The fatal shooting of Nipsey should make you angry. The 33-year-old MC, born Ermias Asghedom, was a pillar in his South L.A. community, a philanthropist who invested in the people and programs where he grew up in. At the beginning of the month, he was fresh off a Grammy nomination for Victory Lap, his long-awaited debut album.
The importance of Neighborhood Nip to his local community cannot be overstated. His murder happened a day before he was scheduled to meet with LAPD Chief Michel Moore and Police Commissioner Steve Soboroff “to talk about ways he could help stop gang violence and help us help kids,” Commissioner Soboroff shared on Twitter.
Nispey opened Vector 90, a shared workspace in L.A. that focuses on STEM Education and helps cultivate young talent in poor communities with educational opportunities in Silicon Valley. He was involved in the new Destination Crenshaw arts project, a mile-long open-air museum that celebrates and revitalizes Black Los Angeles. Nipsey also invested in World on Wheels, the Mid-City roller rink that was popular in the 1980s and 1990s as a gang-free place for kids to hang out in South L.A. and reopened in 2017. In between all of this, he designed the uniforms for the Fatburger restaurant on Crenshaw Boulevard and Slauson Avenue.
Instead of opening his streetwear brand and store, The Marathon Clothing, in another, ritzier neighborhood, he went back to the place where he was raised, becoming an example of how to invest back in the community. This wasn’t a new response to his growing fame; Nipsey has always thought about the bigger picture, ever since the beginning of his career.
At Russell Simmons’ Get Your Money Summit on September 25, 2006, a very young Nipsey Nipsey can be seen dropping knowledge about economics, debunking the glorification of gang life in music, and discussing Willie Lynch, all in the span of a five-minute interview. Nipsey had just turned 20.
Before the summer of 2010, I finished an internship with Jive Records and parlayed that into a summer internship at XXL magazine, which I had been reading since I was in grade school. A few weeks after I started the internship, the cover for the 2010 XXL Freshman Class dropped. The first thing that caught my eye was Nipsey Hussle; wearing blue plaid button up, sitting on a directors chair, he fit the West Coast look but with the demeanor of a Fortune 500 businessman. He even seemed bigger on the cover than the rest of his class. One listen to The Marathon and I was hooked. It was more than a mixtape, it was a manual. Whatever life experience Nipsey had gained, he was more than willing to share with his listeners.
Within the music industry, he was one of the most respected figures in the business. He set the model for independent rappers, making moves that were considered, at the time, flat out insane. In 2013, he sold copies of his Crenshaw mixtape for $100 USD apiece. His fans bought 1,000 copies, with 100 sold to Jay-Z alone. The following year, Nipsey doubled down and put up 100 hard copies of Mailbox Money for $1,000 USD each. He moved 60 of them. In the streaming age he understood the value of the physical copy, going against the notion that the one-time collector’s item drops were a dead commodity.
But Nipsey wasn’t without controversy. His 2018 claims that the “gay agenda” is used as a tool to tear apart the black community are reprehensible. He wasn’t perfect, but he was trying to be the best man he could be.
There are no shortage of videos on Twitter right now that show why Nipsey is special. Everyone from his fans to celebrities and fellow musicians have expressed their grief. This hurts. He lived what the American dream looks like for millions of kids across the country. Yet, his story was cut short in the very place he invested in by senseless violence.
Those who are spreading harmful conspiracy theories ought to remember that a community has lost its leader, Lauren London just lost her partner, his children just lost their father and hip-hop lost one of their kings.
“Fuck livin’ basic, I’m takin’ risks / Fuck what they sayin’, I’m sayin’ this.” Rest in peace Nipsey Hussle, the marathon will continue.