As it’s been almost a year since Nipsey Hussle’s passing, I find myself wondering what it all means. I admit that I wasn’t the biggest fan of Nipsey during his lifetime (more of a casual listener – I would listen if it was in my face), but I always respected what he stood for, in terms of resilience and moving forward. The fact that he was killed in front of his own store in the neighborhood that he gave his heart to, is what makes the story so tragic, but I can’t help but think that it was a message to renew the purpose in our lives and remind us to stand for something and follow our principles and most importantly to keep going as the marathon still continues.
Firstly, Nipsey Hussle’s innovation really impressed me and set him apart from other rappers and businessmen, which links to his mindset.
For example, with his mixtape, ‘Crenshaw’, released in 2013, the then independent artist decided to sell 1000 copies of the project for $100 each with a Proud to Pay program, offering an insight into how we consume music nowadays as buying an album is ‘almost like an appreciation after I experience the product [the album]’[i], which for me at least is true. He explained that he wanted to ‘better [serve]’ his most loyal fans, without compromising his sound, so the ‘$100 is your [the consumer’s] form of saying don’t change’, showing how he valued his supporters and valued himself and his work, with the purchase meaning that fans could meet the man himself, among other incentives, effectively increasing the loyalty of the fans that purchased copies and helping to boost his career as it garnered attention. Most notably, Jay Z bought 100 copies and rapper E-40 also praised the initiative, despite critics saying that his approach was too radical or that the copies were too expensive. Yet he sold over 1000 copies in under 24 hours, with more to be sold, showing that his genius idea paid off as he moved with the times and ripped up the rulebook.
He also showed innovation by investing and encouraging others, especially within Hip Hop to invest in crypto currency, further showing his forward thinking. Furthermore, The Marathon Clothing store was ‘the first smart store in the world’[ii], with exclusive Hussle content connected to products through the use of an app.
Secondly, Nipsey Hussle’s values impressed me, in terms of community work in his neighborhood of Crenshaw, like with Vector 90 (a coworking community and incubator for young black people interested in STEM careers), the refurbishment of 59th Street Elementary School’s basketball court and Destination Crenshaw (an open-air museum for black art and culture). This shows his focus on bettering the lives of people with similar backgrounds to himself and his consideration of generations to come so that they will be open to more options growing up, with Hussle suggesting that young people should ‘follow Elon Musk, follow [Mark] Zuckerberg’[iii], rather than solely looking towards entertainment or sport. With more options they should be deterred from joining gangs, like Hussle did as a former member of the Rollin 60s Neighborhood Crips.
However, it was his Marathon Clothing Store that touched me the most and had a huge impact on the community. After watching his documentary on WORLDSTARHIPHOP in 2017 and a mini-documentary on Revolt TV, I was able to gain more of an insight into what Nipple Hussle represented and the importance of the store, which should be crucially stressed amid reports of investigations into the store’s gang activity by the LAPD[iv].
Something that struck me is what other people would say about Hussle. Stories about how Nipsey or the business prevented them from getting into certain situations, like being killed or arrested. His brother, Sam Asghedom, even highlighted Hussle’s importance because ‘he [was] doing something that a lot of people cannot do and that’s rehabilitating an area and [giving] felons jobs and making motherfuckers be productive’[v]. This shows the progression from the parking lot where the store is located being a hangout for the Rollin 60s with abandoned buildings into a place with a business from someone so connected to the community. The most beautiful thing about the store is that the people singing Hussle’s praises had seen the progression first hand and that Hussle and his brother stuck to their goal of ‘wanting to own something’[vi].
However, this only shows the end of the Marathon, after the point where you may have the wall, yet like Hyvon Ngetich, Hussle kept going along with his brother and friends like Fatts. The journey started from Sam and Fatts hustling in a parking lot across the street from the current Marathon store to the Slauson Tees store, losing Slauson Tees, going back to hustling outside, getting the store back and then the store being raided, all before The Marathon Clothing store being opened in June 2017, with Sam and Nipsey both being arrested during raids, showing that as Sam said, ‘it’s the true definition of Marathon man, ups and downs, the long haul, it’s all been for this right here’[vii].
The most important take away for me from Nipsey Hussle was his resilience and the fact that he didn’t give up on his goals, meaning that he achieved his goals as he became a Grammy nominated artist without compromising his sound (‘Victory Lap’ was six years in the making), owning real estate and businesses and standing up and being example for people everywhere. The fact that he was able to do this and still hold his values and give back is a bonus.
I tried to refrain from making this too much about me but I remember how I felt on the morning that I found out that he died and how I believed that I had to stand up again. It felt like a wake-up call and the end of a phase in which I felt I was wavering slightly after a bright start to the year. It was a message to keep on going and remember what I can and want to do.
‘That’s why I call my thing the marathon. I’m not gon’ lie and… portray this ultimate poise like I been had it figured out. Nah, I just didn’t quit… I went through every emotion… I’ma die behind what I’m getting at right now’[viii]. Amen.
[i] (B.Dot, 2013)
[ii] (TV, 2017)
[iii] (Hussle, 2018)
[iv] (Arango, 2018)
[v] (WORLDSTARHIPHOP, 2017)
[vi] (WORLDSTARHIPHOP, 2017)
[vii] (WORLDSTARHIPHOP, 2017)
[viii] (TV B. B., 2018)