LOS ANGELES — Thousands of mourners are expected to gather in downtown Los Angeles on Thursday to honor the life of Nipsey Hussle, the Grammy-nominated rapper who was fatally shot last month and whose success and commitment to redeveloping South Los Angeles made him a local hero.
The funeral, billed as a “celebration of life,” will be held at the Staples Center. All tickets for the event, which were free, were claimed online within minutes of being made available earlier this week. The arena’s capacity is 21,000.
Tens of thousands of fans are expected to gather around the venue, where a public memorial for Michael Jackson was hosted in 2009. The two-hour service will begin at 10 a.m. local time and will be followed by a procession from the Staples Center through South Los Angeles.
Hussle, born Ermias Joseph Asghedom, channeled his upbringing and adolescence as a gang member into music that spoke powerfully to many who live in Los Angeles’ most vulnerable neighborhoods. As his star rose in recent years, Hussle brought investments and attention back to the area, earning the adoration of his neighbors and fans.
Though he developed a following far beyond Southern California, his death last week struck a particularly painful chord among residents of the Crenshaw District, where he grew up. His clothing store on Slauson Avenue in South Los Angeles, The Marathon Clothing, had become a potent symbol of local success and black entrepreneurship, a theme he addressed regularly in his music. His fans clung to lyrics that melded familiar rap bombast with exaltations about self-discipline and long-term financial planning, a break from a music culture that often emphasizes flashy spending.
The store transformed into a makeshift memorial on March 31 after Hussle was gunned down there over a “personal dispute,” according to the Los Angeles Police Department. The suspect, Eric Holder, was apprehended by authorities two days after the shooting.
For days outside the store, fans prayed, lit candles and left hand-written letters addressed to Hussle. One of the mourners was Candace Cosey, 32, who remembers him as Ermias from their time attending Hamilton High School together in the early 2000s, a magnet school on the West Side of Los Angeles. She recalled how Hussle would sell mix CDs to her and others at school, and how he later started selling music in the neighborhood out of his trunk.
She came close to tears as she pulled out a picture of him from the high school yearbook. “If you grew up here, you either knew him directly or you knew someone who knew him,” she said.
Even as his career took off, Hussle remained approachable and “big hearted,” she said. As he amassed fame and wealth, he continued living modestly while making investments in businesses in the neighborhood. And he could be very generous. When a colleague passed away several years ago, Ms. Cosey approached Hussle’s team to see if he could help with the funeral expenses. He contributed several thousand dollars, she said.
“He was about uplifting us. He hired people from the neighborhood who wouldn’t have had a job otherwise. He took care of so many people, and he invested in what he believed in, here, because he grew up here,” she said. “We have to keep that work going. It’s what he was about.”
[Read more about the community’s reaction to Hussle’s death.]
Hussle’s death has drawn attention far beyond the Crenshaw District. Celebrities and political leaders across the country have offered their condolences to Hussle’s family and friends. In an interview last week, Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles praised Hussle’s contributions to South Los Angeles, a community that he acknowledged has been historically overlooked by the city’s political establishment.
Mr. Garcetti said Hussle embodied the very idea of black entrepreneurship, a critical component of lifting the community and its residents.
“He represented redemption and hope. He had come from the world of gangs and gotten out,” he said. “This is a devastating shock to the stomach. He was really ambitious — he wanted to get African Americans into tech, on top of his music game, on top of his businesses.”
“Then to be killed in such a clichéd way, by guns, for a beef in South L.A., it feeds into too many stereotypes,” he said.
Velma Sanders, 60, said she did not listen to Hussle’s music but, as a lifelong resident of South Los Angeles, she felt pride watching his career grow in recent years. His presence, she said, was felt by everyone.
“He would be out here. He showed you that he didn’t fear where he grew up. He was proud of it,” she said. “He was building up this community, giving back to this community. He took that money and instead of buying something luxurious, a big home or whatever, he put it back in his community so these would not be vacant buildings. It’s just beautiful.”
[Read an assessment of Hussle’s music and its place in hip-hop.]
