Hall of Fame 004: Nipsey Hussle

photography by Justin Vitugl.

photography by Justin Vitugl.

How do you measure a man? How do you measure his influence and impact? When you leave, what’s the mark that’s left behind? These are the tough questions. The ones that require self-reflection and a lot of unflinching honesty. They’re questions I’m sure Nipsey asked himself repeatedly throughout his career. And unfortunately, on March 30th, 2019, those questions were answered. On that Sunday and every day after, I’ve seen the true definition of what a man can mean to his neighborhood, to his culture and even the world. I was 2 years old when Biggie and Tupac passed. I can only see how much they meant and still mean to people through a second-hand account. I’ve been following Nipsey’s career since 2009. His death has the same magnitude as the other two greats. But I believe there’s a silver lining in every situation. I’ve experienced enough loss to know that a positive can be found in the darkest times. The light at the end of the tunnel for me when it comes to Nipsey’s death is that not only did he leave us with a torch to carry, but he also left us extremely inspired.

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His entire career has been dedicated to black independence. Hand to hand CDs in front of the building that would eventually become his own brick & mortar store. Planting STEM programs in the same neighborhood he was hustling in. Nipsey’s the true definition of dedication, vision and investment. He invested in the business sense, but he also invested in his gifts. At the height of his hustling, he decided to hop into music. He used the money he got from selling his car to his friend to buy music equipment. Very few people in his position would take the risk that he did. He could’ve fallen flat on his face and he knew that. As much money and respect he had before rap, he knew that he couldn’t do that forever. The terrible music equipment that he invested saved his life and through that it saved his neighborhood. A crip from South Central sold over 1000 copies of the first 100 dollar album in music history. He then went on to sell the first 1000 dollar album. And he did all of this while having legal battles with the police, enemies in his neighborhood and no major label backing or assistance. Fearless.

Knowledge, wisdom and understanding. Nipsey possessed all three and he never withheld the information he received from others. In light of his passing, it can feel like we have big shoes to fill. Nip was a common man but he was also larger than life. Someone that would buy refreshments every day for the construction workers that helped build the inside of his flagship store. And also someone that had one of the most commanding presences in rap. I think about his legacy and what he means not only to the world but to the people in his neighborhood. There are kids from his block that know they can create the change they want to see because of the example he set. There are men from his set that know they are just as capable as anyone else in the world to use their intelligence to advance in society because of the blueprint he’s laid out.

“The Marathon Continues”. A phrase I’ve been hearing since I was in 8th grade. Also a phrase that I took for granted. With people like Nipsey, you always assume someone of his caliber is going to be forever. Not only because of his character, but because of the odds he was faced with from the jump. I often think about the excuses that I’ve made from middle school to now. I’ve let a lot of my own insecurities and fear of failure stop me from pursuing what I wanted in life which is something I didn’t see in Nipsey. I’m lucky to say I wasn’t dealt a bad hand in life. Nipsey and his comrades were. South Central, Los Angeles is like any other inner city. It’s created to inhibit someone’s success. When all you see is people that look like you struggling and despair in your neighborhood, how can you see beyond that? How can you envision your neighborhood and your people at the highest potential? Somehow, Nipsey was able to to do that. The journey from gang banging to a grammy nominated rapper and philanthropist is a long one. It’s also a very hard one. But there wasn’t one moment in Nipsey’s career where he wasn’t authentic to his culture but also to the people he spent his life trying to uplift. He didn’t code-switch. He never changed who he was. He bettered himself year after year, but he repped Crenshaw on every stage and every boardroom that he was present in.

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My mind’s been racing since March 30th. How can I be that figure for the people in my neighborhood? How can I help more? How can I be more present in the lives of kids that live here? More tough questions, but I’m glad that those questions are my starting point. I want to be a pillar in my neighborhood. I’ve always wanted that. Nip’s death and more importantly, Nip’s LIFE has not only given me the drive to ask those questions but to answer them proactively. Now isn’t the time to be selfish. Now is the time to share valuable information. Now is the time to tell your brothers you love them. Now is the time to eat healthier and take care of your body. Now is the time to put the work in. The way Nip went out shook me. A man that did everything by the book was still taken down by his neighbor. I grapple with my own mortality at times. I’ve experienced enough loss to know the disappointment in seeing potential cut short. I’ve seen what could’ve been world-changing talent get taken away. It’s sickening and as a black man, it’s frightening, but I don’t feel that way about Nipsey. He knew the odds he was up against. He knew he had to make every day count. He knew he had no time to waste. And he didn’t. He set the wheels in motion for his family and his neighborhood to have continued positive change even in his absence. Did he have much more to do? Of course, but I’d like to believe that he was like an angel. Someone that was sent here to change his surroundings for the better and he did that. Thank you Nip. Your life is a testament to perseverance, pure ambition and the ultimate belief in the potential of your people. It’s unfair what happened to you. It’s unfair that your children are without a father, your wife is without her husband, your parents are without their son and brothers are without their leader, but now they’ve gained the support of their entire world. Your legacy lives on in me and everyone that is inspired to turn their neighborhoods around. A good crip, but a better man. Rest in power. The Marathon Continues.

Andrew Bosompem