Tag: nipsey hussle

The Marathon Continues: How Nipsey Hussle’s Vision for L.A. Will Live On

“I don’t ever make moves under pressure,” Nipsey Hussle explained to me back in February 2018. His final album, Victory Lap, had been out for less than a week, and he was stopping by New York City for an on-camera interview. The early numbers were looking good on his latest release. Last time that he checked, the project—which would eventually be nominated for a Best Rap Album Grammy—was headed for a top 5 debut.

On one level, the title Victory Lap represented the third installment of his Marathon trilogy. But as he savored the moment, reflecting on his accomplishments to date, Nip unpacked the words more fully. “We was able to become real successful in the mixtape space,” he said, sipping a cup of tea. “And obviously we announced the partnership with Atlantic Records. We established businesses and built an ecosystem around the music with the Marathon Store, with the Marathon Clothing, with the Marathon Agency. One of the things [Victory Lap] means to me now, when I think about it, is being able to stand up in the game. Being clear that Nipsey Hussle has a clear lane in the game, and built it, and took the stairs. We had opportunities to be assisted, but chose to do it on our own.”

In the weeks since Ermias Joseph Asghedom’s senseless murder, his legacy has come into sharper focus. If anything, the man known to many as “Neighborhood Nip” downplayed his impact as an entrepreneur and community leader during our conversation. Any misconceptions have been erased by his memorial service at the Staples Center, not to mention his hearse’s heroic last ride down a street that would soon be renamed in his honor. The intersection of Crenshaw Boulevard and West Slauson Avenue—where he came up hustling, invested millions, and ultimately lost his life—will henceforth be known as Ermias “Nipsey Hussle” Asghedom Square.

The all-too-familiar rap star narrative of diversifying into new business ventures while turning one’s back on the streets that raised him did not apply to Nipsey Hussle. He had a vision that went way beyond handing out turkeys on Thanksgiving. Nipsey was extremely involved in his local community, founding and supporting numerous L.A. businesses and organizations. According to some estimates, the businesses he and his partners built employed over 40,000 people, many of them ex-convicts who might have had difficulty finding a job elsewhere. From the co-working space Vector90 (a business incubator with built-in STEM academy) to local ventures (a FatBurger partnership, Steve’s Barber Shop, Elite Human Hair, the World on Wheels skating rink, and more), Nipsey Hussle put on for his city like no other rapper in history.

Nipsey was just getting started. Plans had been drawn up to open a six-story residential building atop his smart store with a light-rail train connecting the area he dubbed “Destination Crenshaw” to LAX. More than just meeting with LAPD officials to discuss curtailing gang violence, Hussle was also planning to visit Washington D.C. along with T.I. and their business associate Dave Gross for a series of meetings with Congress to discuss the nationwide rollout of Vector90 as part of a larger initiative called Our Opportunity. There was a lot of important work left to be done, which helps explain the widespread sense of outrage at his untimely death.

Back in February 2018, Nipsey spoke about how he dealt with one of the most difficult times in his career, between the end of his deal with Epic Records and the game-changing rollout of his 2013 Crenshaw mixtape, which he famously sold for $100 apiece. “Real-life things,” is what he said he was going through at the time. “Street shit that never really got written about, ’cause it doesn’t belong on the front page. My brother going to jail. Us getting raided. Us having real war in the streets.”

At times like these, this son of an Eritrean immigrant evoked a Red Sea metaphor that may be helpful today. “I tell my daughter don’t let the water in the boat,” Nipsey said. “The boat’ll never go down if you don’t let the water in the boat. And that’s just water—you know what I’m sayin? That’s just rough seas. We got a destination. We trying to get across the ocean to the other country, or to whatever land on the other side of this water. All that other shit, you go straight through the waves. Just don’t let the water in the boat.”

Over the past few weeks, I spoke with some of Nipsey’s family members and inner circle about their plans to carry his legacy forward. Having spent years living and working alongside this visionary artist, thinker, activist and entrepreneur, they were all used to life in Marathon mode. Even as they fought back tears, they all agreed that this particular marathon will continue.

READ MORE: https://www.complex.com/music/2019/04/nipsey-hussle-los-angeles-friends-family-interviews/

At Nipsey Hussle’s Memorial, Los Angeles Comes Together to Mourn

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.”