Nipsey Hu$$le, a rose from concrete

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Nipsey Hussle and his wife Lauren London are royalty in Crenshaw, says GQ, when, on Feb. 21, 2019, they published a photoshoot with Nipsey and his wife, Lauren London, and a white stallion. Yet Nipsey noted that when he was growing up there, “I lived in the worse house on the block.” – Photo: Awol Erizku, GQ Magazine

by Paradise Free Jah Love Supreme

The first drum that was given to us was our name. Back in the day, in the Motherland, when our parents knew about the art and science of naming people, places and things, whichever spirit-guide they wanted to escort us through life would be put in our names. That spirit guide would be drummed into us through our names and, through us, out into the community. So if they wanted you to have lightness of being, for example, they would call you Lightness of Being!

Through our names, we communicated with and elevated our communities. When the colonizers took our names, they took away our drums and made us drum majors for them and their causes. So, no disrespect, but if your name is Erik or Erika, for example, your name is paying homage to a Viking named Erik the Red.

I believe everybody should have at least one name that speaks directly to the culture in which they live. The Native Americans, like Sitting Bull and Eagle Star, have the right idea. The Aboriginal Australians, like Dreaming Bear and Running Water, have the right idea. The Reggae musicians, like Obeyjah and the Wailers, have the right idea. The Jazz and Blues musicians, like Duke Ellington and Howling Wolf, have the right idea. The rappers, like Immortal Technique and Black Thought, have the right idea. They all have names that speak directly to the culture in which we live. Names that drum messages to the community.

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Nipsey Hussle had the right idea. Living in the Hollywood area, where people are familiar with the lyrical Black comedian and ancestor Nipsey Russle, Ermias Asghedom changed the “Russle” to a word that sounded like “hustle,” because that was what he was about. Hu$$le! But not just for dollars ­– he was a savvy businessman and entrepreneur who was, Atlas-like, also about uplifting his community!

Born Ermias Joseph Asghedom but known professionally as Nipsey Hussle (often stylized as Nipsey Hu$$le), Nipsey was an American rapper and songwriter who emerged from the West Coast Hip Hop scene in the mid-2000s. Hussle initially became known for his numerous mixtapes, including his “Bullets Ain’t Got No Name” series, “The Marathon” and “Crenshaw.” Eventually, his debut studio album “Victory Lap” was released in February 2018 to critical acclaim and commercial success, and was nominated for Best Rap Album at this year’s 61st Annual Grammy Awards. His career was on the upswing and just starting to take shape when he was murdered.

Mr. Asghedom was born on Aug. 15, 1985, and raised in the Crenshaw neighborhood of South Los Angeles. He was of Eritrean and African-American descent. Once when asked about his background, Asghedom remarked, “I was raised in LA by my mom. My mom’s family is Black American. I always knew my dad’s heritage, but I never met my Eritrean family. My dad was the only one in America – everybody else was back home. So when I went to the Motherland, it educated me about the other side of my family.”

Hussle was also a member of the local Rollin 60s Neighborhood Crips gang. In certain neighborhoods in this country, it is almost a prerequisite that you join one of the local gangs to survive. But Nipsey was leaving that thug life completely behind, as a devoted family member, father, entrepreneur and community activist. He was revitalizing the community with new real estate developments in a bid to bring Black-owned businesses and jobs to his South LA neighborhood.

Brother Nipsey reportedly spent several million dollars on a strip mall property on Crenshaw Boulevard and Slauson Avenue with several stores, including his “smart store,” Marathon Clothing. He had bigger plans in the world of real estate: In February, he told Forbes Magazine 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. This plan was part of an initiative called Our Opportunity, co-founded by Hussle and led by his business partner Dave Gross.

In addition to the real estate and businesses he owned, Hussle was an integral part of several other initiatives to revamp his neighborhood and honor the Black community. He was an advocate for a project known as Destination Crenshaw, described as a 1.3-mile open-air museum. Designed as a cultural experience, the center, on Crenshaw Boulevard, will feature permanent and rotating art and design exhibits celebrating Black history and culture.

Remember when the Wayans brothers tried to do something like this in Oakland?

