Nearly two weeks after a jealous comrade gunned down hip-hop artist and social entrepreneur Nipsey Hussle, fans worldwide continue to mourn a man they’ve come to love and respect since his industry debut more than a decade ago.
For many, Nipsey’s impact extends well beyond the music industry.
Some people, such as Michael Newby, said that Nipsey, by purchasing the buildings and inducing economic activity on his old South Central Los Angeles stomping grounds of Crenshaw Boulevard and Slauson Avenue, continued where Tupac Shakur left off in raising the consciousness of the oppressed masses.
“When I run back Nipsey’s music, it feels like I’m listening to prophecy over beats,” said Newby, a Northeast resident.
Newby recounted reading the news about Nipsey’s March 31 death in a group chat conversation. He and countless others listened closely that evening as news about a shooting in front of Nipsey’s Marathon Clothing storefront surfaced. An hour or so later, reporters confirmed Nipsey, born Ermias Joseph Asghedom, as the single casualty.
Four days later, on the evening of April 4, Newby gathered alongside thousands of grievers who converged on Malcolm X Park in Northwest to vigilize their fallen hero. That event mirrored similar affairs in front of Marathon Clothing, a Dallas park, and other places across the country.
At Malcolm X Park, Participants released blue and white balloons, showcased original depictions of the West coast artist, and reflected on his influence on their lives.
“Being in that space [in Malcolm X Park], it felt like I was surrounded by love,” said Newby, a Nipsey Hussle fan since college. “”There were a lot of people from the hip-hop and Eritrean community. I could stamp that a lot of people aren’t fans of his music, but that never stopped them from being fans of the caliber of man he was when he walked this earth. Nipsey lived long enough to put what Tupac was talking about into motion and that’s what’s hurting,”
On April 11, friends, family, colleagues, and fans with California residency will attend a Nipsey’s funeral at the Staples Center.
In February, Nipsey, whose stage name had been inspired by comedian Nipsey Russell, received a Grammy nomination for his debut studio album Victory Lap. In the decade before the release of that critically acclaimed work, Nipsey released a bevy of mixtapes, including the Bullets Ain’t Got No Names series, The Marathon — from which his clothing store received its name — and The Marathon Continues.
On April 2, law enforcement officials apprehended and charged Eric Holder, fellow Rollin 60s Crips gang member and government informant, in Nipsey’s murder. News reports revealed Nipsey and Holder’s ongoing conflict as a topic of discussion on a song on Nipsey’s 2018 “Blue Laces 2” mixtape.
Ironically, Nipsey had been scheduled to meet with Steve Soboroff, president of the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners, on April 1, the day after his death, to discuss how to end gang violence.
Last week, Crips and Bloods in South Central Los Angeles, perhaps inspired by Nipsey’s life, initiated a truce, the footage of which circulated on social media outlets. The cease-fire sparked discussion about the potential for similar action in District, where 55 homicides had taken place since the beginning of the year.
D.C.-based entrepreneur and Los Angeles native Patricia Patton said Nipsey’s death, though unfortunate, stood along a continuum of events long put in place to push Black people in countering the effects of gentrification and other structural inequities that spur intraracial violence in Los Angeles, D.C. and other American cities.
“It was senseless and irresponsible, and reminded me of Auset and Ausar,” said Patton, alluding to the older, Kemetic version of the Christian resurrection story.
In that narrative, a jealous man named Set killed his brother Ausar, a man-god who taught Egyptians writing, agriculture, and construction, before chopping up his body and scattering the pieces through all corners of the world.
Ausar’s wife Auset would later collect all but one fragment of her husband’s body to create the first mummy. Ausar’s spirit would continue to live through Heru, who scholars consider the Kemetic version of Jesus Christ.
“The lesson in that is that jealousy and envy will be there but who you truly are as a spirit will be everlasting, said Patton, host of Truth2Power on We Act Radio, an independent radio station based in Anacostia.
“We have to know who we are as a direct manifestation of the creator. After that story, you have the Transatlantic slave trade and all of these things that make us hate ourselves. They pit us against one another, and it still hasn’t been healed.”
Nipsey Hussle, the son of an African-American woman and Eritrean man, spent much of his adult life helping his people rise above their circumstances. A three-month trip to Eritrea in 2004, during which he saw people with his skin tone owning and running their communities, inspired his foray into social entrepreneurship.
Since Nipsey’s death, members of the Eritrean community in D.C. had taken part in a ritual called Hazen, where mourners gather in a space and cry cathartically for as long as two weeks.
Yafet Girmay, a Pan-Africanist of Eritrean descent, paralleled his experiences with his fallen brother Nipsey.
“I have an appreciation for the fact that Nipsey went back to Eritrea,” said Girmay, vice chairperson of international affairs for the D.C. chapter of the National Black United Front and head of Tomorrow’s Black Men, a local mentorship program.
“It changed his life as much as me going back in 2006,” Girmay said. “Anytime someone goes to Africa, it changes them. The people you interact with. You learn something from that as well. Nipsey was renewing his identity and his father and mother had a huge part in that. He was preaching entrepreneurship at 21, and his focus was his community and uplifting his people where poverty is prevalent.”