Who was Nipsey Hussle? Grammy-nominated musician who went from being in a street gang to a community leader
From being part of the street gang Rollin '60s Neighborhood Crips to being part of Destination Crenshaw, he had had quite the journey
In a shocking incident on Sunday night, rapper Nipsey Hussle was shot dead in LA, right outside his clothing store. While the Grammy-nominated rapper passed away unceremoniously, the legacy he has left behind is pretty inspiring. From being part of the street gang Rollin '60s Neighborhood Crips to being part of Destination Crenshaw, an open-air museum devoted to honoring African-American artistic achievement, he had had quite the journey.
It all started with a mixtape for the rapper. In 2005 he released his first mixtape called Slauson Boy Volume 1, which also went to become the name of his record label. He then went on to release two such tapes, Bullets Ain't Got No Name, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 with Cinematic Music Group and Epic Records followed by a single called Hussle in the House. The single did not achieve insane mainstream success but definitely paved the way for some big collaborations in the music scene. He went on to sing and rap with Drake on Killer and appeared with Snoop Dogg and Problem on the song Upside Down, which featured on Snoop Dogg's 2009's album Malice n Wonderland.
This initial success, however, did not translate into a full-blown career. He stumbled on some issues with Epic Records after a couple of his big projects were postponed indefinitely. He moved on from the label. It appeared as though Hussle felt that a big label meant a cut on his creative freedom because after his exit from Epic he went back to the roots he knew best - singles and mixtapes. He released The Marathon, The Marathon Continues and Crenshaw, the latter of which rapper Jay-Z, bought 100 copies for $100 each.
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His debut studio album only came out in February last year, even though he had been active in the scene for more than a decade. Called Victory Lap, it wasn't just a critical success, it was a commercial smash hit too. It went on to be nominated for Best Rap Album at the 61st Annual Grammy Awards in 2019.
Forbes talks about the early life of the rapper. It reports how the hip-hop star grew up down the road from the Crenshaw Boulevard, in what he calls “the worst house on the best block,” cutting grass and shining shoes to make extra cash as a kid before falling in with local gangs. It was here then that music gave him a way out. He managed to develop a love of music and technology.
Real name Ermias Asghedom, the 33-year-old rapper had found that his interests also lay in giving back to his community. In March last year, soon after the album's success, he inaugurated the Vector 90, a co-working space and a STEM center dedicated to bringing attention to the need for diversity in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields. He told LA Times at the time, "Growing up as a kid, I was looking for somebody — not to give me anything — but somebody that cared. Someone that was creating the potential for change and that had an agenda outside of their own self-interests." He was also an investor in the project. He wanted the center to act as a "bridge between Silicon Valley and the inner city."
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His death has shaken the music community and the grief is immense. American actress, Issa Rae, said Hussle had inspired her "to invest and own in our communities" on a tribute post on Twitter. "He was a solid man who loved his woman, his family and his community," she said Sunday. "This hurts."
Hussle, had, however, his own share of controversies as well. At the BET Awards last year, being held at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, Hussle was caught on camera slapping a man at the parking lot. Nipsey reportedly wanted to drive his car through a restricted area in order to park his car but the BET award employee refused to do so.
He was also called out for being homophobic after he posted a controversial post on Instagram last year in June. The post was taken down soon, but the backlash was real. Fans called him out on Twitter too forcing him to address the situation.