Nipsey Hussle: a rapper, entrepreneur, activist, community leader, and visionary.
It’s not uncommon to hear about rappers leaving their neighborhood, plagued by the narrative they switched up on the place that raised them. Nipsey Hussle represented Crenshaw to the fullest. It wasn’t only a hood mentioned in his songs, but a place where he grew from a young entrepreneur to a Grammy-nominated rapper and accomplished businessman. The plaza housing his flagship Marathon clothing store was the same spot he grew up hustling. It's no wonder he purchased a corner of the plaza before announcing that he dropped “a couple million” to acquire the entire plaza. Nip, who constantly preached about the value of Black ownership, was fighting against corporate gentrification in the neighborhood he grew up in on a grassroots level.
On Sunday afternoon, Nipsey Hussle was fatally shot at the age of 33. In front of the same store where his professional career as a rapper and entrepreneur began. To say his death was simply a loss for the hip-hop would be completely disrespectful toward his life’s work. Nip was a beacon of hope, an inspiration to the inner-cities, and a leader. As an artist, he embodied West Coast hip-hop in every way possible. A storyteller with an expansive homespun vernacular, Nip dropped gems about the music industry and the streets in the same breath. “And where I’m from, homicide boost the economy/ Pay taxes to the corners and put in work, it’s a policy,” he rapped on “Hussle In The House,” a bleak foreshadowing of his own tragic fate.
Nip’s industry hustle is similar to that of Jay-Z’s, in that his business was always on par with his music. The rollout for his revolutionary mixtape Crenshaw embodied his independent grind and reluctance to depend on a major label. Printing out 1000 copies of the project, Nipsey incentivized the $100 price tag with a free private show, among other perks. He ultimately caught the attention of HOV, who went on to purchase 100 copies. From his clothing store to his past days hustling, his experiences and hardships led Nipsey into a position where he could help others avoid the same fate. After his shooting, the LAPD commissioner revealed that he and Roc Nation representative were supposed to meet with city officials to strategize on how to curb gang violence.
Nip’s death wasn’t only a loss for hip-hop, but dare I say it, a loss for humanity. His tragic death is a loss of a community leader with the ambitious goal of creating a local economy that would benefit its residents. As Daylyt -- or his half-brother Bradley -- would say, Nipsey Hussle was a hood genie. “[Nipsey’s] like a genie. Whenever you see problems in the neighborhood, Nipsey appears,” explained Daylyt, revealing a deep-seated truth in jest. “You just need to rub a random fire hydrant in the hood three times, and he appears… and he’s like one of those people that’ll grab a Crip and a Blood and bring ‘em together."
There are many people that could vouch for that statement. The legacy that Nipsey left behind will be carried by his fans, but also those he touched on a personal level within his own community. “He cared about us. I care about him. You don’t understand what he meant to us,” a childhood friend said in a heartbreaking interview at the scene of his death. “There’s not too many people that would do the things he did for us. And regardless of where he came from, he cared. He still came around and supported everybody.”
Nipsey hired locals from the neighborhood to work in his businesses. He made sure that the position of power he put himself in ultimately empowered others. Anyone who knew him would say the same. As heartbreaking as Nipsey’s death is, his purpose went beyond music. In his short lifetime, he brought change to his neighborhood, inspiring people far beyond his own region. Whether it's through his community work like launching a STEM center for kids, or the priceless gems he dropped for the price of a stream, Nipsey’s legacy is cemented in the minds and souls of everyone his music and community efforts have touched. Rest in peace, Nipsey Hussle.