Friends, family and fans said goodbye to 33-year-old rapper Nipsey Hussle in his hometown of Los Angeles on Thursday.
While his official memorial service was held downtown at the Staples Center -- the same venue as Michael Jackson’s homegoing in 2009 -- the celebration of his life extended to the corner of Crenshaw and Slauson. The strip mall that houses Nipsey’s Marathon Clothing store was closed for business but filled with attendees leaving candles, cards, balloons and other items to pay tribute.
“It still doesn’t feel real that Nipsey is gone,” said Michael Saunders. “I know he is being laid to rest but it just doesn’t feel real.”
The Los Angeles rapper had not only purchased the store but the entire strip mall itself, in an effort to instill a sense of ownership in the community and create jobs. Nipsey was then tragically gunned down in front of his store on March 31.
“That man was our savior,” said one L.A. resident who goes by the name of Mousey.
“I was born and raised here. Banged all my life. My son is the first one to go college because of Nipsey,” she continued, holding back tears. "He gave people jobs that had felonies. That couldn't get a job at Ralphs. He never ran out on us."
BET spoke to dozens of people waiting to pay tribute to Nipsey. Many were dressed in his signature “Crenshaw” sweatshirts or airbrushed shirts with his face on them.
By Thursday afternoon, thousands lined up to catch a glimpse at the funeral procession and to pay their respects. The mood outside of The Marathon Clothing store was a combination of tears and celebration.
“It was exciting, it was lit but was also sad. I don’t know how to quite describe it. I felt Nipsey’s spirit was there with us but knowing he was taken from us right here…it hurt,” said Los Angeles native Jasmine Smith.
Nipsey Hussle, born Ermias Joseph Asghedom to an Eritrean father and African-American mother, was proud of his roots and wanted to spread love to all races. His impact was evident by the diversity in crowd. “It’s beautiful to see. He did a lot for the community. Not only Black but a lot of Brown and all different races,” said Daniel Gutierrez.
Over 20,000 people at the Staples Center watched as legends like Stevie Wonder and singers like Jhené Aiko and Marsha Ambrosius performed musical tributes for the late rapper inside the Staples Center. It was an A-list send off for the king.
But a fan at the Marathon Clothing Store said it best, “Nipsey was real. He rolled around this block by himself and spread a message of ownership. We have to keep his message going. The marathon continues.”
Rest in power, Nipsey Hussle.
(Photo: Chelsea Guglielmino/Getty Images)