I am dedicating this morning to the life and death of Nipsey Hussle, the 33 year old rapper and leader and entrepreneur, that was horribly gunned down and killed on this past Sunday. And I wanna break down why this loss has meant so much to so many people.
Nipsey Hussle was your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper. I don’t think another current rapper in all of hip hop had more respect from other rappers than Nipsey Hussle. For most of his career he chose to remain completely independent – without a label – on purpose – funding and producing and distributing his own music – with his own price points – and his own style and substance – something that had really not been done before in quite the way he did it.
But there are at least three reasons why rappers and hip hop fans respected Nipsey so much.
First, and I think you have to start here, Nipsey was a really good rapper and lyricist. He had a distinct rapping voice with a slight rasp to it that just stood out. He invented unique new rhyme patterns and used words that had literally never been used before in hip hop. He was a brilliant, vivid, colorful storyteller. And he found a way to do something that is really hard to achieve in hip hop – and it’s kind of hard to describe – he told stories of empowerment, entrepreneurship, self-determination, hard work, personal responsibility, and even just stories of saving money up and using it in smart ways – he was the rare rapper that found a way to consistently tell positive stories – but couch them in so much coolness – that everyday people still listened, learned, and loved the man. I don’t think another rapper in the history of hip hop has ever talked more about business and entrepreneurship than Nipsey. And yet he kept all of his street cred in the process.
The second reason I think Nipsey garnered so much respect is that he openly told his story about gang life in Los Angeles, how he came up through the Rolling 60s Crips, and the good, bad, and ugly of what that meant for his life. I can’t think of another modern rapper has ever been quite as transparent about this as Nipsey had – and one of the only reasons he was able to be so transparent, to be honest, was because he was independent and controlled and owned his own music. Labels would’ve never allowed it. He didn’t glorify violence or gang life – and let me be honest here – sometimes that has happened in hip hop – where, in the name of simply telling stories – violence or drugs are glorified – but that truly was not what Nipsey was doing. He was very a documentarian of hood life – how he had escaped some of the pitfalls – but also how he wanted to still stay in the neighborhood that produced him so he could give back.
And that really leads me to my third and final reason why Nipsey had earned so much respect and admiration from hip hop artists and fans alike. Now a lot of people want to compare him to Tupac, and I get that, he even compared himself to Pac sometimes, but Nipsey, to me, was what we might’ve seen from Tupac if Pac had lived 10 years longer. We forget that Tupac was just 25 years old when he was killed. And we never really got to see Tupac grow up and mature. And that’s exactly what we got to witness with Nipsey.
He started buying up properties all over South Central, Los Angeles and encouraged people who listened to his music to do the very same thing. He started opening up successful businesses in Los Angeles. He started a co-working space right there in the hood – in a place where traditional businesses just wouldn’t go. He opened up an academic training center for young students. He opened up a barber shop, a clothing store, a fresh fish market, and then, instead of just renting those spaces, bought out the entire strip mall where the businesses were located. He employed people from the community that others refused to hire – and the businesses were successful, and beloved, and safe.
They had all really been declared a neutral safe zone for everybody to visit and enjoy. And it was right there, in front of his businesses, that he was shot and killed. He never stood a chance.
I’ve watched the security footage closely of the man who killed him. The LAPD has announced a new suspect early this morning – and in the footage – this man calmly and cooly walks right up to Nipsey to kill him. Two other men are shot, but that man was clearly there to kill Nipsey -and as everybody else fled – the shooter calmly stayed there until he was clear that Nipsey was dead.
I’ve gotta run, but it’s an absolutely horrible loss for our community, for hip hop, for Los Angeles, for Nipsey’s family, and really for our nation. Nipsey was a rare leader. And once again – painfully – we are going to have to just wonder who and what he would’ve become had his life not been cut short.
I’ll close with this – I’ve never seen brothers in hip hop so hurt.