They say death is hardest on the living. Sunday night’s passing of Nipsey Hussle proved nothing short of that as members of the hip-hop community – fellow MCs, educators and activists – collectively mourned the senseless and untimely demise of the Los Angeles rapper.
Born Ermias Davidson Asghedom, Nipsey was more than just another artist who waxed poetic about his ‘hood politics and the drug enterprise. He was a father of two, a devoted partner, a community activist and a friend to many of the journalists he sat with.
He was, in real time, as self-aware as the lyrics he spewed about the ramifications of generational trauma and street brutality. Coming of age in the streets of South LA during the ‘90s, Nipsey was a man who worked to end gang violence and amend the relationship between law enforcement and the very people they’ve long sworn to protect and serve.
As news of Nipsey’s shooting death begin to sprawl headlines well beyond music magazines and publications, let the record state: Hip-hop didn’t lose just another rapper. We lost one of the fiercest and noblest leaders of our generation who should have been afforded the opportunity to realize all of his intentions and endeavors.
Nipsey’s life was capped at the tender age of 33, at the height of his career and when his eminence in rap was beginning to shape into something larger than life. After years of successfully running the independent circuit with mixtapes like The Marathon, Mailbox Money, The Marathon Continues and Crenshaw, Nipsey delivered a proper debut album called Victory Lap, which earned him a Grammy nomination in the category of Best Rap Album earlier this year.
Yet, Nipsey’s work doesn’t stop at the stage. The fruits of his ambition to reinvest in his community and lay a blueprint for Black entrepreneurship is seen in Vector 90, a co-working space and STEM center located in the heart of South Central, LA. Aimed at closing the gap between inner city youth and the global hub for higher technology and innovation at Silicon Valley, Nipsey’s Vector 90 provides “technical training, professional development and a comprehensive launch curriculum for start-ups,” among other benefits like mentorship, educational workshops and events.
Another big part of the late rapper’s legacy is his fashion brand. Marathon Clothing is an online hub that specializes in streetwear – tees, hats, hoodies, sweats and other accessories – for men, women and kids, with a flagship store that sits on Slauson Avenue (also the site of his shooting).
"I think it's important that everybody exceed and do great in their primary thing that they do. But you got some hustlers in your crew, some entrepreneurs around you? If you come from that type of culture, it's going to be hard not to venture into some of those spaces where you see opportunity,” Nipsey told Esquire in 2016 regarding his desire to be influential in more than one industry.
Opening up a flagship store in the heart of his Crenshaw community also led to Nipsey purchasing some prime real estate, securing “a couple million” in stake at the cusp of gentrification. A little over a year from now, Nipsey’s business partners will have knocked everything down to rebuild “a six-story residential building atop a commercial plaza where a revamped Marathon store will be the anchor tenant,” reports Forbes.
An equally profound part of his legacy are those he’s left behind. While Nipsey will be remembered by the majority of us as one of the most authentic and forthright MCs out of the West Coast, there are those who have been robbed of a father, a brother and a life love. Not because he left or bailed out, but because his life was snatched senselessly from theirs.
Nipsey didn’t have to die. He didn’t deserve to die. But as the saying goes, death is hardest on the living. So as we continue to celebrate the life of a hip-hop luminary, bear in mind the select few whose whole worlds have been forever shifted. Our condolences to Lauren London and Nipsey’s family. The marathon continues…
(Photo: Meron Menghistab Photography)