In 2018, Hussle revealed that he was working on a documentary about Alfredo “Dr. Sebi” Bowman, a Honduran herbalist, natural foods specialist, healer and urban legend who was known for curing serious diseases, including AIDS and cancers. Dr. Sebi died mysteriously while in police custody in Honduras on Aug. 6, 2016, supposedly after battling complications with pneumonia – although at 82, like Dick Gregory, who also recently passed, Bowman was not known for getting sick, but for enjoying vibrant health.

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Hussle was a firm believer in the now-deceased healer’s work and was planning an informational film exploring African herbal healing techniques. That project has sparked controversy, since not only has there been debate about Bowman, but also some grieving fans are suggesting Hussle’s death is somehow connected to government suppression of information about Bowman’s techniques, saying that this is the reason he was killed, by Big Pharma, because Dr. Sebi’s cures would put a serious dent in Big Pharma’s profits. Nevertheless, the outspoken and unapologetically Black actor Nick Cannon has vowed to finish the project.

Princely King Nipsey, the young business mogul, was also an advocate for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) among Black and Brown youth. He was an investor in Vector90, a technology space founded by Gross. The center is home to a community program called Too Big to Fail, which serves as a link between young people in the inner city and Silicon Valley. The aim: to train underrepresented and disenfranchised Black and Brown youth in STEM fields. Hussle and Gross reportedly had plans to expand the program across the country.

Mr. Hussle invested in the education of young people, including those at the 59th Street Elementary School in South LA, donating money to give a new pair of shoes to every student at the school as well as helping renovate its basketball courts and playgrounds.

“I remember being young and really having the best intentions and not being met on my efforts,” Hussle told The Los Angeles Times in 2018 about his desire to invest in youths’ education. “You’re like, ‘I’m going to really lock into my goals and my passion and my talents’ but you see no industry support. You see no structures or infrastructure built for you, and you get a little frustrated.”

Some youth are comparing Nipsey to Malcolm X – not in greatness necessarily, but because he was able to come up from mental slavery and thug life to be a dynamic Black Betterment Worker (BBW) and servant for his community. Or, as one person said on a social media post: A Rollin 60s Crip accomplished more for his community than any elected official.

Other people are comparing Hu$$le’s life with Tupac’s! Iconic social media Blacktivist PoLight claims with absolute certainty the government is behind Nipsey’s death and was grieving, having to relive Tupac’s murder all over again. One thing is for certain: Like Tupac, Nipsey’s spirituality and Black consciousness was greatly affected by his mom, Angelique Smith.

And what some people are calling astonishing, epic and historical, Bloods and Crips from different gang sets are uniting in LA, in honor of Nipsey Hussle’s legacy! Some of these groups have had deep seated beefs for decades. Other events, like the Rodney King beating and verdict, have only temporarily brought opposing Black groups together. So hopefully this alliance is not just a fad or brief outpouring of emotion, soon to dry up when some knucklehead throws a wrench in the machinery – like the young brother who is now in custody and being charged with Nipsey Hussle’s murder, a fellow Rollin 60s Crip member, who supposedly killed Nipsey out of pure jealousy! And so hatefully that after shooting Nipsey multiple times, he kicked him several times before dashing off to his getaway car.

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Amazingly, Karen Bass, who represents the district Nipsey lived in, revealed that she’ll be entering the late rapper’s contributions to his community in the Congressional Record, where his legacy will be a part of United States history forever. Bass wrote on Twitter, “He’s someone that’ll forever be remembered in his community as not only an entrepreneur but also as someone who selflessly gave back and invested and enriched and cared. Nipsey was a proponent of community development at the real estate and intellectual level. In real estate, he was all about empowerment, specifically when it came to the economic opportunity in South LA – being a part of the opportunity by becoming a real estate owner himself and immediately using the stores he opened as opportunities for employment for the community.”

Astonishingly, to show you how beloved this 33-year-old young man was by the LA community, Nipsey Hussle’s memorial was held at Staples Center, where the Los Angeles Lakers play basketball, and the free tickets offered online were acquired within minutes of the announcement, filling up the capacity 21,000 seat stadium.

