Since hip-hop was introduced to the world 40 years ago, some of its most famous artists have used their music not only to express themselves but also to get out of poverty and make a change in their communities. They have influenced how people talk, dress, and hustle for many years. Nipsey Hussle, one of the most important people in hip-hop, did just that.
After making a name for himself with underground rap for 10 years, he got a Grammy nomination for best rap album for his first album, Victory Lap, in 2018. It was a crowning achievement for the former 60th Street Crip, who was rebuilding his old neighborhood in Los Angeles by bringing in businesses that would hire people who had been in jail, bringing life back to the neighborhood. But he never got to see his work pay off. On March 31, 2019, a 33-year-old man was killed right in the middle of his empire, at Crenshaw and Slauson.
Nipsey was a lot more than just a good writer or rapper. He was a businessman, a real estate mogul, and an activist. Since he died two years ago, his legacy and ideas have inspired his fans to find their purpose and follow their dreams.
When Nipsey came out in 2008, mixtapes like Slauson Boy and Bullets Ain’t Got No Name made him a big deal in the west coast rap scene, but they didn’t make him a big deal right away in the mainstream. One of his most successful projects, Crenshaw, came out in 2013.
Its price tag of $100 per copy caught the attention of Jay-Z, who bought 100 copies to support Nipsey’s Proud To Pay campaign, which went against the norms of the music industry by letting fans buy directly from artists instead of record labels. Just for this one deal, the rising star got a lot of attention and $10,000.
A lot of Nipsey’s success has happened since he died. This year, Jay-Z added a verse to the instrumental version of “What It Feels Like” made by Mike & Keys for the film Judas and the Black Messiah, which was nominated for an Oscar.
He won best rap collaboration and best rap performance after his death at the Grammy Awards last year. Ava DuVernay is making a Netflix documentary about his life. The movie is being produced by his children, Kross and Emani Asghedom, but a release date has not been set.
And while his store, The Marathon Clothing, has closed because of an “unprecedented outpouring of support” from fans, who turned it into a memorial to his life and work, work has begun on a new storefront.
Nipsey thought that life was a marathon, not a race and that setbacks were just part of the journey, even if they kept people from their dreams for a while. This “marathon” way of thinking came up again and again in his life and work. It has given fans hope and reminded them that problems are opportunities to do well.
Casey Veggies, a rapper and friend of Nipsey, says, “I think Nip was a genius for coming up with a message that was direct to his story, and he inspired all the youngins in the city to go hard.”
“Dedication” is one of his songs that “really speaks to me,” says Deshaun Higher, who stars in the Netflix documentary Last Chance. U. and an old fan,
“How long should I keep my promise?”
“How long until chance meets planning?”
“I felt this in my heart because I had been wondering the same thing,” Higher says, thinking back on the uncertainty he faced as a walk-on player for the University of Texas at El Paso basketball team. “How long do I have to keep doing this before I get something good?”
Two years after he died, Nipsey’s words still move people and show that what matters is not where you come from but how you change the world when you leave. Maybe this will be the most important thing he leaves behind.
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