The marathon continues – but it’s getting harder to breathe.
Nipsey Hussle was fatally shot in front of his own Marathon Clothing Store on Sunday. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti confirmed his death, and the Los Angeles Police Department confirmed that two others were also shot. Police said one person fled in a vehicle after the shooting, and whoever is responsible is still at large.
Those sentences seem surreal and unfair to type, and I know there are a lot of people in black communities across the country waking up this morning with an overwhelming tightness in their chests, lumps in their throats and pits in their stomachs knowing that Hussle isn’t here anymore.
When I heard a Hussle track blasting on my commute this morning, I connected eyes with a black woman in a FedEx truck. We nodded. It was a nod of solidarity in knowing that we were both mourning this loss together.
Nipsey Hussle was not just a Grammy-nominated rapper from Crenshaw who had history with the the Rollin’ 60’s Neighborhood Crips.
He was more than that. He was Ermias Asghedom – a son, a father, a brother, a partner, a rapper, a business owner, a philanthropist, an activist. He was also just a black man trying to make it and give back.
“Royalties, publishing, plus I own masters / I’ll be damned if I slave for some white [expletive].” –Nipsey Hussle on “Dedication”
His 2018 “Victory Lap” wasn’t just a debut album for a prolific dropper of mixtapes. It was a celebratory moment in time for a prophetic West Coast voice, a mainstream launch for an artist who had been making music to celebrate and recognize people like him who grew up in the struggle and found a way to thrive.
Hussle’s independent record label, All Money In, teamed up with Atlantic Records in order to give his label’s music a bigger platform while he retained control over his brand for the release of “Victory Lap.”
“I’ve been really adamant about being in control and maintaining equity ownership. Being a partner at the next level,” Hussle told Power 106 in 2017.
His hard work earned a nomination for best rap album at the 2019 Grammy Awards. The album hit No. 4 on the Billboard 200 albums chart during its first week.
And even if you didn’t listen to his music, you could respect Hussle.
He promoted black people taking ownership of property, music masters and a culture that didn’t often have compensation put back in the hands of those who created it.
Hussle had been actively trying to broker peace and bridge the gap between rival gangs for years, uniting in his Crip blue with Blood gang rappers YG and The Game, known by the color red .
On Monday, Hussle was set to meet with the president of the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners and the city’s chief of police to discuss gang violence and “to talk about ways he could help stop gang violence and help us help kids,” said Steve Soboroff, president of the Los Angeles Police Commission.
Hussle wasn’t glamorizing gangs or trying to continue the violent histories of gangs in Los Angeles, but instead trying to prevent kids from the feelings that led him down the path of joining a gang.
“All my life, been grindin’ all my life / Sacrificed, hustled, paid the price / Want a slice, got to roll the dice.” –Nipsey Hussle on “Grinding All My Life”
Hussle’s death represents every time we try and “pick ourselves up by our bootstraps” and get pushed back to square one.
When there’s a prominent black leader trying and succeeding in making change, they die. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Fred Hampton and Tupac, to name a few. That’s exactly why black people around the country waited to exhale as former President Barack Obama got sworn in in 2008 — we were scared he, too, would be killed.
It hurts because it feels like we can’t win. No matter how far we climb, no matter how much we give back, no matter how many wrongs we right. We had someone who was doing good and making hits and giving us the tools to do it ourselves, and we lost him.
You have folks that talked about giving back and building up the community, but Hussle walked the walk. No empty promises, no messages of false hope and no hidden agendas. He just did.
Rihanna, Bruno Mars, more mourn rapper Nipsey Hussle: ‘Breaks my heart to see he’s gone’
“Young black [expletive] trapped and he can’t change it / Know he a genius, he just can’t claim it.” –Nipsey Hussle on “Dedication”
From the outside looking in, South LA is typically viewed as a war zone where LAPD is a neighborhood staple. In media, it often serves as the backdrop for gang violence and “hood” antics. For Hussle, South Central served as an opportunity to give back to the community by providing access to resources that were otherwise unavailable.
Hussle’s motto and business plan was All Money In No Money Out, his aptly named record label and way of keeping money and assets in the black community. He believed in himself, and he believed in black people.
He died in the same parking lot where he once sold CDs out of the trunk of his white Lincoln.
The same parking lot near where Hussle opened a co-working space and STEM center called Vector 90.
Together with LA native and entrepreneur David Gross, Hussle created a space for the community, a place that provided mentorship, networking events, workshops, professional development among other resources. All of that in the middle of the hood.
It hurts because he died outside of the strip mall where he owned a barber shop and a fish market to give the community access to healthy food options. In the same lot where he and Gross just dropped millions to own the plaza in efforts to “buy back the block” and provide a location where black-owned businesses can thrive.
It hurts because Hussle was on a mission to build generational wealth.
“I understand my obligation — I got an obligation to my community first, my family first, to hoods like L.A. all around the country who live for the culture,” he wrote for The Player’s Tribune in 2018. “That’s part of the game, the way I see it. I have a duty to justify the seat that I’m sitting in. Nobody has any success on his own.”
We loved Hussle for all those reasons, and we loved his relationship with Lauren London.
With her big ol’ dimples and talent enough to steal an entire show and the hearts of black communities around the country, London is someone you could root for, with roles in black classics like “ATL” and “This Christmas.”
If Beyoncé and Jay-Z are the power couple who rule the whole world, Hussle and London were the power couple that you felt you could realistically become. You could kick it with them, and you were inspired that they were right on the cusp of achieving their (and our) dreams.
That image of black power and black love was cut short on Sunday. We went from “finally” to “not again.”
It’s sad and strange how the world keeps turning after you lose someone like this. But as Hussle said: “The work ain’t done yet.”
There’s hope yet that his legacy will live on.
And the marathon continues.