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Nipsey Hussle: Etched in Our Hearts By Chama St. Louis and Marcus Hamilton

Rapper and businessman, Nipsey Hussle was gunned down in South Central Los Angeles, March 31, in front of his clothing store, The Marathon Clothing. He was 33 years old. Despite being a lifelong Californian, his untimely death reverberated throughout the world.

Nipsey Hussle color pic

Nipsey Hussle

Hussle, born Ermias Joseph Asghedom, was a lot of things to both the greater hip hop community and the LA community, specifically the Crenshaw and Slauson intersection. It was there that he hustled as a teen, sold his mixtapes out the trunk of his car, gained notoriety as a rapper and eventually began to rent out space for his Marathon Clothing line. That rental space later became owned property of Nipsey and his business partners — along with the rest of the corner business complex—and serendipitously became the exact location where Nip would take his last breath after being shot.  Nipsey was reportedly getting clothes for a friend that was recently released from prison.

Nip was just starting to receive mainstream notoriety after receiving a Grammy nomination for his first studio album, Victory Lap, but his Marathon movement stretches back more than a decade with his Bullets Ain’t Got No Names mix tape series. After having label complications, he founded his own independent label, All Money In, in 2010.

As he continued to rise to fame and become a prominent voice for the west coast, Hussle began approaching his projects with an understanding of what he called the “economics of scarcity.” With this new strategy and confidence, he began his “Proud to Pay” campaign, tagging his physical mix tape CDs with extravagant price points. In 2013, he sold 1,000 copies of Crenshaw for $100 apiece. This campaign caught the attention of fellow rapper, Jay-Z, who notably purchased 100 copies. (The rumor that Jay-Z donated a $15M trust fund for Nipsey’s kids has been debunked.) The following year, his Mailbox Money project moved 60 units at $1,000 per.

But more than an artist, Nipsey was an activist. According to Los Angeles Police Commissioner Steve Soboroff, Hussle scheduled a meeting with LAPD and Roc Nation for April 1, the day after his death, to discuss ways he could “help stop gang violence and help us help kids.”

Also an entrepreneur, Hussle identified opportunities for fellow street hustlers and ex-cons to go legit. He reportedly put up millions of dollars to purchase the business complex he once rented, and employed neighborhood residents at his Marathon Clothing store—a smart store, the first of its kind—with plans to create more employment opportunities within the complex to act as a flagship location for the neighborhood.

He was also known to finance educational initiatives, as well. He was an advocate for STEM programs for young black and brown students; investing in Vector90, a technology space founded by his business partner, David Gross. In a recent interview, Hussle said the goal of the community program called, Too Big to Fail, was to build a pathway for young, underrepresented minds that would serve as a bridge from the inner city to Silicon Valley.

Additionally, being in the fashion industry himself, the rapper notably invested in the 59th Street Elementary School in South LA, with enough money to purchase a new pair of shoes for each student, as well as renovate the basketball courts and playgrounds.

“I remember being young and really having the best intentions and not being met on my efforts,” Hussle told The Los Angeles Times in 2018.

A father himself, Hussle had a son with girlfriend and actress, Lauren London, and a daughter from a previous relationship.

Hussle was also in the process of making a splash in the film industry. In 2018, he unveiled that he was working on a documentary on well-known Honduran herbalist, Alfredo “Dr. Sebi” Bowman. Bowman was a self-proclaimed healer that treated serious diseases using a holistic medical approach.

Nipsey was an exceptional human being as Marcus described above; his contributions to the community will forever be praised. During his short time on earth he transcended stereotypes attributed to black men growing up in toxic environments. This transcendence extended into health principles. Not only did he follow the health teachings of Dr. Sebi, he wanted to ensure those around him could also benefit from a healthy lifestyle as well.  He understood that the monetary was of no value when disease and sickness existed in the body. This is also why Nipsey’s death will forever sting in our hearts – a vibrant, 33-year-old man who cared about taking care of his inner temple more than the outer. While the news of his death hurt so many of us to the core, his example of success and reaching back, should forever be etched in our hearts.