By Jason Hewitt
[originally published April 12, 2019]
On March 31st, the world lost a real one. That’s one of the best ways I can describe the death of businessman, humanitarian, and rapper Nipsey Hussle. Nipsey was fatally shot outside of his store, Marathon Clothing, in Los Angeles on that fateful Sunday, and it has broken the hearts of millions of people across the nation, including mine. Nipsey’s popularity rose from his prolific mixtapes such as “Crenshaw” and “The Marathon Continues.” His popularity grew to its peak when he dropped his only album, 2018’s “Victory Lap,” which was treated as a celebration of all the hard work he put in as an artist over the years.
Nipsey Hussle is mostly famous because of his music, but his impact as an agent of change was infinitely greater than any song he had ever recorded in the booth. It feels just like yesterday when I first listened to “Victory Lap” and admired so many of the things he was saying. He promoted black wealth and prosperity, which is a topic that isn’t addressed by many artists of today. He also talked about how far an individual can go if they continuously work hard. This man started from humble beginnings and became a self-made millionaire in a matter of years. He was one of the most inspiring representations of where hard work can get you in life.
Nipsey grew up in the poverty-stricken Crenshaw neighborhood in Los Angeles. Once he started getting successful in music, he invested in his community. He “bought back the block,” so to speak. This is “the dream” to many people who come from poor, marginalized communities. Getting rich and giving back to the neighborhood you came from is a narrative that is praised in hip-hop, and Nipsey embodied that to the very fullest. He was a beloved member of the Crenshaw community. News reports flooded in this week full of community members talking about how deeply Nipsey loved his neighborhood and how willing he was to help it become a better place.
One of the main things I will remember about Nipsey comes from a YouTube video he made to promote “Victory Lap.” In the video, the focus is placed on an elderly black custodian who had worked at Nipsey’s store for thirteen years. He expresses how much love he has for Nipsey and his family for treating him so well over the years he worked at the store. Then, Nipsey pulls up in a Maybach S600 and starts talking to the custodian. You can immediately tell the custodian and Nipsey have a close relationship based on how they interacted with one another. They call each other “neighbors,” and Nipsey asks if the custodian is okay. After the custodian says he is fine, Nipsey randomly invites the custodian to travel with him for the day. It turns out that Nipsey has planned to treat this custodian to a day entirely dedicated to him. Every service that is provided to the custodian was entirely on Nipsey’s tab for the day. First, he takes the custodian to an upscale barber shop to get a fresh haircut. That is just the beginning. Next, he takes the custodian to the jewelry store and lets him choose any jewelry he likes. The custodian picks out what he likes, and Nipsey pays for all of it. And it doesn’t stop there. After doing all of this for the custodian, Nipsey takes him to a Tom Ford store to get a suit. Once the custodian gets the designer clothes he likes, Nipsey proceeds to take him to a high quality dinner. Things get even more heartfelt as the video continues. One of the biggest critiques of rap music in general is how hypermasculine everything is. Nipsey, who was clearly comfortable with his masculinity, pays for the custodian to get a Mani-pedi. That’s right. Gangster rapper Nipsey Hussle paid for his custodian’s mani-pedi. As ironic as that seems, it was a beautiful thing to see. They were just chilling in the nail shop, comfortably enjoying getting their nails cleaned. As the video concludes, the custodian talks about how amazing of a day he had and how grateful he is for Nipsey to randomly show him that much love. The best part about all of this was the fact that Nipsey never bragged about buying the custodian anything. He just did it without hesitation because he felt that in his heart, that was the best thing to do. That was the type of person Nipsey was. He was a proud advocate of his community, and he expressed it through his actions and his music. I’m going to miss him, and my thoughts and prayers go out to his wife, Lauren London, and the rest of his family. Rest in peace.