Prince, Michael Jackson, Johnny P. All great and legendary artists, who’s lifes were taking way to young. As much as they all hit me and so many others, I don’t think any really hit my generation of fellow early to mid 30-year-olds, the way this tragic act of senseless violence did with Los Angeles emcee, activist and entrepreneur, Nipsey Hu$$le. Gunned down Sunday night in front of his clothing store, The Marathon Clothing, at just the age of 33 and not that much older than me and many of my peers who grew up on this Hip-Hop life, music and culture.
I literally started shedding tears, as soon as I heard the tragic news because of how much this one hit home even more so for me than any celebrity related passing. Especially with how much of an inspiration, motivation and genuinely good-hearted and authentic person Nipsey was and after all these years of persistence, never giving up on himself and others, he was finally able to release his long-awaited and highly-anticipated debut album, Victory Lap, last year and touch not only mine, but so many others lives with his great knowledge and wisdom he dropped through his music. To see his album get not only all the well-deserved critical acclaim it deserved, but get nominated for a Grammy making it all the more bitter-sweet for a project he put all of his heart and soul into that will live on forever for generations to come as a true classic masterpiece.
Nipsey was somebody who was not only a great emcee and artist, but such a genuinely authentic, kind, real and thorough individual, who did so much for his community and so many others through not just his music, but his actions as well. Whether it be giving back to the Crenshaw neighborhood he grew up in by opening up his own fully-owned aforementioned store, The Marathon Clothing, which was located in between Slauson Ave. and Crenshaw Blvd. of the notoriously gang-affilalited Crenshaw neighborhood he grew up in and was very open about himself being a member of the gang lifestyle he and so many others unfortunately had to grow up in. He had a maturity and growth over the past several years moving away from that lifestyle and using not only his music, but his entrepreneurship and activism to teach me and so many others about what you can do to build your own wealth, knowledge and experience for better generational greatness in our communities and among ourselves.
As I type/write this about all the good that Nipsey did not only through his music, but beyond that. Whether it be his work in the community with his recently opened Destination Crenshaw arts project or the opening of his recent newly in the past few years formed The Marathon Agency he launched with partners Karen Civil, Jorge Peniche and Steven “Steve-O” Carless in 2016, among the many things he did, he was always finding ways to transcend both music and culture through his actions and not just talk. To consistently do it on his own independently, whether it be his groundbreaking Proud 2 Pay formula he launched with his Crenshaw mixtape in 2013, where he gave fans the option to buy one of only 1000 hard copies available for $100 and them having access to a secret live event to coincide with it or the many other ways he did things independently through his music and beyond that, he gave me and so many other of his peers and just people in general, not only hope and motivation that with our own hustle and motivation we can also do these things. But also a blueprint on how we can. Whether it be the jewels, maturity and growth, as well as knowledge he spread through not only his music, but his interviews and whenever he was able to talk to people.
The way he was able to do all that he did in such a short amount of time was quite remarkable considering that he had really only done it through the mixtape and streets circuit since first emerging onto the scene really around 2008. When a lot of us where first put onto his music through his features with fellow Los Angeles emcee, The Game, on, They Roll and Bullets Ain’t Got No Name, from Nipsey’s very street acclaimed mixtape series, Bullets Ain’t Got No Name. Which would surprisingly be surpassed in a lot of ways by his later mixtape series, The Marathon. The conviction and inspiringly motivational lyrics and realness that he brought to his music is why me and so many gravitated towards his music for well over a decade. A bonafide hustler, who we all aspired to be as motivation to reach our own goals or aspirations. Never really becoming the superstar act he was predicted to when he signed his first record deal nearly a decade ago in 2009, but still persevering through all the record label roadblocks and setbacks he had, he still became one of the city’s most revered artists and that he was just really getting the love he truly deserved for quite a while on the mainstream level within the past year or so and showed us all that in not only music or entertainment, but just in life in general that it’s a marathon and not a sprint. Which made the success he was long overdue finally getting just as satisfactory for many of us who had rode and continued to since the very beginning, as it was for him, as he became such a true King and superhero in the greater L.A. area and why it makes this even sadder and not as much heart-broken for not just that we will no longer hear anymore new music or very little, if at all, as I’m disappointed that he would have his life ended in such a senseless way in front of his own store in almost broad daylight on a Sunday afternoon of all days. For somebody who was one of the most kind-hearted, pure, real and authentic people in this very at times not only really cruel entertainment and music industry, but just cruel at times world we live in, this is not the way his life should have ended and especially when he was beginning to truly ascend, both musically and entrepreneurially to where he really should’ve been years ago.
