down on their luck, and up and coming artists and gave them opportunities to work, earn a living and stay out of trouble. He made himself accessible to the people and he and his brother Blacc Sam became a beacon of light for that community.
Nipsey Hussle was not your typical rapper. His father was a refugee from Eritrea and his mother was black. He was incredibly talented and had a knack for making great West Coast rap music. Beyond that, he lived exactly what he rapped about. He spoke what he rapped about and he embodied all of that everywhere he went. He owned everything he created from the masters to his music, to his clothing line, to various real estate properties in both Los Angeles and other parts of the country. He spoke ownership every time he bought a microphone close to his face. He spoke every chance he gets on the influence we yield as a community and the power that our dollars possess. He constantly told to cut out the middle man (was literally one of his mottos on songs) and control the production process from beginning to end. He found innovative ways to release music before it was trendy and necessary to do so. In 2013, he released Crenshaw, (one of his most seminal mixtapes) for either $100 for physical copies or for free on digital download. The $100 copy was as a nod to his supporters who if they were willing can pay for a physical copy and receive exclusive content such as the ability to redeem a free show, a signed copy, and discounts towards merchandise for his Marathon Clothing brand. It was an idea that was unheard of at this time of conception to the point that many mocked it. Nipsey Hussle however sold out the mixtapes including a famous purchase from Jay-Z of 100 CDs. It was one of the biggest power moves for any unsigned rapper which Nipsey was at the time. It gave him unparallelled leverage against any record label looking to do business with him.
My first introduction to Nipsey Hussle was around when he released his acclaimed debut mixtape, Bullets Aint Got No Name. I was not familiar with the musician himself, but his local west coast hit, "Hussle In the House" was inescapable. He came onto the scene with that song, that sampled Kriss Kross' Jump but his gritty lyrics and his uncanny resemblance to Snoop Dogg at the time captured your attention. After releasing several mixtapes, it wasn't until 2011's The Marathon Continues, that I became a diehard fan. The Marathon Continues is the sequel of The Marathon, which was released in 2010. The Marathon is not only the name of his brand but his philosophy and a constant metaphor in his music. The mission is a marathon and you cannot outpace yourself. You must be diligent, focused, and strategic in your approach. The Marathon Continues preaches this message throughout and never fails to provide that motivation when you need it. I played that mixtape to the ground and I will never forget being in my home country, Haiti living with it. Riding around, seeing all the people and all the faces and being motivated to be someone to come back and make a difference. All inspired by the words and example he set.
Nipsey Hussle’s music career reached its apex this past 2018, with the release of Victory Lap. An aptly titled album that signified the accomplishment of his mission. He reached a Grammy nomination, but more importantly his major label debut was incredible. It was one of the best albums of the year and anyone who followed him for a while knows he deserved to live in the moment he worked towards. A little over a year later, he won't continue to see the fruit his labor created, and it is beyond unfair.
The outcry of grief and shock from the Hip-Hop community and the black community at large shows how deep of a loss this was. Like Mac Miller before him, it felt like someone who had so much to give was taken from us prematurely. Mac Miller passed at the tender age of 26, Nipsey Hussle was only seven years older when he lost his life. Like Mac Miller before him, everyone who had the privilege of meeting him, shared stories of how down to earth he was. How much he was always willing to help. He was always looking to help those around him and especially those from Crenshaw and the greater LA. Everywhere he went he commanded a level of respect. I have seen many say that they have not seen a loss have as much reverberations in Hip-Hop since 2Pac was killed. It may seem hyperbolic on the surface but if you look at what Nipsey represented, it’s true. He was a man that dedicated his mission to investing back into our communities and taking care of our own. In true Nipsey fashion, even on his last day he was fighting for us. He had plans to meet with the LAPD to discuss how to end gang violence. What he and his brother, Blacc Sam mean to Los Angeles is damn near unparallelled. Kendrick Lamar, or The Game may have been bigger stars, but Nipsey Hussle was loved like no other rapper in LA.
I’ll forever be grateful for what he has done for us and for people who looked like us. Nipsey related to almost every spectrum of the black experience. He was the child of a hard working immigrant. He was a street dude. He was a talented artist. A leader amongst followers. I can never forget the effect his words had on me as an immigrant son or as a black boy living in America. I can never forget how my favorite song of his, “10 Toes” makes me feel when I sit amongst my people in my home country just like he had a chance to do. We owe it to him to continue the lessons he spoke on and keep the hope alive.
Nipsey Hussle is survived by his two children, Lauren London a girlfriend he loved dearly, brothers, friends, and parents. He left behind a slew of other rappers that respected him, a community that he devoted his life mission to, and fans who he irrevocably inspired. The least we can do is love each other like he loved us. The least we can do is take that torch and finish the marathon.
As stated previously, Nipsey Hussle owned everything he created. So a perfect way to honor him is to support his businesses which will directly benefit the people he loved and who loved him. Check out The Marthon Clothing website and check out his music here.
Rest in Power Nipsey Hussle.
Remembering Nipsey Hussle curated playlist by Check the Vibes: