When I got the call from my dad, you could hear it in his voice. Unsure yet his voice sounded steady, his words fainted in and out as the sounds of the sirens blared in the background.
He said, “I think somebody shot Nip.”
Nip meaning Nipsey Hussle, a rapper, entrepreneur and activist from the Crenshaw District in Los Angeles, California.
Before I could offer a response, I asked for confirmation. He could only confirm that an ambulance rushed by him as he walked down the street as people were screaming in the parking lot that houses Hussle’s business The Marathon Store.
As we waited for word from somebody on Nip’s condition, the sun that seemed to peak in the sky seemed to hide behind the darkest of clouds. Before long, the world got the notification that rapper Nipsey Hussle, born Ermias Asghedom, had been pronounced dead.
While my parents and I attempted to wrap our heads around the sense of emptiness that was felt following the loss of somebody that we didn’t know personally but felt so strongly connected to.
It wouldn’t be long before we would realize, we were not the only ones.
Given the impact that Nip left on the me and the community he so often spoke about and roamed, I felt compelled to explain what he meant to some of those who share the same sentiments as myself.
Only through working on this project did I realize this was a form of therapy for my healing process whether I knew it at the time or not.
Justen Cade, 25, and Katherine Irvin, 29, are a couple that live in Las Vegas, Nevada but felt the effects of the passing of Nipsey tremendously. In addition, the two are from two completely different backgrounds.
Cade was born and raised in Los Angeles, California in an area known as the Jungles, which is a blood gang in the city.
Irvin on the other hand is originally from Phoenix, Arizona but lived in LA for a period of time.
With their answering of these questions it is our hope to make clear what effect a 33-year-old Nipsey Hussle had on the minds of the younger generation. In addition, we will be proving that he was so much more than just a gang member from South Central LA, but rather he was our neighborhood hero.
Question: Can you speak about the impact that Nipsey had on you as a young Black man/woman in America?
Justen: Nipsey had a really big impact on me, coming from the same city I came from on top of his family being from East Africa like mine. He was someone I looked up to as a role model and in a way a mentor through his music.
Katt: The impact he had on me through his music was really independence without seeking validation from anyone.
Question: What did his death do to you?
Justen: It fucked me up mentally and confused me, I couldn’t believe it happened, where it happened nor how it happened. As a Black man from any type of poverty-stricken situation we are told if you become successful or rich to bring that back to where you came from to help the ones like you out and then things like this happen so it just left me confused.
Katt: It made me realize when you’re at a certain point in your life you can do a lot for people close to you but will they do the same for you?
Question: Do you remember the first time you heard Nip? How did you get introduced to Nip and his music?
Justen: First time I heard Nip was at Dockweiler Beach, there was a bonfire and my friend Joseph had Nip’s mixtape and wanted to play it in my car and I finally let him and I’ve been a fan ever since. This had to be back in 2008-09.
Katt: In high school, my homegirl liked Nip [so she played him a lot].
Question: What is your interpretation of his message through his music?
Justen: There are so many messages throughout his music, it’s crazy if you really listen in, he teaches the people that come from similar places how to do things like treat their woman, be a man of the family, be a good friend after success, open a franchise business, open your own business, teach artists how to own their masters to their music and how to stand on their own in the music game. His music teaches us to be spiritual and how to eat healthy even how to buy Black as far as spending our money in our communities.
Katt: My interpretation is that if Nip can make it based off his resources then I can make it with no excuses. He made it very clear that anyone can start and finish their own marathon.
Justen makes music and has been for the last four years and Katt has sold apparel off-and-on over the last year or so. Both of them admitted that they use Nipsey’s message in his music throughout their business ventures.
Question: How do you use that message in your field of work?
Justen: It’s something I’m learning to apply. I’ve applied it here and there but since his death, my writing has been different so all my new music will have a message more than just being a song.
Katt: I use the message of persistence to keep going.
Prior to his passing, Nipsey had become very involved in the community in an attempt to raise the property value through a resurgence act that was seen from Los Angeles to Watts.
His work didn’t stop there as he was influential in attempting to better the relationship between the Los Angeles Police Department and local gangs in hopes that gang violence and police brutality would cease in a two birds, one stone approach.
In addition, he was very vocal in terms of being an activist for his people. Asghedom, who was Eritrean, was working on a documentary about the healings and the teachings of Dr. Sebi along with his trial against the United States, where he was proclaimed the victor.
Question: Can you speak about the community resurgence mission that Nipsey was in the process of?
Justen: He was developing what is now developed as Vector 90 and other non-profits that were part of his community resurgence mission order to give the kids from his community and surrounding communities the same opportunities that kids in the Silicon Valley get as far as financial knowledge, computer knowledge, knowledge on making applications and so many other things even including musical engineering.
Katt: I just know that he was very involved with the LAPD and making sure there was peace between different hoods and the cops to dead all of the misunderstandings.
Question: Can you attest a little bit to the activist work he was doing in the community in terms of gang violence and police brutality?
