Photo Credit: Image via Getty/Matt Winkelmeyer
Every generation has people who are symbols for great change. Whether in politics, the arts, or academics, there’s always someone pushing against the norm. Nipsey Hussle became that symbol in his neighborhood and within others across America. Nipsey represented change for the black community and for hip-hop. To understand his influential legacy one has to look at his life from the beginning.
Nipsey was born as Ermias Joseph Asghedom to a black mother and Eritrean father. He was raised in South Los Angeles in Crenshaw with his brother and sister. When he was 14, Nipsey joined the local gang, Rollin 60’s Neighborhood Crips. At 19, Nipsey’s father took him and his brother to Eritrea. It was during this inspirational trip that Nipsey wanted to be a community leader.
As an artist, Nipsey Hussle stood out for his talented rap flow and lyrics in hip-hop. In many songs the West Coast rapper talked about life on the streets, corrupt living, and various issues in the music industry. Nipsey was in the music industry for about a decade. Those that knew of him, heard about his music through his coveted mixtapes.
Nipsey released his first mixtape, Slauson Boy Volume 1 in December 2005. The mixtape won him a small fan base and led him to sign with Epic Records and Cinematic Music Group. In 2008 Nipsey released his second mixtape Bullets Ain’t Got No Name. The artist garnered even more attention by working on Drake’s “Killer” and Snoop Dogg’s “Upside Down”. Nipsey later released two more following mixtapes, Bullets Ain’t Got No Name Volume 2 and Volume 3.
Several music charts and media outlets featured Nipsey as an up-and-coming artist in the industry. However, at the time, Epic Records had financial problems which caused Nipsey to drop the label. Nipsey Hussle reached more listeners as he worked with other artists on his following two projects. One of those projects was slated to be his first full-length record titled South Central State of Mind. The other was a collaborative mixtape with rapper Jay Rock titled Red and Blue Make Green. Sadly, both projects got postponed and never were released.
As business worsened with Epic Records, Nipsey Hussle started his own label, ‘All Money In’. On December 21, 2010 he released The Marathon mixtape instead of South Central State of Mind. The mixtape was well received and featured artists MGMT and Kokane. In November the following year, Nipsey released The Marathon Continues mixtape. Dom Kennedy, YG, and a couple other artists appeared on the mixtape. In April 2012, Nipsey Hussle released Raw, a collaborative album with Blanco. This album featured the return of artists like Kokane, YG, Freeway, and more. As the year went on, people wondered if Nipsey would sign with label MMG after doing tracks with Rick Ross. Ultimately, Nipsey didn’t sign to any label because he was worried about losing too much creative freedom.
The rapper gained even more attention when he released his mixtape Crenshaw in October 2013. The mixtape symbolized Nipsey’s hustler moves, creative goals, and independence. He printed 1,000 copies of Crenshaw and sold them for $100 each. While there were other perks, such as a private show, this was a strike of creative genius for the rapper. Nipsey Hussle sold all of the copies within 24 hours. The artist replicated his limited edition style with the release of his next mixtape, Mailbox Money.
Between 2013 and 2016, Nipsey Hussle worked with other artists releasing music and playing tours. In 2016, the rapper released the mixtape Famous Lies and Unpopular Truth. Later in August, Slauson Boy 2 was available as a digital album. Nipsey Hussle’s debut studio album Victory Lap was released on February 16, 2018. The album featured the songs “Dedication” and “Last Time I Checc’d”. It received critical acclaim from multiple outlets and charted on the US Billboard.
On March 31, 2019 Nipsey Hussle was shot and killed outside of his Los Angeles clothing store The Marathon. The suspect in the shooting, Eric Holder, was caught two days later. If convicted for the crime, Holder will go to jail for a life term. Nipsey cared about the community. He used his platform and resources to help anybody he could. He was dedicated to being an inspirational figurehead for young black men. Even after he was killed, it was revealed he was meeting with the LAPD and other city officials to talk about ways to reduce gang violence.
Nipsey Hussle’s branding during his Marathon series inspired Steve Carless when he formed the Marathon Agency. Hussle acted as a business partner for the agency. He extended the brand by opening a clothing store that merged technology with music and fashion. Nipsey owned the entire shopping center and wanted to give back in a practical manner to his Crenshaw neighborhood. Los Angeles city council is considering renaming the location around Crenshaw Boulevard and Slauson Avenue “Nipsey Hussle Square.”
As a lover of the community and an entrepreneur, Nipsey Hussle interacted with businesses to revitalize the neighborhood. He opened a co-working space and a STEM center for children to learn in. Because of his steady moves throughout the years, Nipsey was known as the guy that created jobs and a sense of community. In his short time on this planet, Nipsey inspired many people to be greater than themselves. He went from running the streets to cleaning the streets and owning the block.
Nipsey Hussle was a creative genius that used his platform as a way to become the positive change he wanted the neighborhood to see. Pushing through struggles, setbacks, and the music industries toxic culture, gave Nipsey Hussle validation that few people encounter. He became the artistic leader in Los Angeles. Nipsey Hussle’s legacy extends outside of the impressive catalog of music he has released. It connects others to a life of aspiration and glory.