The devastating news of Nipsey Hussle’s murder on Sunday broke just after he was shot and killed in front of his clothing store in Los Angeles, sending a shockwave of anguish through the music scene and his local communities. The 33-year-old, whose given name was Ermias Asghedom, was also known as Neighborhood Nip in LA because of his exhaustive philanthropic service. His murder happened just one day before he was set to meet with the LAPD Chief and Police Commissioner to discuss ways they could work together to help stop gang violence and help young people in its wake. As we’re left reeling from the reality that this sort of senseless violence is still claiming some of our world’s brightest minds, I can’t figure out how to process the frustration and sadness except to examine his legacy and honor how much he was able to accomplish during his short time with us.
In 2013, Nipsey made waves as an unsigned artist who made $100,000 on his first mixtape Crenshaw by selling 1,000 copies for $100 each, but he was at it long before that. His slow and steady path towards the release of a debut album Victory Lap finally got him nominated for a Grammy, and it seemed as if he always knew what he was building and coupled every big move he made in music with even more impactful moves in service of his South Central LA community. He remained independent until the release of Victory Lap, funneling money into projects like The Marathon Clothing store and Vector 90, a co-working space in LA focused on STEM education (science, technology, engineering, and math) for poor communities feeding into Silicon Valley educational opportunities. Before his death, he also revealed he was making a documentary about the life and work of Honduran herbalist and healer Dr. Sebi, who claimed he successfully cured AIDS, which will now be completed by Nick Cannon who’s vowed to release the film.
In addition to his legacy as an activist, entrepreneur, and father of two, he left us with plenty of music to consider. Below we’ve included a few of our favorite Nipsey tracks from his 15-year career, starting with his Kendrick Lamar collab “Dedication,” where he shouts out his major label partnership deal with Atlantic and his own All Money In imprint for Victory Lap: “Royalties, publishing, plus I own masters/ I’ll be damned if I slave for some white crackers.”
Next up is “Hussle & Motivate,” another Victory Lap cut that packs an explosive energetic punch over an expansive, slow-rolling beat that puts his flow front and center. He lets us hear his every enunciation up until the chorus converges with swirling vocal harmonies. “That’s why they follow me, huh, they think I know the way / ‘Cause I took control of things, balling the solo way / And if you
Our last Victory Lap pick, “Last Time That I Checc’d” featuring YG, is another effortlessly iconic slice-of-Nipsey-life where he takes ownership of the responsibility he felt to uplift his tribe. “And I come through fly, no co-sign / I ain’t need radio to do mine, I
“Thug Life” featuring Young Thug off his Slauson Boy 2 mixtape is another peek into inspiration oozing out of his every effort, like a force field anyone who so desired could step into and be elevated by. “Look, was on my grind, it was my time / I ain’t think twice, I paid that price and we did this, n–a / Look, reached every goal I actually set.” Perhaps the most lasting aspect of his legacy, besides the music, institutions, and activist efforts he left behind, is his status as the ultimate 21st-century role model in hip-hop.
“They Roll” featuring The Game is another personal favorite. The piano-driven track has a piano-led, instrumental production and deals with the realities of gang Nipsey’s admitted gang affiliation. It’s a lot harder to listen to now because of the context, but I can’t help but still love this song. Featured on one of his 2008 mixtapes Bullets Ain’t Got No Name Vol. 2, he ominously raps the story of his own demise, “Slauson Ave ain’t the side you could truce with / Homicide city turned
His 2017 single “Been Down” with Swizz Beatz has another classical jazz-influenced, big-feels production rooted in his natural power to inspire. He points to his own success as proof that it can be done while never turning his back on the realities of life in South Central LA, calling out the need for food and basic human services in the area in the same chorus where he flexes on his own accomplishments. “Man it’s live from the ghetto / Came from nothing and made it something / Now I got the whole hood jumping.” His ability to strike that balance in both his art and day-to-day life may ultimately define how he’s remembered.
For our last pick, we went with “Roll The Windows Up,” an easy-rolling party track seemingly made for driving slow in a loud car with all your friends. Also off Bullets Ain’t Got No Name Vol. 2, it felt right to end this piece with a song that helps us both forget our sadness for a few moments and remember how much fun his discography is. If you’re still feeling like me and still don’t quite know what to do to fill the void of his loss, find out more about Vector90’s mentorship program here and A Better LA’s at-risk youth programs here.