When the news hit me on Sunday that Nipsey Hussle was no longer with us, my first selfish thought was about his talent. I am a fan of his music. His 2018 album Victory Lap was in my top 10 of that year. I had been a fan since the first time I heard Hussle In The House. I think my exact quote was “ Yo who is this dude that made Jump by Kriss Kross sound Gangsta”. From there his mixtapes like the certified classic “The Marathon” revealed an artist that wasn’t afraid to indulge the dangerous side of gang culture but also looked to rise above it. As he grew in popularity and increased exposure, the violence in his music was balanced with messages of motivation, inspiration and hope. Nipsey revealed a perspective not explored fully by most “Gangsta” rappers.
Over the years while many record companies pump faked, Nipsey took control of his own destiny eventually culminating in the $100 dollar mixtape Crenshaw. In recognizing the economic principle of artificial scarcity Nipsey set himself apart from his peers at the time and made a fan of what seems like the entire Hip-Hop industrial complex from artists to managers to executives to no less than Jay-Z himself. Afterwards Nipsey mixtapes became events and he became in demand as a go to feature artist in hip-hop. When Victory Lap debuted last year it was almost like delayed gratification. It was a shame that it took so long for him to have a major release but you could hear that he used that time wisely to grow as an artist and the album he released in 2018 is a more complete product than if he released it in 2009. There was no debate amongst his true fans Victory Lap was a flawless album and aptly titled. This was Nip’s Wins and Losses in the same way that album signaled that Meek Mill from this point forward would be a force in the broader culture, Victory Lap sent a message to the world that Nip was here to stay. Going forward Nipsey albums were going to be major marketing events. So I hope you’ll forgive me for feeling robbed based strictly on the impact of the music. I was excited to hear him gaining more mainstream exposure and become one of the most respected in the business. Those possibilities have taken a grim turn. He will surely gain more popularity now but it’s for the most fucked up reason.
If I only talk about the music I don’t think I’m adequately explaining why so many feel such a visceral reaction to his death. Nipsey in recent years has taken efforts to move beyond music to impact the community he was raised in. He created businesses and encouraged the youth to pursue their dreams. Purchasing the strip mall where his Marathon clothing store was based was a power move. He also launched a STEM program to encourage scientific literacy. Those are moves that a lot of other artists don’t consider yet alone put into action.
The facts surrounding Nipsey’s death are tragic. He was shot by a man named Eric Holder. So far reporting disputes the motive of the shooter. But at this point I don’t care why he did it. The fact that killer ended the potential of another human being is indisputable. We can dispense with all the conspiracy theories floating around soical media. Most of these have passed the line from ridiculous to offensive in the days since Nipsey’s passing. People have difficulty accepting the death of their favorite artists and public figures. It is a shock to the system to imagine someone who seemed so vital dying. In the midst of that shock they will grasp the conspiracy theory that makes the most sense to them. Of course people want to believe that someone as important to them as Nipsey was killed for a particular reason. I resist these theories. I’ve learned over the years life can be purposeful but death is almost always senseless. When a young person’s life ends there are no satisfying answers. I would urge anyone reading this to give up on the futility of the pursuit of closure surrounding his death. If you focus on Nipsey’s life, his art, his business ventures, his philanthropy and the family he left behind, you will be much more “satisfied” then if you continue to spin conspiracy theories.
The truth is anyone standing in the spot Nipsey was standing in on Sunday night was in danger. Anyone in any neighborhood where there are easy access to weapons, a subpar educational system, a population targeted by a predatory law enforcement, drugs and mass incarceration, and lack of economic opportunities is in danger. Those of us who don’t live in those neighborhoods don’t want to think about it. We care in that superficial way we care about poverty in third world countries. No one wants to consider the grim reality, because the third world isn’t on another continent. Speaking for myself it’s a 30 minute drive away. Nipsey recognized that and he wanted to change it. And for that his fans, his community and his family will always be greatful. Rest Well Nipsey.