Justen: As far as gang violence, Nipsey was bringing everyone together so everyone from all over LA was beginning to look at the bigger picture of success rather than gangbanging which has crips and bloods working together. With that, it gives the police less of a reason to mess with us. At the same time, he was bringing the gangs together he was able to speak to the police to a point where they understood him and where he was coming from which gave them more understanding on the type of people like him.
Katt: Kind of the same thing I said before, he was making sure there was a middle ground between cops and hoods. That way the people that were apart of the community can live in peace without harassment.
Question: Can you speak to how that breaks the gangbanging stigma that so many want to handcuff Nipsey to?
Justen: You have to be from LA to know how it brings him out of the gangbanging standard that everyone views him in because from the outside people still see a gang member but if you’re from LA, you know how the Rollin 60’s are and for him to be cool with everyone and be trying to help everyone from everywhere it shows he grew out of it.
Katt: Well it proves, that not all gang members are gang bangers. Some can also delegates businesses and diversify.
Question: What are your favorite Nipsey Hussle lyrics and why?
Justen: My favorite Nip lyrics would have to be entire songs. *Laughs* Each lyric in these songs mean something to me: Hussle & Motivate, Young Nigga, No Nigga Like Me, Where Yo Money At, No Regrets and Face the World. All because each song has a message that I personally felt.
Katt: “Ones that hate us, handcuff us and mace us/ Call us dumb niggas ‘cause our culture is contagious.” – Blue Laces 2 from Victory Lap
Question: What comes to mind when you hear each of these words: Crenshaw, The Marathon, Victory Lap, Hussle & Motivate?
Justen: Crenshaw: The first thing that comes to mind is Nipsey because he repped Crenshaw so much it’s almost like he owned the street. *Laughs* I also think of gangs because gangs are throughout that whole street. The Marathon: I think of a forever continuing set of goals that just grow as each one accomplishes and no matter what whoever is influenced by the moves made by the past person can carry it on to the next. Victory Lap: It freaks me out in a way because a victory lap is a lap you take once you’ve already won the race. So the fact he named his first album Victory Lap is just weird to me especially because he was killed soon after. Hussle & Motivate: It shows me that he wanted people to get successful and hustle for the nice things you want in order to motivate the people who come from the same place as you to show they can do it as well.
Katt: When I hear those things just Nipsey comes to mind.
The next set of questions were specific to both Justen and Katt respectively. The former was asked questions about being from LA but moving away in hopes of finding prosperity and the latter will be asked questions from the perspective of being a Nip product despite being from another state.
Question: What made you leave LA?
Justen: I left LA because it was way too expensive and because it’s way too crowded I feel like it’s a city for people who are rich without having to work.
Question: Did you feel guilty about leaving? Did other people try and make you feel guilty for leaving?
Justen: I personally didn’t feel guilty about leaving LA, I did feel a little guilty about leaving family but as you get older you have to start worrying about your family. People have tried to make me feel guilty or like an outcast or something for moving out of LA like people that move are running from LA or whatever but everyone that thinks that way are people that don’t really matter and who aren’t doing much with their lives. Most successful people or people on the way to being successful from LA have left at some point for college, work, army, something and it takes leaving sometimes to get ahead.
Question: In your opinion, what does it take to survive in LA?
Justen: To survive in LA, it all depends on which part of LA you grow up in. That’s the crazy thing about Los Angeles, you have some of the richest high schools in America in the same city as some of the worse. But one thing that it takes for everyone all across the board to survive is being smart and being aware because in LA, anything can pop off anywhere. In gang areas, I would say it takes not being a gang member because then you’re subject to so many enemies that you don’t even know just because you gangbang. Surviving in gang areas also takes parents who care, a lot of these kids banging are “Tiny” such and such or “Lil” such and such and they are named after their parents, uncles, big brothers and sisters in the gang and that just produces generations of ignorance leading to jail. The kids see nothing wrong because their whole family did the same thing.
Question: Can you talk about some personal tales with Nip and the Jungles?
Justen: Nipsey was very local and wasn’t scared to go anywhere, I’ve personally ran into him in the Jungles about three times. Once at Target near the Jungles and twice by the Crenshaw Mall and each time he embraced me and the people I was with as if he knew us. He didn’t care what area he was in, he was just Black. Then from these times he actually saved me one time. *Laughs* My grandma has a church and sober living home next to The Marathon Store on Crenshaw and Slauson and one day while I was there helping her with a clothing giveaway so I walked over to The Marathon Store and it was full of 60’s [gangbangers], like at least 12 to 15 people outside and I didn’t grow up in that area so just walking up and no one knowing me wasn’t the best idea but I didn’t want to turn around and look sketch so like five of them ran up and starting banging on me and seconds later Nipsey came out of the store and was like ‘Nah bro, bro good. His grandma church next door. Nipsey and a few other people out there knew I grew up in an area that doesn’t get along with his and they treated me like family.
Question: What is the misconception about Nipsey and his relationship with all gangbangers and gang members in the area?
Justen: Nipsey was cool with everyone, yes he was a crip but he had no rival enemies because he helped everyone and gave everyone hope coming from where he came from. His deepest fears and everyone who cared about him deepest fears was his own gang killing him due to gang politics and him being successful. A lot of hate comes with not being around all day anymore and being seen on tv or in videos or with famous people in pictures or travelling. Negative people who are stuck see that as going “Hollywood” and the ones that say that are usually the ones you grew up with or around. So even though Nipsey was a gang banger, his biggest enemy was his own gang.
