The loss of a great at any age hurts, but something seems particularly sad about Ermias Asghedom, the West Coast rap great known as Nipsey Hussle who was gunned down yesterday at the age of 33.
Arguably Nipsey was at the apex of a quiet yet steady career in the rap game. After a series of successful mixtapes including Bullets Ain’t Got No Name Vol. 1-3, and a change from a major label to independent and back again, he released his first full-length album, last year’s Victory Lap, nominated for a 2018 Grammy for Rap Album of the Year. The last we saw him was on stage as he delivered a stellar performance at this year’s west coast installment of the Rolling Loud festival at Exposition Park.
When bravado often seems to trump honesty, Nipsey was true to his street origins without glorifying it’s considerable downsides. About his early mid-2000s era mixtapes, Nipsey recalled some of his associates misgivings about referring in depth to his life as a Crip in his lyrics. But there was always a bigger plan.
Born and raised in South L.A., Nipsey was always interested in music first, but the streets proved hard to resist, however Asghedom wasn’t willing to his past become but rather as a foundation, telling Power 105.1’s The Breakfast Club: “I wanted my message to impact gang culture, you know what I’m saying? I wanted what I had to say to impact individuals like myself young people that was in these areas that was controlled by gang banging. I didn’t want to preach to the choir, but I wanted to be able to say ‘You know, I’m one of you and where I’m going to go, wherever I end up, you can end up there too…I came from this and it’s authentic. I’m not on the outside of this culture. That’s why I came in like I came in. “
Building on the legacy of rap artists that came from the hood to become business moguls and crossover artists, Nipsey created and was expanding on big plans. It’s clear he had Jay-Z level entrepreneur goals. He opened up The Marathon Clothing in the heart of his neighborhood, created 1,000 limited edition mixtapes he sold for $100 apiece while as an independent artist and slowly accumulating business knowledge, fans in high places (Jay-Z and Kendrick Lamar) and starring in GQ spreads with his gorgeous partner, Lauren London.
A father of two young children, Ermias Asghedom never shied away from his past, and was only beginning to realize his plans in creating a legacy from burden. L.A. created and killed another poet.
From “Dedication” off of Victory Lap
I spent my whole life tryna make it, tryna chase it
The cycle of a black man divided, tryna break it
You take a loss, shit don’t cry about it, just embrace it
Minor setback for major comeback, that’s my favorite
My nigga L said you do a song with Nip, K. Dot he a better Crip
I said he a man first, you hear the words out his lips?
About flourishing from the streets to black businesses?