The handsome, slender, 6-foot-3-inch rapper, who was married to the lovely actress, model and TV personality Lauren London, had a 7-year-old daughter, Emani – who was inside his store while he was being assassinated outside – knew and was working with quite a few celebrities. Here’s what some of them had to say about his life and death:

Lauren London: “I am completely lost / I’ve lost my best friend / My sanctuary / My protector / My soul … / I’m lost without you / We are lost without you, babe / I have no words.” Then “To Ermias, the love of my life, (you have been my turn up, my church). Grief is the final act of love. My heart hears you. I feel you everywhere. I’m so grateful that I had you. I love you beyond this earth. And until we meet again, the Marathon continues.”

The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan: “The Nation of Islam mourns the loss of this great brother. His death as well as his life had so much meaning to it – for us and for unborn generations. We thank Allah that his life came this way from God and touched our lives.” The Nation of Islam leader Farrakhan also called for people to see Hussle’s death as an opportunity to come together and become new men and women. “We will fly away with him to a brighter tomorrow,” Farrakhan said. “We must fulfill the vision of Nipsey Hussle!”

Musician Pharrell Williams: “You were about something positive … and for your community in every chance you had to speak … and because of that, you have inspired millions – millions who will uphold your legacy forever. Rest amongst the stars, brother.”

Pop star Rihanna: “This doesn’t make any sense! My spirit is shaken by this! Dear God ,may His spirit rest in peace and may you grant divine comfort to all his loved ones! I’m so sorry this happened to you.”

LeBron James: “So so SAD man!! DAMN, man, this hurt.”

Stephen Curry of the Warriors: “God please cover and restore Nipsey Hussle right now!!!”

John Legend: “RIP Nipsey. I just spent Thursday with him filming a video for a beautiful new song we created with Khaled. We filmed in Inglewood, close to where he grew up. He was so gifted, so proud of his home, so invested in his community. Utterly stunned that he’s gone so soon.”

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Robert Westbrook, who grew up in the same area as Nipsey and loved him dearly, did something unheard of on the pro basketball court for his friend: He scored 20 points, made 20 assists and grabbed 20 rebounds!

Fellow NBA Superstar James Harden, a close friend of the Los Angeles rapper, took a day off from practice to mourn the loss of his friend. He posted a message on Instagram: “One of the worst days of my f—ing life!!!! He was powerful, not just to a certain dynamic or to a certain city, but just to the world! He was a leader. He was so many things and his life got taken away off nonsense, off BS. So, it’s been sad, man. I think, not only myself, but a lot of people around this world were affected by it. It doesn’t seem real.”

Indeed, a lot of people around the world have been affected. Because Nipsey’s father is Eritrean, Nipsey went home to explore his country and found out that he even had a fan in Eritrea’s president, who Nipsey also was working with. Nipsey also had a proud following around the Horn of Africa.

At a Saturday evening memorial in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, Hussle was remembered as a rare entertainer who bridged his American upbringing with his roots in the East Africa. “When we heard there’s an Eritrean rapper out there, we were fans before we heard his music,” said Ambaye Michael Tesfay, who eulogized Hussle at the event held in a darkened parking lot. “He was an icon for us.”

Although of Eritrean heritage, Hussle won the attention of rap fans from both Ethiopia and Eritrea for his embrace of his father’s Eritrean heritage.

Eritrea was a province of Ethiopia until 1993, when it voted for independence after a decades-long independence struggle, but both countries still have close cultural and family ties. “It’s just really tragic what happened,” said Tezeta Solomon, an Ethiopian living in Los Angeles who attended the memorial in Addis Ababa. “When he first came out, we were all so excited. To know there was a Habesha rapper out there definitely sparked some pride,” she said, using a common term to describe people from the Horn of Africa.

Hussle embraced his Eritrean heritage, visiting the country last year and telling state media, “More than anything, I am proud of being Eritrean.”

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The relationship between Ethiopia and Eritrea has often been tortuous, and the countries were not on speaking terms for years following a 1998-2000 border war that ground into a stalemate. That ended with the signing of a peace agreement last year that restored ties between the neighbors. The frosty relations did little to dampen Ethiopians’ pride in Hussle’s success.

“We’re all one people,” said Nemany Hailemelekot, an organizer of the memorial. The crowd of hundreds gathered in the parking lot observed a moment of silence for the slain rapper. Then, by the light of candle-like sticks known as twafs held by attendees, speakers came onto a stage erected before the crowd to eulogize Hussle and read poems in his honor.

