In February he was in a tuxedo at the Grammys, living it up with some of the world’s most famous and critically acclaimed musicians. In March, he was shot dead in a parking lot on the corner of Slauson and Crenshaw, right in front of a clothing store he owned.
It was on the same corner that he once passed out free mixtapes at red lights, years before his life and death would turn into a monument for those who refused to allow their black lives to stop mattering.
Nipsey Hussle was a thirty-three-year-old father, Grammy-nominated rapper, entrepreneur and hardworking businessman before he was gunned down in the Hyde Park Neighborhood of Los Angeles on Sunday.
Born Ermias Asghedom in Crenshaw in 1985 from an Eritrean father and African American mother, Hussle’s life was seemingly set up to walk the same path as others who have been conditioned to gang violence. He stopped going to school at fifteen and fell into gangbanging, pledging allegiance to the famous Rollin 60’s Neighborhood Crips gang.
Like many others trapped in the cycle of violence and poverty, Hussle found his creative freedom in rap music, allowing the circumstances he lived in to flow through his lyrics. His lyrics talked about loss and betrayal, of working tirelessly to make ends meet, as well as sending the message about being who you are, despite the circumstances.
But all of this was ahead of Hussle as he pushed his mixtapes wherever he could, “putting all putting [his] money into posters, and started saturating the streets,” Hussle told Complex magazine in a 2010 interview.
Between 2005 and 2013 Hussle produced eight mixtapes, the eighth, titled “Crenshaw”, was creatively priced at a hundred dollars each, sparking the interest of Jay-Z’s label, Roc Nation.
“I got an email that came through my team and it just was like, ‘Roc Nation, on behalf of Jay Z wants to buy 100 units. Who do we pay? When can we get the shipment out?'” he told MTV News at the time. “They sent us $10,000. We sent them 100 CDs. … I didn’t get the chance to holler at Jay, but through his people, he made it clear that he respects the move and everything, so I was just humbled by it.”
Hussle is known to maneuver his way around record labels, viewing them gatekeepers that control the opportunities for young artists. Although he worked hard to put out a solid body of work, he also dedicated the money he made towards entrepreneurial efforts in South L.A.
“One day before the February release of his highly anticipated debut album “Victory Lap,” the L.A. Times reported in 2018, “L.A. rapper Nipsey Hussle cut the ribbon on a combination co-working space and STEM center in the Crenshaw district. He told the Los Angeles Times he hoped the center, named Vector 90, would give young people more options and opportunities than he had as a kid.
“He was known to buy shoes for students. He repaved basketball courts and freshened up playgrounds,” Gerrick D. Kennedy wrote for The L.A. Times, “He provided jobs and shelter for the homeless, and he paid for funerals for those who struggled to bury their loved ones.”
His flagship purchase, the clothing store “The Marathon”, was ultimately the place he would be gunned down himself. As of late, the alleged murderer, Eric Holder, is in police custody.
The loss of Nipsey Hustle is tragic and the world of hip hop has lost an inspirational and purely authentic, true hustler of the game.
In his personal life, he and actress, Lauren London were an inseparable couple since meeting on social media in 2013.
By Ryan Nickerson
Feature Photo: Shareif Ziyadat Getty Images