Prolific: It’s what Nipsey Hussle embodied.
A businessman who used the fruits of his labor to give back to his community. A rapper whose lyrics spoke to both the personification of his environment and his will to uplift it. Someone who inspired many by standing in his truth. A man whose death shook not only the Hip Hop community, but the world at large.
Ermias Asghedom, known professionally as Nipsey Hussle, was a South Central, Los Angeles native of Eritrean descent. He repped Crenshaw and Slauson with pride and never cast a shadow on his affiliation with the Rollin’ 60s, a chapter of the Crips. He came on the scene as a rap artist and songwriter in the mid-2000s, making his mark on the industry in 2013 when he made $100,000 as an independent artist by selling his mixtape Crenshaw at $100 a pop. He moved his entire inventory in less than 24 hours with the Proud2Pay campaign in which he gave access to new material, unique gifts and an old rap notebook or signed photo to his most committed fans. Jigga bought 100 copies. At that moment, Nipsey spoke truth to power by highlighting the faith he had in his talent, his supporters and the manifestation of his pseudonym: Hussle.
Nipsey’s confidence was contagious, and beyond believing in himself, he made it clear early on that he believed in his community. He went on to become a Grammy-nominated artist with his studio debut album Victory Lap. He owned and operated The Marathon Clothing store in Hyde Park and soon bought neighboring properties in that very strip-mall. His plan was to one day take over the lot with Black-owned businesses, where he could provide the neighborhood with jobs embedded with inspiration. He diversified his portfolio by stepping into the unknown with cryptocurrency. He spoke about emulating Walt Disney. He started his own label All Money In, No Money Out. He partnered with the 8th district of Los Angeles’ City Council to inaugurate the first of many coworking spaces and STEM incubator properties known as Vector90. He was working on an open-air arts project in Crenshaw. He renovated a local Basketball playground alongside Puma and was known for his out-of-pocket donations and grassroots organizing, like buying shoes for city kids to go to school in. The list goes on, but the fact remains, Nipsey was in fact prolific…and so gifted.
Like anyone else, Nipsey wasn’t perfect. He faced social media backlash last year, after using homophobic rhetoric in an Instagram post to define his perception of what strong black men should look like. His statements hurt a vast community, many of which I’m sure lived in his own backyard. Without knowing him personally, the tragedy of him being taken from this earth at 33 years of age, spotlights a moment in his life as a representative of the old adage that “to err is human.” Maybe it’s just as human of many of us to think so; to believe that because so much of his actions represented the good in humanity, that we were robbed of an opportunity to witness an eventual growth and repentance of said sentiments.
On March 31st, 2019 Nipsey fell victim to gun violence, in the very neighborhood he sought to restore to greatness. That’s where our stomachs turn, he lost his life in the same area he was breathing life into. Nipsey used his fame and glory to effect change in his neighborhood — and although he might have not known it, the world. From local government to law enforcement to philanthropists to gangbangers and fans of Hip Hop, his loss has made an impact. We know that Nipsey was already giving so much, and yet had so much more to give – we mourn not only the man who went above and beyond but the legend that was on the verge of fulfilling his prophecy.
If nothing else, Nipsey has reminded us that time is of the essence and that no one is too cool or too famous to love thy neighbor as much as they love thyself. The hope is that those who followed his story use this as an opportunity to walk in his light. It’s pertinent that anyone who honors him does so by continuing his vision of generational wealth in the Black community, of ownership, of growth, of ascension. To honor Nipsey is to remember that The Marathon Continues, and he was only mid-lap. May we honor him with dedication, hard work plus patience: The sum of all his sacrifice.
Nipsey, you are deeply missed by millions and will live on through not only your music but your value and virtue. This is our dedication.
By Ivana C. Mena