Some people are bemoaning Nipsey Hussle’s decision to stay in the hood. They are saying this should teach us once and for all to get the funk out of Dodge when we are able to. This is sound reasoning, on the one hand. Why subject your livelihood, self and family to the whims of a knucklehead or the village idiot!? The crack era finally drove Ishmael Reed, reluctantly, to move his family out of North Oakland.

On the other hand, you can blame Nipsey Hussle’s death on the “Organized Crime Division of the Government,” who have flooded our communities with drugs, guns, gangs and violence since the ‘80s and ‘90s, from which we are still recovering. These components are the reasons the “neighbor” was taken out of the “hood” and our “neighborhoods” became known as “hoods”!

The other reason was because of integration and the exodus of Black businesses, professionals, leaders and intellectuals. We lost our heads! Our Talented Tenth! Our Five-Percenters! So, we commend the Nipsey Hussles who post up and stand their ground for community and something bigger than themselves and their families!

For this reason, brotherman, we and the Divine Supreme Court heap upon you infinite glory and benedictions!

Here’s what those who knew him best, his family, had to say to the LA Times

Hussle’s African American mother, Angelique Smith, who said she’s in “perfect peace” about Nipsey’s transition, appealed: “I would like for him to be remembered as a humble, spirited, respectful man who had, since his childhood, had an extraordinary and unlimited intellectual capacity.”

Hussle’s brother, Samiel Asghedom: “There’s a lot of politics within the area that we grew up in, but he stayed the course and showed what he was about. He made something work in an area that was run-down, that people were scared to come to, and he turned it into a landmark.”

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“It was like he was sent by God to give some love to bring us together because that’s what his lyrics were saying, always. He’s not shy to tell the truth even though it might not look good. He wasn’t scared of anything,” said Nipsey’s Eritrean father, Dawit Asghedom. “[God] sent him to send a message, then said, ‘It looks like your time is up because you have completed what I sent you to do. We all have a plan, but God has his own plan. So he had completed what he needed to be doing and he did it early so [God] probably wanted to take him early too.”

In numerology, 33 is one of the master numbers. It is the number of the Savior. The Christian Savior died, supposedly, when he was 33. In the Nation of Islam, they have a Savior’s Day, to encourage such community heroism. Savior-like in many ways, Nipsey Hussle also ascended when he was 33.

He arose from concrete, and left behind a beautiful fragrance.

May you rest in peace, rise in power and reside in paradise. And, if you feel like it, and I know you will, reload, return and rejoin us in the marathon struggle – until we take our victory laps!

‘Seven Money and Ownership Lessons’ by Nipsey Hussle

1. ON HUSTLENOMICS: You learn all the secrets to the game on your way up. Most folk want to skip the process. When you skip steps, you miss the lessons.

2. ON TURN UP versus OWN UP: It isn’t cool being in the club spending all of your money – or having cars and jewelry, but you don’t own any real estate. A real hustler seeks to own real estate, property.

3. ENTREPRENEURSHIP: The new mindset is we don’t want advances (from record companies, for example); we want equity. We don’t just want percentages of endorsements, we want ownership.

4. BLACK CAPITAL: Business models are built around our cultural currency. They develop the platform, implement structure, and bring us in to raise the value. We will be better off when we do it for ourselves.

5. ON BREAKING THE CHAINS: Own the supply chain from production to construction. People take shots at Jay-Z, but he’s the first Black artist to have a vertically integrated business model where he owns the whole chain.

6. ON CREATING VALUE: I released 100 mixtapes and charged $1,000 for each because I understood the economic principle of scarcity. The profit from this enterprise funded my independent record label (All Money In records).

7. ON OWNING REAL ESTATE: I own the block from where I used to hustle from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. I hustled, then I rented, now me and David Gross will own in Crenshaw.

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Nipsey Hussle – Photo: Nipsey Hussle Instagram via Ebony Magazine

Paradise is president of the International Black Writers and Artists, was honored with his own day, Oct. 6, by the city of Oakland, and may be heard performing at True Vibe Records Presents, Find him on Facebook at Paradise Free Jahlove Supreme.