Grammy-nominated rapper-turned-entrepreneur and community advocate Nipsey Hussle was fatally gunned down in broad daylight on March 31, outside his store, Marathon Clothing, in Hyde Park, Calif. at Crenshaw Boulevard. and Slauson Avenue. The Crenshaw native was 33 years old; he is survived by his two children: Emani and Kross Asghedom.
The West Coast hip-hop icon — born Ermias Joseph Asghedom to an Eritrean immigrant father and African-American mother — traces his roots to the South L.A. of the ‘90s, an inner-city environment whose prevalent gang culture and lack of opportunity was less than conducive to his precocious talent and bold ambition. In a 2018 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Hussle recounted his frustration with the social and cultural impediments to his creative appetites: “I remember feeling, like, number one, what’s the point and, number two, maybe I’m tripping. Maybe I’m not even supposed to be ambitious . . . maybe I should just follow suit. That’s a dangerous thing . . . what follows is self-destructive.”
Hussle captures this tragically-common phenomena in the following lyric and piercing social commentary: “Young Black n—a trapped, and he can’t change it / Know he a genius, he just can’t claim it / ‘Cause they left him no platforms to explain it.”
More than simply painting a picture of this harsh reality, however, Hussle was determined to prevent as many young people as possible from succumbing to the same sense of despair he had encountered growing up. Hussle’s emancipatory vision is manifested by his reinvestment in the community that raised him; his legacy of action evident in the shoes he bought for students, the basketball courts and playgrounds he revamped, the funerals he paid for, and the jobs and shelter he provided for the homeless. Hussle also helped to restore Mid-City roller rink, World On Wheels, and invested in Destination Crenshaw, a mile-long stretch of outdoor art installations intended to celebrate black L.A and counteract the effects of gentrification.
Pushing back against a narrative in “our culture,” which idolizes athletes and entertainers, Hussle argued that we should urge future generations to instead follow figures like Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg. “I think that with me being influential as an artist and [being] young and coming from the inner city,” Hussle told the Los Angeles Times, “it makes sense for me to be one of the people that’s waving that flag.”
To that end, Hussle opened Vector 90 in February of 2018, a dual STEM center and co-working space/incubator for emerging entrepreneurs. Occupying separate floors of the same 4,700-square-foot building in Crenshaw, both projects are focused on fostering the professional development of historically disenfranchised communities as they pursue vocations in enterprise and STEM. It is community endeavors that assign weight to bars like these: “Still somehow I understood that I could make the seed grow / And that one day that tree will bear fruit to feed my people.”
The day after Vector 90’s launch, Hussle broke his streak of 12 consecutive mixtapes with the release of his highly anticipated debut studio album, Victory Lap, the first and only distributed through a major label (All Money In and Atlantic Records). It was nominated for “Best Rap Album” at the Grammy Awards.
Eric Ronald Holder Jr., the man accused of fatally shooting Hussle and wounding two others, was arraigned in a downtown L.A. courtroom on one count of murder, two counts of attempted murder, and one count of possession of a firearm by a felon, according to CBS Los Angeles. If convicted, he faces a possible life-sentence in state prison.
Hussle’s legacy is a powerful reminder of the importance of integrity and community, and it stands as a beacon of hope for all those whose ambitions have been stifled by violently-imposed power structures and relations of domination. In the face of impossible odds, the Marathon continues — especially in the vibrant spirit of L.A., a city Hussle entertained, revitalized, and inspired until his final breath.
His celebration of life will be held this Thursday, April 11 at 10:00 a.m. at the Staples Center; tickets are available for purchase on staplescenter.com.