Manuel Pastor, a professor of American studies and ethnicity at the University of Southern California who has researched the demographics and culture of South Los Angeles, said Hussle’s killing “felt like a kick in the stomach.” He described Hussle as “a hometown guy lifting up his hometown.” Nothing illustrated this more, he said, than when Hussle and his girlfriend, the actress Lauren London, posed for a photo shoot in GQ in February at locations around South Los Angeles — not Hollywood, not downtown Los Angeles, not New York.
“This really hit hard. This was a hometown guy who stayed home,” said Mr. Pastor.
Mr. Pastor said Hussle had left the gang life but never rejected the culture of the community. Alienation and the search for identity amid violence and poverty often feed into gang culture, something Hussle spoke about openly.
“He did what many people ask of black celebrities, to come back to their community,” said Najee Ali, an activist in South Los Angeles who knew Hussle. He said the community is accustomed to feeling left behind when one of its own makes it big and finds fame.
“They all leave,” he said. “Hussle was the only one to stay in the community. He believed in the slogan, ‘Don’t move, improve.’ That’s what made him special.”
Hasani Leffall, 35, who knew Hussle, once worked for the rapper’s stepfather at a South Los Angeles restaurant called Bayou Grille. To emphasize the depth of feeling over Hussle’s murder within the black community of Los Angeles, he mentioned the murders of Tupac, Biggie Smalls, even Malcolm X and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Even with his fame, money and the support of the community, Hussle couldn’t escape the violence of the streets he rapped about.
Mr. Holder, the suspect in the killing, is an aspiring rapper who knew Hussle when he was younger. Mr. Holder, Mr. Leffall said, “represents a dark side about L.A., and a dark side about just men in L.A., in Crip life. There’s always somebody that just doesn’t like you, doesn’t like the fact that people love you.”
I’ve been praying for the moment this tape would drop officially since this 2016 interview with Jeremih. Thank you R&B gods for making this happen! These two are well-known for making certified radio hits and R&B cuts that ride, but they’re at their best, in my opinion, when they lean into the sensual. “FYT,” their flip of Biggie’s “Fucking You Tonight,” is the perfect, smoldering example of this. Their. Runs. Phewwwwwww! (Also, no offense, but if anyone has a French Montana-less version of this, please hit me up.) —NAZUK KOCHHAR
I think straight men should be banned from having sex until they can collectively get their shit together, but Jeremih and Ty Dolla $ign’s “The Light” makes me briefly reconsider my position. It’s really Ty belting out “Let’s have sex” in the song’s hook that just sounds so right. Jeremih pulls his weight, too, matching Ty’s seductive power with his own brand of unapologetic horniness. Mih and Ty both sound super comfortable over a sample from Keni Burke’s “Risin’ To The Top.” That song has helped power good sex songs — like The Mary Jane Girls’s “All Night Long” — for the last 30+ years and MihTy’s is a welcome addition to the canon. —MYLES TANZER
“New Level” seems like the most surefire “hit” on the album. The song was originally released as a single with a guest verse from Lil Wayne but, on MIH-TY, it’s just Jeremih and Ty, going back and forth for a perfectly concise two minutes and thirty seconds. Building off a Dru Hill vocal sample, “New Level” fulfills the original promise of the collaborative album: two masters of melodic thottery bringing out the best in each other. Jeremih’s bridge on the song recalls some of his best Late Night-era runs, as he sings in a sultry whine about wishing he was a mind reader. Together, they sing about vaguely advancing a woman’s life should she choose to fuck with them. It’s a classic Jeremih/Ty premise and one that, when they harmonize, sounds pretty convincing. —BEN DANDRIDGE-LEMCO
Though the conflict between Drake and Pusha-T has been wrapped up, one popular conversation birthed from the feud is the existence of rules (if any) in rap beef. Drake’s appearance on HBO’s The Shop spawned a debate across hip-hop, as he stated that certain lines shouldn’t be crossed in rap. Rappers and music industry individuals attempted to argue on both sides, though no general consensus was established.
While still on promo for their Beloved project, Dave East and Styles P (who both recently gave their opinion on the topic) stopped by radio veteran/media personality Funkmaster Flex‘s show on Hot 97. At the end of the video above, around the 6:09 mark, Flex took the time to go on an explicative filled rant addressing the issue of those who seek to establish guidelines in lyrical warfare.
Flex, in his usual candid, unabashed fashion, made his stance unequivocally clear.
