In 2014, the musician Jay-Z announced he would be bringing his Made in America festival to Los Angeles. The lineup for the festival had everyone from Kendrick Lamar and Steve Aoki to Kanye West and John Mayer. On the lineup list for the festival, the name Nipsey Hussle appeared, and I became curious. I had seen many of the other artists on the list, but I had not seen a Nipsey Hussle performance. Since I was already a fan of some of his music, I made sure to remember his set time so I could catch a quick glimpse of his show. When the time came for Nipsey to perform, he was nowhere in sight and nowhere to be found. Fans like myself were just standing around and waiting for new instructions or information letting us know that he would not be performing and we should come back for the next artist. Nipsey’s set time was scheduled for 4:15, and we had waited until 4:50. Fans were starting to feel restless. Let’s take a quick pause: Earlier that week, Nipsey had been arrested at his very popular Marathon store on Slauson Ave. and Crenshaw Blvd. The reason for his arrest was not very clear. It seems he was selling so much Crenshaw merchandise that law enforcement decided to raid his store looking for narcotics. They found nothing.
The Marathon store was completely legal and was doing business the right way. In the past that specific area had been known for a lot of gang related activity, so LAPD is always doing routine drive throughs to check on the area. Occasionally they would try to find anything they could on Nipsey and his friends because they have had run-ins with law enforcement in the past. Now that I’ve got you back up to speed, back to the music fest. Fans were starting to walk away because we all had lost hope that Nipsey was going to perform. Rumors were he was still being detained for his arrest earlier in the week.
I was just getting ready to walk away – it was about 4:55 pm and the lights to the stage came on, and you could hear the 808 bass blaring out through the speakers and a 6’3 slender figure in an unbuttoned Versace shirt, white Balmain Jeans, Pierre Cardin sneakers, and about 8 gold cuban link chains ran out on stage screaming, “The Marathon Continues!” This is not only Nipsey’s most famous slogan that’s affiliated with his Marathon clothing store brand, but also his beliefs and movement. Nipsey began to perform songs from his most recently released mixtape “Crenshaw”. Fans were now sprinting back to the stage and everyone started singing the lyrics. Then Nip started to bring out special guests Dom Kennedy, Jay 305, Hit-Boy, and RJ. During his set, he stopped and addressed the crowd, letting us know he bailed himself out of incarceration just 2 hours before his show started. He apologized for being late and that he had to get fresh before he came out to see us. That’s the type of artist I remember Nipsey to be: always considerate, always hood, yet classy.
It was inspiring to witness that because he could have easily cancelled his show – most artists would have – but with the confidence Nip had to proceed and finish the mission, he instead used it as motivation, which in turn inspired fans in the crowd like myself to keep going and overcome obstacles, looking at them as lessons. I had been following Nipsey’s music career since 2008 ever since I first heard his breakout single “Hussle in the House”. However, it takes more than just good music for me to be fully invested in an artist. I want to know how you are outside of music as an individual, what other things you’re doing to try and push our culture forward in the right direction. After that show, I could see Nipsey was not only resilient, but caring because he knew his fans were depending on him to perform. I became a fully invested Nipsey Hussle stan and it became bigger than the music for me; I now wanted to be a part of the Marathon movement.
” There was no special formula, there was no difference between me and anyone else, the only difference is I didn’t give up.” – Nipsey Hussle on Big Boy’s Neighborhood
I titled this article with the word “Prolific” because not only did Nip refer to himself as prolific, he embodied that word in how he lived his life. Nipsey was highly productive not only in his music, but also his business ventures and activism. The media often speaks about how he has given back to his community, but those outlets do not highlight exactly how his investments will benefit the lower income areas of South Los Angeles. It’s rare to find someone who has celebrity status and comes back to the home they are from, trying to improve their community not only through financial support, but also leading by example through their character. Nip did not place himself above the people, but instead showed he was a part of the people. Nipsey acquired an endorsement deal with the sneaker brand PUMA and was not only able to create a signature show with the brand, but used some of his money to restore a local park near where he lived so the upcoming youth could have a safe place to play. There aren’t many successful artists who earn an endorsement deal and use their deal to improve their community.
Hussle partnered with David Gross to create Vector90, a co-working space, cultural and incubator hub for the Crenshaw district, as well as creating the Too Big to Fail program which is a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) center for the youth in the Crenshaw district. Nipsey recognized growing up that there were not enough resource outlets for the youth, so he created the STEM program to offer a resource center for the youth who were interested in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
Growing up, Nip was interested in science and math, but there were no resources around for him to build on those ideas. Too Big To Fail is a STEM center and Maker Space that encourages design thinking and innovation in local youth. In partnership with Vector90, they have impact hubs where neighborhood youth can feed off of each other’s talent, creativity, and support. Lastly, but definitely not least, is “buy the block back” philosophy, which is to literally purchase and invest in real estate in the community where he was raised.
