Published Dec 12, 2019Shocked, confused, angry and devastated were a handful of emotions that zip-lined through the hip-hop community on March 31, 2019. It's a story this community has heard several times before — a rap star on the brink of their breakout gunned down for reasons not truly clear, but this one felt different. This one wasn't like the others. This one was Nipsey Hussle.
Born Ermias Asghedom in 1985, the Los Angeles-bred rapper led a life rooted in Black excellence and financial freedom. In some respects, his life story paralleled the late Tupac Shakur, who, in 1997, was also killed by gun violence. They shared similar values with regard to bettering their communities, spoke eagerly about self-love and had visions of a greater world.
But Asghedom wasn't perfect. A mix of poor socio-economic politics and gang culture in his Crenshaw neighbourhood lead a 14-year old Ermias to join the Rollin' 60s Crips. In turn, his father made it a point to expand his world by taking him and his brother to his own homeland of Eritrea in 2004. The three-month trip would redirect the gangbanging teen to community activism and entrepreneurship.
Nipsey Hussle would go on to create a sustainable strategy that would finance not just his own life, but those around him. Dubbed "The Marathon," he started selling clothing and mixtapes, though he quickly learned he needed to do more. He decided to release a novelty-like mixtape and sold it for $100 — JAY-Z bought 100 copies. He followed up by creating his own record label, All Money In, signing a deal with Atlantic Records that allowed him to own the masters to his music.
In 2017, Hussle opened up his clothing store, The Marathon Clothing, in South L.A., intending to buy residential and retail complexes to prevent neighbourhood gentrification. And months before his passing, Hussle opened a Vector 90, a STEM center and a co-working space in the Crenshaw district.
The 2019 Grammy-nominated artist, respectfully crowned "Neighborhood Nip," was the embodiment of resilience, independence and hope for his peers. As he lifted up his community, he also encouraged the hip-hop industry to do the same. Despite the statistics set up against him, Hussle did more than just survive — he lived.
In the wake of his death, celebrities across the entertainment industry, as well as L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and the city's police force, expressed their sadness. Fan-lead vigils were held across the world, including Toronto, where Hussle's music was blasted and lyrics were rapped like sermons. His music sales increased 2776 percent following his death, and his clothing store grossed over $10M in revenue in the following months. And as a final goodbye, thousands stood along the procession route to his public memorial service, where another 21,000 people gathered at the Staples Centre; the last memorial the arena hosted was for Michael Jackson.
Though no longer here in physical form, Hussle's legacy continues to live. Birthed out of sadness, "The Marathon Continues" is no longer an empty phrase or a reference to one of his mixtapes, but has since encouraged the hip-hop community to hold each other accountable, push boundaries and run more victory laps, even when the race seems to be over.
Nipsey Hussle may no longer be here, but to the likes of Tupac Shakur, Notorious B.I.G., Chris Lighty and Reggie "Combat Jack" Ossé, his death has pushed new energy into the hip-hop community and has ultimately allowed us to breathe again. #TheMarathonContinues