As such a positive role model, who was not only somebody who did so much for his community for not just music, but beyond that. He was a really great family person too. Whether it be with his brother, girlfriend and even at one point fiancée, Lauren London or to his two kids that he leaves behind. A boy with London and a girl named, Emani, from a previous relationship. To say he was just a rapper/emcee would be a huge misstatement. With his relentless hustle of mixtapes released making him a huge fixture and mainstay as one of the key figures in L.A.’s huge burgeoning Hip-Hop scene in the mid-2000’s and even beyond that. Joining the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Jay Rock, Bad Lucc, Problem, ScHoolboy Q, Quincey White (formerly Dubb) and several other great emcees who emerged from L.A. during that time period. But really it was the business savvy and portfolio beyond music, that truly showed how great his hustle, knowledge and growth was. A pillar in his local community, Nipsey was determined to setup his community for success long after departing earth which included him purchasing the well-known strip mall in the Creenshaw district that housed his store and highlighted in a piece with Forbes back in February all the work he had already done and had planned to do over the next year-plus.
Over the next 18 months Hu$$le and his business partner Dave Gross were scheduled to invest in construction projects to build a six-story residential building where the strip mall currently stands. The project being part of a larger effort to continue the model in different cities, while also producing different lifestyle franchises including clothing stores, barbershops, fish markets and restaurants. Those things among the many showing the forward thinking and truly living up to his Hu$$le name, that Neighborhood Nip, as he was also known to many had. Which makes it even more unfortunate that the same Creenshaw neighborhood he helped build up and do so much for is where he still ended up meeting his unfortunately way to early demise. Even with that said and although it’s a lot sooner than a lot of us really wished for and his towering figure will no longer walk through the South Central streets of L.A. he did so much for, we could maybe find a little bit of solace in the fact that he’s leaving behind a legacy that is strong and deep enough to hopefully outlast the tears and cries of sorrow already shed by myself and so many others, as well as continuing to be done. His mission and legacy which touched so many of us and continues to touch so many, his family included will not be left in vain.
Such inspiring and motivational lyrics as this chorus on Dedication of, “Dedication, hard work plus patience. The sum of all my sacrifice, I’m done waitin’. I’m done waitin’, told you that I wasn’t playin’. Now you hear what I been sayin’. Dedication. It’s dedication”, giving us the blueprint to keep dedicated and motivated ourselves to our own goals and aspirations like a lot of Nipsey’s music made a lot of us feel. Nipsey was one of only a few rap artists not only in this time period or ever that will be able to give us such inspiring and motivational music that was as insurmountable resilient and momentous, as the almost always inspiring and motivational lyrics he delivered. Which is why this really hit home for so many of us because as he himself alluded to in his music quite a few times, he really truly was almost like the 2Pac of our generation with how much his music and work beyond it truly transcended the culture. His music and presence in Los Angeles left as undeniable a mark as the late great 2Pac’s did and the city is all the better for it, while also losing a huge piece of it that will be really hard to replace. Like Pac some of his lyrics also becoming eerily true, with lyrics like this from that same Dedication record as part of the first verses, “This the remedy, the separation. 2Pac of my generation, blue pill in the fuckin’ Matrix. Red rose in the gray pavement. Young black n***a trapped and he can’t change it” or even the dedication from the second verse of his last ever released track, Racks in the Middle, about his own late friend, Fatts, a long-time friend and business partner. Where he rapped, “Damn, I wish my nigga Fatts was here. How you die thirty somethin’ after banging all them years? Grammy nominated, in the sauna sheddin’ tears. All this money, power, fame and I can’t make you reappear. But I don’t wipe ’em though. We just embrace the only life we know.” Also adding in the final part of that second verse the parting message he would have given his comrade if he had been the one to go first, “If it was me, I would tell you, ‘Nigga, live your life and grow.’ I’d tell you, ‘Finish what we started, reach them heights, you know?”
Now here’s to hoping that Nipsey’s victory lap and impact that he brought to Los Angeles be everlasting and the marathon truly continues as we gain another angel and spirit to help guide us all through this marathon, called life. Let’s also all remember as much as we hate to admit and we get older that we all inevitably all pass and go on to the afterlife. So let’s also all try to spread more love, positivity, legacies and memories that will last well beyond our lifetimes and generations to be remembered by.
All that said, me, my colleague Todd and the rest of TheHipHopDemocrat staff wish our condelences to Nipsey Hu$$le’s family, friends, fellow fans and loved ones in this difficult time.