April 4, 2019; New York Post, “Page Six”
Affectionately known as “Neighborhood Nip” within his community, Grammy-nominated artist, entrepreneur, and philanthropist Nipsey Hussle, an Eritrean American born and raised in Los Angeles whose real name was Ermias Asghedom, was fatally shot in South Los Angeles over a personal dispute. In the wake of his death, Hussle and his family have received an outpouring of support from fans and notable celebrities alike, including Issa Rae, Ava DuVernay and Beyoncé. While Hussle was known for his music, Crenshaw knew him as a local philanthropist who worked hard to ensure his community benefited from impending changes to the neighborhood.
“I just want to give back in an effective way,” Hussle stated in the Los Angeles Times. “I remember being young and really having the best intentions and not being met on my efforts…you see no structures or infrastructure built and you get a little frustrated.”
Finding infrastructure lacking, Hussle decided to create it. In February, Hussle, along with his business partner, purchased the shopping plaza where he used to sell his mixtapes and opened Marathon Clothing. His vision for the property was far-reaching. Hussle intended to take advantage of the federal Opportunity Zone program and the new Crenshaw/LAX metro rail line coming to the neighborhood. The building would eventually be razed, and in its place a mixed-use, 100-unit development with affordable housing would stand. Other business pursuits included a coworking space, a barbershop, and multiple restaurants. Hussle was committed to hiring the most vulnerable within the community, particularly people experiencing homelessness and returning citizens. Tragically, Hussle was gunned down in front of the shopping plaza after reportedly making a quick run to gift clothes to a friend recently released from prison.
Similar to his business pursuits, Hussle’s philanthropy focused on uplifting his neighborhood. Last year, in partnership with Vector90, a coworking space which he owned, the artist launched Too Big To Fail, a science-technology-engineering-and-math (STEM) initiative for youth of color. According to the website, the initiative was called “Too Big To Fail” to reflect “the idea that certain institutions in our society are so large and interconnected that their failure would be catastrophic for the entire economy, and therefore must be supported by the broader public when facing potential failure. Our inner-cities are ‘too big to fail,’ but despite their size and potential, have yet to receive the necessary support.” Hussle had hoped to replicate the program in other cities like Atlanta, Baltimore, and Chicago.
In addition to his personal philanthropy, Hussle was heavily involved in community development projects. For instance, the artist was one of the major supporters of Destination Crenshaw, an open-air museum celebrating Black Los Angeles through arts and culture. According to Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Hussle played an integral part in helping to get the project off the ground. In an interview for NPR affiliate KRCW, Harris-Dawson states,
Nipsey Hussle was in the earliest conversations about Destination Crenshaw. In fact, the very logo for the project that you see on all the materials, and even the name of the logo, was actually done by his team of graphic artists that work with the Marathon Store, and they did that as a gift to Destination Crenshaw. He was one of the people to assert that Crenshaw ought to be a destination unto itself, given the cultural dynamism and creativity that came out of that community.
While Hussle’s affiliation with the Rollin’ 60s Crips was well known, he often spoke of reducing gang violence in his community. He sought to use the money gained through his music career to provide youth with better alternatives. Hussle was scheduled to meet with the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and Jay-Z’s entertainment agency Roc Nation to discuss strategies to reduce gang violence. He was killed a day before the meeting was to take place.
Nipsey Hussle’s life was tragically cut short, but his dream of giving back still lives on. Roc Nation and the LAPD have agreed to press forward with their meeting to continue Hussle’s work. Over the weekend, rival gangs joined together for a unity walk in celebration of his life and legacy. Additionally, Representative Karen Bass has pledged to enter Hussle’s contributions into the congressional record so that his “legacy will live forever in Crenshaw.” (Bass is expected to make an announcement on the floor of the US House this week.)
Hussle teaches us an important lesson. To serve the people, and to gain respect and trust, you must get in the trenches and help solve issues identified by the community. The willingness of others to pick up Hussle’s mantle and continue his work illustrates that building a beloved community isn’t a one-and-done deal, but a marathon.—Chelsea Dennis