“If you get your feelings hurt, fuck you, it don’t really matter,” he began. “If you don’t write your own shit, you ain’t qualified to give motherfucking rules on the fucking game, you fucking bozo.”
The sentiment Flex expressed echoes that of an earlier statement made by Styles regarding the Drake/Pusha T incident. Styles told Hot 97 “you can’t expect in any type of warfare, any type, not just rap, ain’t no rules.”
This isn’t the first time Flex has addressed Drake, as his disdain with the Canadian superstar has always been about the actions taken by Drake that are contrarian to the hip-hop purist (i.e. the infamous Quentin Miller reference tracks).
T.I. has often compared himself to 2Pac, and the claim makes sense in that both have touched on enough topics to fill 100 Wikipedia pages. Tip’s 10th proper album, Dime Trap, loudly silences any concerns over what he has left to say. The album functions as a compelling retrospective of T.I.’s life and career while proving he’s far from finished.
Billed as a “TED Talk for hustlers,” Dime Trap‘s thug motivation qualities are evident. “Looking Back” finds the Rubberband Man giving hustlers and civilians some tough love: “Tell me what you gon see when you looking back at yo life/Won’t be worth a damn if you ain’t living it right.” His words could easily come off as judgmental if Tip weren’t so transparent about his old hell-raising habits: “In Vegas, fightin’ police, me and Jeezy and ‘em/Hit the strip, Fatburger, did my thing again/All I do is kick back, blow gas and smile/Reminiscin’ ‘bout the days I was young and wild.” Tip’s front-porch reflections position him as the elder statesman he’s become and imbue Dime Trap with a sense of well-earned wisdom.
Tha Carter V is coming out this week — but for real this time.
A week after rumors of Lil Wayne’s long-awaited album proved to be false, the rapper himself has announced that the hotly-anticipated project will finally see the light of day on Thursday, his 36th birthday.
In a video posted to YouTube (see above), the five-time Grammy winner shared the news, thanking those who have stuck with him over the years. “I always give y’all all of me, but with this album, I’m giving you more than me,” he said. “This is four, five, six years of work that you’ll be listening to.”
A date for Tha Carter V comes seven years after the Carter IV and four years after it was delayed days before the planned release date due to the dispute between Wayne and his mentor/Cash Money boss Birdman.
This wasn’t how Joe Budden planned on becoming famous. In fact, he didn’t plan much of anything. Now he’s on the charts, but not for his music.
Instead, as of Thursday, Joe Budden has the No. 1 podcast on the iTunes music podcast chart — five slots ahead of the NPR standard-bearer “All Songs Considered.” The Joe Budden Podcast With Rory and Mal is produced at a friend’s house in Queens.
Mr. Budden had a brief taste of mainstream success as a rapper with a Top 40 hit in 2003 before his career stalled. Now he has become a kind of volatile elder statesman of hip-hop, holding forth on his podcast, social media and YouTube before an audience of millions. His soliloquies and tirades, whether a careful examination of a rap diss or a nuanced defense of XXXTentacion, the controversial young rapper who was murdered in June, lend him a credibility he never quite had as an artist.
Mr. Budden is now banking on a new partnership with Spotify to expand on his success. Starting this fall, his podcast will stream exclusively on that platform. (He plans on still uploading videos of the show on YouTube.) The goal, according to Courtney Holt, head of studios and video at Spotify, is to “develop out not just this show, but other shows in the future.” When asked why he thought Spotify was the best home for his show, Mr. Budden said simply, “They weren’t afraid of me.”
Seated at the dining room table in his Montclair, N.J., home, Mr. Budden is just as he seems as a podcast host: expressive and candid and unembarrassed to recount a series of personal and professional misfortunes and poor decisions, from his battles with addiction, messy physical fights that spilled onto social media to rap beefs and shady recording contracts that left him broke for most of his rap career.
He was also accused of beating an ex-girlfriend, and even though charges were dropped, the allegations continue to dog him. “Even if you’re innocent of those things, therapy teaches you to always pay attention to the part that I played in things,” Mr. Budden said. “I didn’t do any of that stuff, but how did I get here? I frequented strip clubs, I popped pills. My life was in disarray. It made me say, ‘No more.’”