“Instead of trying to build a brick wall, lay a brick every day. Eventually you’ll look up and you’ll have a brick wall.” -Nipsey Hussle
A positive role model has the power to make a significant impact on whoever they reach. They may be the sole reason an individual decides to better themselves. Most of us have role models, but were they positive or negative? I know I had my fair share of misguided older figures I looked up to that steered me down a similar negative path. There was one role model that has made a powerful impact on my life though, and he was someone I never even spoke with directly, unlike most of my role models who were right in front of my face. A leader in a world of followers. An entrepreneur. An intellectual. A validated emcee. A bonafide hustler. A man who stood for everything that was right, when so much wrong is among us all. That man, that King, was Ermias Asghedom, better known as Nipsey Hussle.
I remember I was ten years old, I had a baby blue MP3 player that didn’t even have a screen. Three buttons; play, pause, and next track. I used to get clowned for that thing, but it was all I had. I figured out how to maneuver through Datpiff from my cousins. On the home page, I see a dude with a stone cold face, hair braided, blue hat to match the blue leather jacket. Long gold chain subtly poking out, just enough so you know he’s got it. “Nipsey Hu$$le—Bullets ain’t got no names Volume 3”, I read. I became immediately drawn to Nip, I downloaded all three volumes and Slauson Boy. He was one of the only artists I kept on that MP3 player, it didn’t have much space so I had to choose wisely. This guy was different, a lot of what I was witnessing in Hip-Hop in 2009 was different. I knew at that young age how monumental these artists coming up would be for my years to come.
Living on the West Coast there’s an understanding of community with these artists. Their lyrics speak to us on an even larger scale. Whether you’re from Tucson, Arizona or Los Angeles, California, we can all grasp the weight behind what was being spoken on. Whether we were in the function, riding around, or on our own zoned out staring at the ceiling with our headphones in. Nip was in rotation religiously, every time he dropped something new, it was on.
Lyrics became something I studied like it was my homework. Nipsey’s words resonated with me like no other. His interviews held so much knowledge that I couldn’t believe he was giving it away for free. Realizing everything out of his mouth was wiser than most. It had tact. You could hear it in his voice that he meant what he said. There was never any second guessing, he always knew what to say to motivate anyone watching.
He set the blueprint for success. Mentally and physically mapped out what one must endure achieving their goals. There was a plan, nothing he did was random. No matter what happened there was never a worry because he knew where he was headed. The minor roadblocks could never knock him off his pivot. Putting himself into a position to win on his own terms. Independently putting out twelve mixtapes before even dropping an album with a label. That album being Victory Lap, his Grammy nominated album that should have won. Yet Cardi B snatched that victory for her wildly mediocre effort of a project in comparison. That is beside the point. All of his masters are his, with each purchase or stream that’s more mailbox money to his family. Not only did he withstand all of the pressure to be signed, but he was also successful unsigned. Unbelievably successful.
He was no average mixtape rapper. Rightfully, he should be credited with bringing back a significant value to music in the physical form. Taking a risk that people who weren’t Nipsey would be looked at as downright mad for doing. Many did believe he was mad for it. Selling CDs of his 2013 tape Crenshaw for a hundred dollars a pop. He sold a thousand copies. A hundred thousand dollars off a mixtape! That’s something that would have label executives heads spinning until they fell off. It’s unheard of, especially at a point where a physical copy is seemingly useless. Useless is what an average person may think. This is art, this is a piece of history, holding that physical form of the tape is like holding a piece of time. If paintings can be sold for millions, a mixtape from an accredited artist is more than deserving of a hundred dollar bill. Art is art.
It never stopped at music with him. He was actively involved in business ventures. His most notable being his clothing store, The Marathon Clothing. Right on Slauson Avenue, right at home. He never left home. He loved home and home loved him. What he was doing with that store surmounted clothes, it surmounted music, it was a humanitarian effort. Creating jobs for those in his neighborhood who didn’t have any other type of option. Where so much hope and empowerment has resembled in the same spot the man who built that up would be violently taken down.
Ermias Asghedom was shot six times on March 31st, 2019. Shortly after arriving at the hospital he was pronounced dead. It felt like the world stopped all at once, as if I just lost my big homie. Mourning and grieving flooded social media in his name. Nipsey Hussle impacted lives far beyond his own neighborhood. His whole following was one magnified community. Whether you liked one song, every single second of his discography, or merely had respect for the ten toes he kept on the ground. You felt it.
I hate saying how much greater than the music he was. The music was great on its own. The character of the man made the music second hand. His involvement in his community was one of many admirable acts of the late south Los Angeles legend. Accrediting the youth with so much opportunity, starting STEM schools for the kids on the block. Putting his personal finances down so that the youth can have a better way. Buying out the block itself and pushing for those in the community to be the faces behind the businesses. Opposed to the gentrifying, unwelcome real estate people who don’t have an ounce of worry about what really goes on in the areas they invade.
He was trying to bring peace to the streets he walked his whole life. People in powerful positions listened to Nip. Set to meet with the LAPD Chief and Commissioner about gang violence on April 1st. He was vocal about his involvement with the crips, the pain he endured was heard within his music. The media will push a narrative of Nipsey as a gangbanger above all his achievements, due to his affiliation. Yet gang violence is not the case here. A man with hate and jealousy in his heart is to blame. Don’t let them tell you that Nip was simply a crip and try to degrade his name by doing so. I don’t speak on shit that I don’t know and they shouldn’t either. This is no time or place to paint a negative image for someone who cared so deeply for everyone around him.
Advocating for Black business and uplifting Black people as a whole. Not through words but through actions. Believing in the strength of ownership and self investment. Pushing for everyone he knew to set themselves up on a solid foundation as he did. He never had a problem saying what was on his mind, if something was wrong he would visibly renounce it. He stayed in his hood when most would take the money and run. There was no obligation to do so. He gave everything. His life was a humbling experience to watch, I’m glad to have been along to witness so many of the laps.
Nipsey Hussle left earth with more than he was ever asked to bring to it. His messages, his insights, his music, his businesses, his blueprint. The work of a true martyr. The devil takes the ones who are the most pivotal from us. He will not die in vein, we must carry on his legacy. The thing about a marathon is that it takes time, you have to pace yourself. It’s a long haul testing endurance and strength. Nip will be coasting eternal victory laps, he may have passed the finish line but that can’t stop us all from running. The Marathon Continues.
Rest Peacefully Neighborhood Nip. Condolences to all of his family, friends, fans, and anyone who he made an impact on.
Fans & supporters alike can head to the commercial establishment of Nipsey Hussle on the corner of Crenshaw & Slauson to show their respects. Although, in light of recent events, the public must enter through the alley on 58th Pl West of Crenshaw & the memorial will be closed every night at 10 pm.