Remembering the legacy of rapper and artist Nipsey Hussle

By NIKITA SHTARKMAN | April 11, 2019

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ADAM BIELAWSKI/CC BY-SA 3.0 Nipsey Hussle was shot outside his own clothing store on March 31.

Nipsey Hussle was murdered a week ago. He was standing outside his clothing store, The Marathon Clothing, on Slauson Avenue, the street he grew up on in Los Angeles. He got into a confrontation with a man trying to enter the store. The man left, got a gun, came back and shot Nipsey.

For those who do not know, Nipsey was a rapper, entrepreneur and icon of the hip-hop culture. Nipsey started his career by dropping small regional mixtapes. Through intense work he built a deep, local following and grew more and more successful. One of his first breakthrough mixtapes was Crenshaw, a deeply LA-rooted project with big-name features and fantastic lyricism. My first exposure to Nipsey was the incredible mixtape Mailbox Money, a slapping project with extremely intelligent verses. 

Nipsey was a one-of-a-kind artist. His music is dense with life advice, business acumen and motivation. He was more than just a storyteller, an entertainer or even a rapper — he was an educator. Better than the best self-help book, or the most in depth business seminar, Nipsey weaved gold nuggets of knowledge into his most lyrical lines. His music makes you believe you can make anything happen. It was inspirational to its very core, and without realizing, you finished his projects with a newfound hunger and ambition.

Besides his music Nipsey was a relentless entrepreneur. He owned Marathon, a clothing brand he built up on Slauson. 

His other business ventures, including partnerships with Puma, investments in STEM projects for underprivileged communities and cryptocurrencies, were impressive and important. Nipsey was changing the prototype of what a musical star did with their influence. He was also redefining what a black man from the harshest streets in America could do.

A great part of the tragedy is the utter senseless of it. Nipsey was not a thugged-out gang rapper. He was not someone who called for violence or even entertained it. He was an intelligent, respectful man who condemned gang-on-gang crime, and was working to steer the streets toward good. Nipsey even had a meeting set up with the Los Angeles Police Department to discuss solutions to gang violence — a major issue in LA. The meeting was set for April 1. He was killed on March 31.

It was all over a petty argument. It feels utterly random and completely unbelievable. (I remember seeing an RIP photo posted the night of his death and thinking that it was just another internet hoax.) It feels inconceivable to imagine that good men like Nipsey could just get shot down. It is a moment that makes you question the karmic balance of the universe.

The timing makes his death even more difficult. Nipsey was on the cusp of making a major leap in his career. The businesses he was working with were flourishing, and musically Nipsey was making massive steps. Victory Lap, Nipsey’s latest project and debut album, was nominated for a Grammy (and rightfully so). It is chock full of gorgeous, expensive beats, fantastic features and razor sharp verses from Nip. It is a project that celebrates success and wealth, but focuses on the work and grind it took to reach that point. 

The story is almost poetically tragic. Nipsey, an intelligent, kind, respectful person born into a tough environment, worked relentlessly to escape his circumstances. Through years of intense grinding and with the support of his community, he rose above the deep-rooted issues around him. Instead of following the general music-star trajectory of signing a terrible record deal and blowing his money on extravagance, Nipsey invested in himself and his community, building structure and opportunity where it didn’t exist. 

Through his work he inspired millions across America. As a successful mogul Nipsey continued to hold his values high and spent a lot of time in his hometown. Nipsey was walking around in his plaza, at a store he created from the ground up. He fell into an unnecessary conversation that turned sour. The man he confronted returned with a gun and shot. Nipsey’s body fell on the sidewalk of the plaza that he built. He died. A king slain in his own castle.

It is not just the loss of one man but the destruction of a dream. The annihilation of a person who preached respect, hard work and determination. It is so deeply unfair. With something so tragic it is easy to lose hope.

Hope is not dead though. Nipsey’s death is not the end of his work. A prolific person while alive, his influence continues and his inspiration will continue to ring out. 

His thoughts are etched in all of his work — his deepest philosophical gems spattered across his albums. Go read some of his interviews to see how bright a mind Nipsey had. I guarantee you’ll be better for it.

If you need any proof of the immediate effect of Nipsey’s posthumous influence, there are already inspiring videos of LA gangs banding together peacefully to celebrate Nipsey’s life. The LAPD have already said that they are continuing Nipsey’s plan to meet and discuss how to better police the community. Across music, artists are finding ways to tribute the fallen king.

This is not the end of Nipsey. 

All money in. Hustle and motivate.

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