By Dave Dancy
Nipsey Hussle was murdered outside of his Marathon clothing store in a strip mall in South Los Angeles on March 31st 2019. Born in 1985, Hussle was raised in South Central Los Angeles by his mother. Like many other young men in the neighborhood he proudly displayed his affiliation with gang culture as a member of the Rollin 60’s Crip set.
Hussle, his birth name – Ermias Asgherdom- describes, in a hundred different ways, how rapping was a secondary hobby, a requisite accessory to being a complete gangster. The luxury cars, unlimited ammo, suitcases full of cash and women were thrown in too.
The lyrics to one Of Nipsey Hussle’s last songs says a lot about him in one repetitive ‘hook’ : “I Ain’t nuthin like you rap Niggas”. He would wax with gangster eloquence about 30 rd clips for his ‘mac’ (10), million dollar life insurance policies and the likelihood of death if you ever cross him. Sometimes it’s hard to separate truth from fantasy, from bravado to actual danger.
When the shots are fired and real lives are lost, it’s not hard to distinguish between the fantasy and deadly reality. The cryptic lyrics take on a whole new meaning. It is an ominous resonant experience for anyone who has lost a close family member or friend from street violence.
In the complicated- World Star/Instagram-themed world of Hip-Hop, Gangsta Rap has remained a hot genre; but it has come with a price. Insecure image conscious young wordsmiths often get into character by adopting lifestyles that involve felonious activity. These activities sometimes have deadly outcomes. Some continue to slip under the radar or never did engage in the first place.
Sometimes its hard to tell…
When Tupac Shakur first came on the scene he was not a THUG. In fact, he was a conscious, artistic performer; a rapper that focused on uplifting the inner city communities that supported him with timely rap ballads like, “Dear Momma.”
He transitioned into the gangster, THUG image in the latter stages of a career cut short by a hail of bullets fired from- A Real Gangster.
The well-known saga of Tupac was not the norm at the time. Now, however, it seems to be the standard. Tupac did real time in jail for real felonies. He also was involved in a high profile shootout with off duty cops in Virginia, escaping injury and putting them in the hospital with gunshot wounds instead.
The man who started out as an artist seemed to be living like a method actor, playing on the image and stereotype of a Gangster. Nipsey Hussle was following the same formula Tupac but was moving away from the Gangster and toward the thoughtful Activist/Artist.
His street cred was intact. Hussle crafted the image of freewheeling THUG perfectly in his music videos; riding in a convertible Maybach, shirt off, multiple tattoos, Gold chains swinging with a huge entourage of luxury cars behind him. He captivated his growing fan base with all the obligatory asides about street life we have become so used to.
He was kind of generic. But his emerging consciousness about the community he lived in and the young lives he touched was evolving. At the time of his passing he was financing a documentary on holistic wellness and the methods of the seminal Dr. Sebi (deceased), a new age Hip-Hop health guru who guided many young Black celebrities into healthy lifestyles with his advice on the alkaline diet.
Hussle was also scheduled to meet with Los Angeles law enforcement leaders to discuss strategies on decreasing gang violence. He also supported certain non-profit groups dedicated to STEM education in the inner city of South Los Angeles.
These are some of the reasons he will be missed. Nipsey Hussle’s transition from gangster to activist exemplified a desire in Urban Communities nationwide for all younger men out there who live questionable lifestyles to take a moment and consider the possibilities of another route.
There is hope that they can navigate the dangerous streets of America with grace and respect and eventually emerge from the street life as wisened adults better prepared to help the younger generation avoid the pitfalls of a lifestyle that can end in prison or death.
America weeps for his loss. The social media response has been huge. Just like the candlelight vigil held in his honor, people from every background showed up.
There was a confrontation, chaos ensued. A huge stampede of his many fans and it resulted in injury and arrests. (just what happened?)
Talk about the conflict of interest of the Gansta and what he represented. I’d call it redemption. There’s the irony of which you speak and entitled this piece.
A footnote, a cautionary analysis of all things wrong with being a Gangster and where it can lead.
It remains a mystery why violence broke out during the chaotic vigil. It remains a mystery why violence is even a solution to a lot the issues that plague inner city communities. The elders from previous generations shake and scratch their heads, the result of curmudgeonly, social disconnect. A disconnect so profound these rappers and their gangster brethren might as well be speaking French.
The elders’s solution has always been prayer. Let us pray that action takes the place of prayer for the next generation and those people caught up in the streets move toward a more peaceful way of life and learn to solve differences without murder.