Nipsey Hu$$le  R.I.P.




When I first returned to LA after nearly 20 years in 2011, it was the unusual enterprise of a young barely known rapper which first made me think there was hope for black lyrical electronic music.  The young rapper, Nipsey Hu$$le, earned his title through his razor sharp wit and his hard-earned hustle as a young member of the Crenshaw community.  As the child of an immigrant (Eritrean) father, Hu$$le had worked extra hard to carve himself into the heart of a tight clenched world, the epicenter of the competitive hustle bred by endemic social injustice – and he succeeded. His charm was genuine, his light shining.  Anyone who knew or met him as a teenager could vouch for his prescient wisdom, charm and ability to make you laugh.  He was also determined to uplift his community and had only pride for the city that raised him.

 Nipsey built his empire brick by brick from a garage and his own recording studio, armed like a fortress because he refused to move out of the ‘hood. He was aware of the dangers in staying in his home territory but maybe he needed it for the vibes.

 Nonetheless, he was nationally respected and had a string of collaborations with household names plus his own mixtapes. But his artistic integrity remained watertight as he had learned the hard way about corporate shenanigans and parted from Epic Records in late 2010. He released all his mixtapes on his own label ‘All Money In’.

 ‘Crenshaw’ was the first album I bought although he’d released the first of his mixtapes a few years earlier.  He’d had the audacity to state he’d sell 1000 hard copies of ‘The Marathon’ for $100 each – leading to a sell-out within 24 hours earning him $100k.  $100 is $100 – doesn’t matter if Jay Z is paying or Felicia from Success Street in Watts.

 Hu$$le to and fro’d with major labels til he set his mind and chose to make his final mixtape his debut album – released on his own label.  Although he had said this would be released in 2014, it was actually 2018 when it came out but was worth the wait, earning him a Grammy nomination.

 Hu$$le’s hustle included reinvesting in his own clothing company, Marathon Clothing, over a decade and in many other music ventures and collaborations. He continually built bridges and connections in the rap/R & B/music community and liaised with community leaders regarding gangs. In fact, he had initiated and set up a meeting with LAPD and Roc Nation to discuss ways of addressing gang violence in South Central due the day after his untimely death.

 The international community may be late really waking up to the phenomenon of Nipsey Hu$$le but, for me, he was a ray of hope as he was the first super talented rapper from the ‘hood who eschewed the majors and the politics and did things the right way, the hard way and the ‘hood way.  He earns his victory crown, regardless of the cowards who feared the success and wealth he only wished to share Time will surely tell how he had the foresight to build an empire for the long run.