Bay Area fans say goodbye to rapper Nipsey Hussle
on April 9, 2019
On Sunday, March 31, I boarded the BART train in Rockridge and traveled to San Francisco to visit my aunt on my grandfather’s side of the family tree. My heart was filled with joy to finally see her and other relatives for the first time in the Bay Area, along with it being the Lord’s day, when everyone gathers in peace and love to have a good time. That afternoon we gathered at the dinner table, giving thanks for coming together and seeing the light of day.
It was a good day, but in Southern California, another tale was unfolding —a tale that shook my world at its core. Just as I was visiting my family, in Los Angeles, Ermias Joseph Asghedom, also known as rapper Nipsey Hussle, was pronounced dead after a shooting outside his first store, The Marathon Clothing.
In this game we call life, we lose loved ones. We spend time mourning their loss and cherish the days that we spent with them while on the face of the earth. But there are men and women who we may have learned from, and who made a great amount of impact on our lives, yet we have never met them, even for a day. Hussle was one of those brothers, for me and others throughout North America.
As a UC Berkeley student, every morning of the spring semester, I have walked down Telegraph Avenue to make my way to class, opening my Spotify account and directly tuning into his Grammy-nominated album, Victory Lap. I wait for the opening lyrics:
“I’m prolific, so gifted, I am the type that’s going to get it, no kidding.”
From Slauson Boy to Victory Lap, Hussle gave a testimony of the streets that reflected his life and upbringing, even from his times as a member of the Rollin 60’s Crips. He inspired a generation not only through his lyrics, but through serving his community and blessing those around him, being a leader to those who came after him.
He was a community hero in South Los Angeles, where he owned several businesses such as a Fatburger restaurant, a barbershop, and a seafood market and did work with local elementary schools. He even invested in the entire plaza where his clothing store sits, helping the citizens of the Hyde Park neighborhood.
Hussle named both his store and his The Marathon mixtape after the idea that the marathon continues, a reference to moving ahead despite challenges. His lyrics are a reminder that life’s purpose is larger than our current circumstances and material desires and we are meant to put positive energy into the world. In “Bigger Than Life,” he wrote:
Life is what you make it, I hope you make a movement
Hope your opportunity survives the opportunist
Hopin’ as you walk across the sand, you see my shoe print
And you follow ‘til it change your life, it’s all an evolution.
At 7 P.M on the next night, a rainy Tuesday, I placed myself amongst hundreds of Bay Area residents at the Eritrean Community Center in Oakland for a candlelight vigil to pay homage and honor to his life. At the very beginning, we watched a mini-documentary of Hussle’s journey to creating The Marathon Clothing store, where he began investing back into his community, citing lyrics from his song “I Do This.”
Longwinded, running through this life like it was mine
Never settling, but setting every goal high
One thousand burpees on the path to my own destruction or success
But what is a mistake without the lesson?
See, the best teacher in life is your own experience
None of us know who we are until we fail.
They say every man is defined by his reaction to any given situation
Well who would you want to define you?
Someone else or yourself?
Whatever you do, homie, give your heart to it
And stay strong.
In that center, people came in love and unity to celebrate someone who looks just like us, young kings and queens. He wanted to send us one message: That no matter your circumstances in life or where you came from, you can empower yourself and give back to your community. We listened to his story and we reflected on what he meant to our lives.
For Matthew Sánchez, who was in attendance wearing his UCLA sweater, meeting Hussle was one of the most memorable moments in his life. He said he wants to dedicate his cologne line, Celadawn, to Hussle’s life.
“He was a role model,” said Sánchez. “Whether you listen to his music or not, he was community minded, a forward-thinker, innovative, brilliant, and he legitimately made people feel like they can do anything—very motivative and inspirational.”
Sánchez’s testimony made me think back to one of my favorite moments showing Hussle’s entrepreneurial skills: The time when he released his mixtape, one of my favorites, entitled Crenshaw. He sold physical copies with a price tag of $100 and accumulated more than 1,000 sales in a shrewd business decision. (You could also download it for free on the mixtape site DatPiff.)
I’m a native of New Orleans, and Hussle also made me think of Percy Miller, also known as Master P, who was originally from New Orleans, but at age 21 created No Limit Records and Tapes on San Pablo Avenue in Richmond. Similar to Hussle, Miller sold records out the back of his car. He was one the many artists who preached entrepreneurship and ownership to make his voice heard throughout the world.
Alongside his business and music skills, it was Hussle’s philanthropic work in the Los Angeles community that meant the most to everyone at the vigil, including attendee Hanna Wodaje, who met him during a performance at San Francisco State in 2015. “We got to uphold his legacy. The only way we do that is through love and action,” said Wodaje. “He was real, but it always came through love. He did not just talk the talk, but walked it.”
David Ocasio, the small business owner of Alaco Films, called Hussle the Tupac Shakur of this generation. “Like Pac, he raised me as a big brother,” said Ocasio. “He is going to father people with his music. He told us something and he taught us something with his music.”
It was just last year when Hussle opened a STEM center, Vector90, to call attention to the lack of diversity in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields. The center was to serve as an incubator where young people could gain training, professional development and other tools to build their own businesses. Hussle even had plans to meet with officials from the Los Angeles Police Department on combating gang violence, but he passed away before being able to take that chance.
In the final minutes of the vigil, we gathered around each other to light our candles. We began to give our thanks and say goodbye to a king who left us too soon, but who made his presence known throughout his community. As we released 33 blue and white balloons into the sky, all we knew is that we will miss him, but his legacy will live on forever.
I know he will always be my motivation and my ambition to continue the marathon as I walk through Sather Gate.
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