The name Nipsey Hussle has become well known this past week. Unfortunately it was because on Sunday March 31, the 33 year old rapper and philanthropist was fatally shot in front of his Marathon Clothing store located in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. The only thing more unfortunate than losing Nipsey last week, is that most people didn’t know the amazing things he was doing for L.A., his community and people. I finished teaching an evening class at Playlist Yoga. in West Hollywood when I heard the news. I opened my phone and saw via Instagram, "Nipsey Hussle shot and killed.” My stomach dropped and I immediately texted my cousin Nico. We shared a mutual love and respect for Nip, but Nico was a way bigger fan. He was the reason I got into him so much, not really because of his music but rather his wall street mentality and most importantly, his vision.
Back in 2012 I was relocating to California from Chicago. To run the clock on my 30 hour drive, I called another cousin of mine; Johnny, and somehow we landed on the subject of west coast hip-hop. It was always a dream of mine to be a hip-hop artist on the same coast as Snoop and Dre but then he dropped a name I'd never heard before, Nipsey Hussle, who was a big artist from South Central at the time. I took a listen to Nip on YouTube and I know I might get shit for this, but I wasn’t 💯 percent into his flow. I put Nips in the library but was never deep in his rap career. I still give respect though for any artist who puts themself out there since I was doing the same.
Fast forward 5 years later, cousin Nico came to visit Cali from The Bronx. We were working on opening our own cannabis dispensary but also thought we want more than “just a weed shop”. We wanted to host a space for the hip-hop culture and cannabis community to connect with one another. We had a vision but were stuck on how to execute it. After sharing my business ideas with Nico, he told me I needed to look deeper into Nipsey Hussle. I retorted, “Oh yeah my cousin Johnny mentioned him before, he's pretty dope. Nico went on promoting, "Nah man, he's so much more than a rapper. He just opened a sick clothing store, he’s all about bringing Crenshaw together and does great things for his people”. Nipsey was already doing what we envisioned, so he became the icon of my research. I followed his entrepreneurial rising for awhile to see how I could expand my own brand.
Hussle started making moves young, buying real estate, opening stores, helping home and business owners keep their properties. He was digging his bare hands into the streets and trying to clean up things on Crenshaw. Most mainstream rappers promote and buy material goods, or worse they create their own products through big corporations then sell them for ‘up the ass‘ prices that only the privileged can purchase. I was also tired of seeing money tossed at schools and charities, without anyone taking the personal time to be there or change things for the long run. According to Billboard.com, Drake's most memorable philanthropic movements all included something along the lines of "Drake donates... Drake gives money... Drake funds..." Now as a Drake fan, I think this stuff is cool and he is a great guy but Nipsey was just different. In my opinion he was way more personal. Maybe Drake grossed more than him on the music, but Hussle's motive was to be present in the community, make a change directly and not through a checkbook (No disrespect Drizzy). I guarantee that stuck more with people since memories last and money doesn't last forever. He's one of the biggest reasons I started volunteering to teach kids yoga in South Central. As I learned as a kid and even now as an adult, time is so much more valuable than the dollar.
Unfortunately, some ignorant minds dub areas like South Central or Compton as "unsafe" and would never visit until gentrification is in effect. In fairness, SC is no joke, the school where l I volunteer is predominantly Bloods and Florencia 13 territory so yes, I can understand someone not used to this environment being intimidated. As I witness though, the community is friendly, developing, and little by little gang violence is dwindling. Another area in South LA that’s witnessing a drop in crime is Inglewood. The difference however is that Inglewood's prices are soaring. There’s also been an increase of teacup dogs being walked and a Starbucks being built on every corner, but that comes with the territory of gentrification. Since 2017, after 2 football teams moved to the city and the new stadium that was built, it was only a matter of time before mortgages, rents and real estate sky rocketed. Which in turn is forcing most middle-class and low income families into more affordable areas. Selfish landlords are jacking up prices or business owners are getting persuaded with a buyout, like closing an iconic local restaurant to put in a corporate chain or tearing down an apartment complex to create luxury condos. Even Venice's historical Abbot Kinney has pushed a lot of local businesses to the curb. South Central was developing differently though, prices were still affordable. Old buildings and roads were being rehabilitated without kicking out the owners. Residents were beginning to feel safer, and part of something they can be proud of. How did that happen? Nipsey was buying back the block and giving everyone the community they deserved. I was moved by the African American gang-banger turned real estate genius. Nipsey was developing the spot without hurting the people who initially inhabited the hood. What a way to say “F*** you!" to the greedy billionaires.
I thought losing him hit close to home because he helped bring me closer to my cousins but the truth is, it's because he was everything I choose and still wish to be. That's what hurts; having an idol with the same morals and ideals as you, then for it all to end with cold blooded murder straight up sucks. Nip was a visionary for the hood that gave people a fair chance to live decent lives without capitalistic bullying. He gave the kids resources and love to do good things in this world so they don't have to turn to the streets or gangs. The same things I'm trying to do every day while creating the illest, most inspirational music. So the reality is, this is only the beginning. With Nipsey's spirit among us, my biggest hope is that others will carry on his legacy and contribute to his dream by lending our time and hands. I hope more music fans will go beyond the radio and acknowledge the artists who aren't just rapping about money, drugs and violence. The ones who are making pure and real music that touch people. The ones that are still there for their communities and trying to make them better. Not the ones who make it and forsake their roots.
The fact is that there is more to us than just our occupations. It's important to remember that time is such a valuable commodity and spending it with people you love is more cherished than any financial gain. Each and every one of us is given a heart before we ever get a job, so it's also vital for us to believe that we have the power to change a family, community or the world depending on how we love and choose to be loved, not by the money we throw around.
Rest in Paradise King Nipsey.... May your Hussle live forever. Our deepest sympathies to Ermias Asghedom's family and kids.
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