Nipsey Hussle, 1985–2019
The rising rap star who became a champion for South Los Angeles
Nipsey Hussle wanted the South Los Angeles neighborhood where he grew up to rise along with him. As the up-and-coming rapper went from selling CDs on street corners to earning a Grammy nomination last year for his debut studio album, Victory Lap, he poured his newfound wealth into his community. The former gang member funded school renovations, homeless shelters, and art installations in his Crenshaw neighborhood, along with smaller acts of charity like paying for students’ shoes. He was shot and killed last month outside a clothing store he founded; the next day, Hussle was supposed to meet with the LAPD to advise them on reducing street violence. All of “my peers got bullet wounds and felonies and strikes,” Hussle said last year of his hardscrabble youth. “To make it out mentally stable and not in prison and not on drugs, that’s a win.”
He was born Ermias Asghedom in L.A. to an immigrant father from war-torn Eritrea and an African-American mother, said the Los Angeles Times. As a teenager, “he fell into gangbanging, pledging allegiance to the notorious Rollin’ 60s Crip set.” But after a series of what he described as “wake-up calls,” he decided to focus on music and business, selling his mixtapes in parking lots along with T-shirts and socks.
Hussle’s music reflected his tough beginnings but also “his hope for the future,” said The New York Times. Hussle seemed to be on the brink of breakout stardom when he was murdered, apparently over a neighborhood dispute. “In our culture, there’s a narrative that says, ‘Follow the athletes, follow the entertainers,’” Hussle said last year. “And that’s cool, but there should be something that says, ‘Follow Elon Musk, follow [Mark] Zuckerberg.”