The Marathon Clothing store was created as a base starting point for Nipsey’s business plan and marathon movement operations. It was one of the first of its kind, created as a “smart store” using modern technology and QR coding. Customers would be allowed to come into the store and make a purchase, then would be able to use their phones to scan the code on the product they just purchased. This would allow them access to new or unreleased content from Nipsey Hussle. The content could be an unreleased song, video, or anything Nipsey wanted to give his fans. It was a genius business model because it allowed fans to connect with the brand more and made them feel like they were a part of something bigger than just being a customer. It has become a staple for athletes, socialites and celebrities whenever they come visit Los Angeles to stop by the Marathon clothing store to purchase some gear. Pretty clever, right?
Well, Nipsey started to take it a step further within the last few weeks before his passing. He decided to buy the entire shopping complex of building space that surrounded his Marathon clothing store. The idea Nipsey had was to create more job opportunities for the people in the surrounding community by creating more businesses in the complex. On the corner of Crenshaw and Slauson, Nipsey and his business partner Dave Gross closed escrow at the end of the month of February on the entire shopping center. The plaza already includes a Fat Burger and 40 units in which Nipsey was planning to knock down the plaza and build a 6-story building for his new Marathon clothing store as well as other black-owned businesses, such as a hair salon for women that would offer hair extensions imported from Africa, a barbershop, and even a store that sold everyday products. “Owning your own” was the message he pushed, because he believed if you took ownership of your businesses or art, no one could gain control of what you created.
All of the community activism and business ventures Nipsey created are amazing ideas that will continue to be upheld by his brother Samiel Asghedom and business partner Dave Gross. What I appreciated the most about Nipsey Hussle is the very thing that took him from the streets of the Crenshaw district to being a major cultural influence: his music. Being a longtime supporter, I have not only watched him grow as a person, but also as a musician. It was refreshing to see an artist not only grow musically, but also live what they are preaching about through their music.
If you ever listened to Nipsey Hussle’s music, you would find that it is motivational and inspiring. I would like to call it “game day” music. It’s the music you play before a big game, job interview, or even for students who are getting ready to take an important exam. His music is a soundtrack for those moments you need to push through any obstacle and finish the goal. I started to notice around 2014 his lyrical content changed and he began to focus on incorporating more uplifting advice in his message. I started to hear more about owning your master records, investing in real estate, working hard, and self-care rather than gang life. Nipsey made those small adjustments to his music, taking time to focus more on what he was saying in his lyrics. Fellow L.A. musicians YG and DJ Mustard recently posted on their Instagram accounts that Nipsey would take his time sending in his verses for collaborative songs because he wanted to make sure the his message was clear. All of Nipsey’s ideas and vision for what he was trying to build are in his music. I would like to say he was prophetic with his writing – he lived his raps.
The untimely demise of Nipsey Hussle has definitely affected me personally, and not only because I was a longtime supporter of his music and community involvement. If it wasn’t for Nipsey, I wouldn’t have completed many of my goals in the last 2-3 years. Nipsey’s music was the soundtrack to me finishing my undergrad studies as well as me creating my own magazine, podcast, and clothing line. I was deeply hurt like the rest of the world when I first got news of Nipsey Hussle’s passing. I did not know Mr. Hussle personally, and the few chances I had an opportunity to meet him, I missed him by a few minutes. But he was more than a rapper or celebrity – he was one of us.
People around the world are in mourning because we connected at some point with him on a personal level. As me and my friends would say, he was “the big homie” for us. In June of 2006, I lost a very good friend of mine to gun violence. Hearing about Nipsey’s passing, all of those feelings and emotions I experienced then came back full force. It was very difficult for me to process how someone who came from nothing, become successful, and gave back and improved the community where he was raised also had his life cut so short. I could see early on in Nipsey’s vision, and it was heartbreaking to see it cut end so quickly and not reach its full potential. I found peace in how the world responded to his passing by researching and becoming informed on what he was doing within his community, as well as being a family man and trying to show the youth there was another way outside of turning to the streets to be successful. I’m going to miss you, Nipsino aka Hussle Man, you are definitely one of one, and there will never be another individual like yourself. But I have learned from the blueprint you have laid, I will definitely apply what I have learned. We will all miss you dearly, and infinite prayers for your family and loved ones and anyone who has been affected by your untimely death. We will see you again soon. The Marathon Continues.