Question: Is Nip frequently heard where you’re from?
Question: He was labeled as an “LA Artist” but his impact reached beyond California, can you attest to that?
Katt: Exactly, Nipsey touched everyone, worldwide. He was his own movement.
Question: What image did his lyrics portray to you as to what South Central LA was like prior to you moving there?
Katt: It showed me that LA is not all of what’s in the movies.
Question: If you never got the opportunity to meet Nipsey Hussle, what would you want to say to him?
Katt: I would say to keep doing what he’s doing and that we are ALL proud!
Question: From the outside looking in, what would you say is Nipsey’s lasting mark on the Crenshaw District, LA and the world as a whole?
Katt: His lasting mark is that that man loved his city, did for his city and died for his city.
In an effort to put a cap on this process, I felt it was necessary to take a trip back home to the very intersection that had claimed the life of one the legends I got the chance to shake hands with.
Walking into a city that I know like the back of my hand blindly, is the best way to describe the feelings I battled before even stepping foot on the soil.
From every conversation I had with current residents, the feeling was somber to say the least in the weeks following his murder yet the magnetic pull to want to be around the people who were hurting most was a top priority for me.
Very quickly for me the story became how so many people are craving to be apart of the grieving process. It bothered me how many people I felt were going solely for the social media hit to couple along with the “Wild, Wild West” persona that so many believe holds validity.
For instance, for any regulars or locals in that area it is known the alley behind the Shell gas station next to the FatBurger (that Nip had a hand in bringing to the intersection as well) is not a place you want to be caught in for a multitude of reasons. So to see so many who may not understand the significance of that confuses a person who roamed those streets on a daily basis.
To see that alley flooded with people from various parts of the world was an interesting sight to see regardless of intentions. Not to mention the intersection of Crenshaw and Slauson becoming a landmark before my very eyes.
In the midst of the outpour of love from the world, rapper Joey BadA$$ weighed in with comments about how he wishes the world would’ve showed the love they are displaying for Nip now when he was alive.
That there is the problem. For many of us in LA or those from LA, took this loss as a personal blow. One unlike any other this generation had felt or at least for quite some time.
When you take into account the way he was killed, execution style in broad daylight in front of the world to see in a parking lot that he frequented anywhere over 1,000 times. A place where he had so many personal memories in addition to making memories for so many others in the process.
A lot of people in that area are told in order to be prosperous you have to leave the hood and not look back, Nipsey was living proof that that didn’t have to be everyone’s reality.
Though I wasn’t in the city during the memorial, former Scarlet & Gray Free Press writer Sean Zittel was in the town for work but happened to catch the beginning of the procession following Nipsey’s funeral.
And from almost 300 miles away, I was comforted by one tweet.
Sean wrote, “Got some footage of Nipsey Hussle’s people pulling out and leaving the funeral today in Los Angeles. It was a “Godfather” type send-off for the slain rapper.”
That said, even though I was over 280 miles away from home, I was comforted to know that it done right. So right that a person born in Brooklyn, New York could feel the level of respect the entire city had for one man.
That’s when I had to take a hard look in the mirror, though it’s not through violence, I had to realize I was falling victim to the crabs in the barrel mentality. At the end of the day I was being selfish and I think so many more of us were as well.
Often times, most notably in sports and music, if you have a favorite person that majority of fans are not aware of you feel a certain sense of attachment to that person if you were with them before their come-up.
However, once they come up and get that national attention, mot of those day-one fans find themselves bitter because nobody identifies them as part of the original fan base.
All in all, Nipsey loved Slauson and Crenshaw and helped those born there or those living there to embrace it. More so, he promised to make the world do the same.
Through businesses like Crenshaw Clothing that evolved into The Marathon Store to its collaboration with Pumas that has yet to be released. In addition, he bought the parking lot where his store was located and was influential in bringing some of the changes to the area that is seen today.
Through activism, Nipsey continued to work to bridge the gap between different gangs in the Los Angeles areas though he did not stop there. Moreover, he felt the need to show Blacks and Latinos that we are more alike than we are different. As a result, he gained the trust of all parties involved to speak on their behalf when negotiating lifestyle and neighborhood changes with local police departments.
Through community resurgence, Nipsey helped rebuild 59th Street Elementary School as apart of an initiative where he was very influential in providing opportunities to the youth in the community. In addition, he was encouraging educating the urban city youth in STEM research through his business venture of Vector 90, which serves as a co-working space.
Lastly through his music, where he promoted daily motivation, business tactics and avenues for self-education. All of which he owned as he was one of the few rappers who owns all of his master rights.
So before you attack the person streaming his music for the first time or the person who was a virgin to the corner of Crenshaw and Slauson prior to March 31st, 2019, remember this, though it may not have come the way we wanted it to, Nipsey made good on his promise to make the world recognize an intersection that was forgotten for far too long.
“I got that good, still in the hood
I kept my word, yeah my nigga, I made good”
“All Get Right”