Growing up in southern California, West Coast hip-hop was almost like propaganda. It seemed as if I couldn’t escape N.W.A., Tupac, Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar, Kurupt, The Game and YG blaring on the radio or out someone’s car window.
Sometimes, it appears that rap, especially on the West Coast, is a sport defined by tooth-and-nail competition. But when push comes to shove, it’s really a fraternity of brothers and sisters striving for success in their own rights.
That fraternal connection was displayed on March 31 when Crenshaw rapper Nipsey Hussle was shot and killed outside his store in south central Los Angeles.
Sure, Nipsey was a fantastic rapper. Recently, he released his Grammy nominated album “Victory Lap,” which happened to be his major label debut.
With many LP’s and mixtapes under his belt, Nipsey was an established veteran that was finally getting the respect he commanded and deserved. His ability to spit inspiring and unapologetic bars over lavish West Coast beats was undeniable.
But Nipsey was more than simply a rapper.
He was an idol for independent rappers, as he challenged and rejected the traditional major label system, instead betting on himself. He was a teacher for hundreds of aspiring L.A. youth, as he created an institution in Crenshaw called Too Big to Fail, bringing STEM knowledge and connections from Silicon Valley into inner city L.A. He was an advocate for minorities, as he had many meetings with LAPD about “giving solutions and inspiration” to young black men like him. He was an entrepreneur, as he told Forbes that his goal was to work with black community leaders in other U.S. cities to create similar business and real estate hubs designed to benefit rather than push out the black community, manifesting in his clothing store, The Marathon Clothing. He was a teacher, as he famously invested in the 59th Street Elementary School in South L.A., donating money to give a new pair of shoes to every student at the school as well as helping renovate its basketball courts and playground.
Much like west coast rap itself, you couldn’t really spend a day in L.A. without realizing “Neighborhood Nip’s” influence. Los Angeles is a lesser city without Nipsey — that’s why this loss stings so badly.
When I heard the news that Nipsey had been shot six times and was in critical condition, I thought it was a dream. How could anyone, especially in his own city of Crenshaw, have the hate in their heart to murder such a good-hearted man? After I got over that anger and confusion, I felt an obligation to celebrate Nipsey’s life, instead of sulk over his untimely death.
There’s a certain motto Nipsey lived by: TMC (the marathon continues). It couldn’t be more fitting. Nipsey’s whole career was a marathon race against expectations and disadvantage. Despite being a high school dropout, creating without the help or guidance of a record label and being from one of the roughest neighborhoods in L.A., Nipsey became a millionaire. He was a rose that grew from the unforgiving, grey Crenshaw concrete. Once he finished his own marathon, he started running them for others. That’s the spirit and legacy of Nipsey Hussle.
Thank you Nipsey, the marathon will forever continue.
Luke Modugno is a staff writer.