Nipsey Hussle created a legacy

By Joel Umanzor, Sports Editor

Nipsey Hussle was more than just an emcee or a community entrepreneur.

He was, by all accounts, the embodiment of the progression of West Coast hip-hop in the 21st century.

Hussle, whose real name was Ermias Asghedom, was born in Los Angeles in 1985 to an African American mother and an East African father.

He wore many hats within his Los Angeles community and the community of hip-hop: emcee, urban fashion designer, business owner, leader, political commentator, father and son.

One could make an argument for philosopher and prophet as well.

Hip-hop is a culture birthed from the struggle of minority peoples in communities in which they never felt they had a voice.

Nipsey was that voice for his community in Crenshaw, through not just his music, but his very physical presence among the people.

And when his killer, Eric Holder, took the 33-year-old South Central emcee’s life on March 31, he dealt a blow not only to the region and coast, but to the entire cultural landscape of the hip-hop community.

Many artists, including Joe Budden and N.O.R.E., have used their platforms on podcasts to describe Hussle’s career as playing the game the “right way,” investing back into the community which birthed and influenced him.

It is a tragedy that Nipsey was murdered, ending his life at the young age of 33. But his career, which spanned the past 13 years, was one that touched the entire hip-hop community.

Northern California and the Bay Area is one of these areas, with collaborations on songs like “California Dreamin” with legends like Yukmouth from Oakland and “Ain’t Hard Enough,” with (at the time in 2016) up and coming emcee Mozzy from Sacramento.

Many tragic deaths associated with hip-hop have come in the form of an artist dying without fully being able to develop themselves musically by showcasing their talent as they mature or by dying before their prime.

An artist like The Notorious B.I.G., who was murdered in Los Angeles at the age of 24, was never able to release content other than his “Ready to Die” album and the posthumously released “Life after Death.”

Tupac Shakur produced memorable poetry and musical content, but died at 25 before being able to fully realize his ambitions beyond that young age.

But this wasn’t the case with Nip.

Over a decade in the hip-hop game — and although he had only one official studio album in “Victory Lap” (released in 2018) — the amount of music Nipsey released consisted of 13 mix tapes and two compilation albums that essentially surmised the legacy of one of the most consistent West Coast emcees of the past 15 years.

And that is where the pain from his death evaporates and the understanding of what he meant to the art form of hip-hop appears.

Nipsey was the representative for the whole West Coast when he appeared on the third annual XXL Magazine Top 10 Freshman list in 2010, only the second ever emcee from the region to be given what is now known as coveted recognition within the culture.

The best way to describe Nipsey’s place within the Hall of Fame of West Coast hip-hop is the same symbol he used throughout his career: the marathon.

Nipsey wasn’t a one-hit wonder.

He didn’t have a dance or a gimmick to con you into listening to his words.

His eight years following the XXL freshman mention were filled with music that inspired the type of people he saw himself as: real.

Longevity and realness are themes that always stand out about Nipsey’s music.

They permeate throughout the different mix tapes, from his debut mix tape “Slauson Boy,” to his efforts in the middle of this decade with projects such as “Crenshaw” and “Mailbox Money.”

The culmination is “Victory Lap,” which can honestly be viewed in a prophetic light.

Hussle states he is the “Tupac of my generation” in the song “Dedication,” featuring fellow Los Angeles native Kendrick Lamar.

But if there is one area he differed from Shakur it is that he never was the center of a rap beef.

As a Crip, he collaborated with YG putting aside street politics for the furtherment of the LA hip-hop culture.

In an era and area where historic racial tensions between Latinos and African Americans have existed, Hussle showed his solidarity with the Latin American community by collaborating with YG and releasing “FDT” (“F*ck Donald Trump”) in the midst of the 2016 presidential election.

Many people compare the life of Nipsey to Tupac.

But the two differ.

Tupac was born in New York, lived in Baltimore and moved to the West Coast while an adolescent, all while finding his niche within this wing of the genre of hip-hop.

Nipsey was born, raised and, ultimately, died in Los Angeles making him synonymous with the city.

Because he died at such a young age, Tupac never was able to financially influence his neighborhood the way Nipsey did during his life, opening up businesses and hiring people from his section of town.

Tupac, although a figure in gangsta rap, was never a known affiliate of a West Coast street gang.

Hussle’s loyalty and affiliation with the Rollin’ 60s Crips gave him the ability to relate to the plight of those in the lifestyle by painting clear, lyrical pictures in the minds of his audience.

Although Tupac’s identification with the region inspired many, his death never moved the nation’s streets to universal reflection as Hussle’s death has.

From Los Angeles to Harlem, there has been a grand-scale figurative moment of silence that has taken over the hip-hop community the same way that the streets of Brooklyn paid tribute to the Notorious B.I.G. following his death.

New York emcee Dave East put together a vigil for Hussle in his city in the same manner other emcees organized events in Detroit, Atlanta, Houston, Kansas City, Oakland and Miami.

Nipsey showcased the type of unity not only through his words, but also through his actions, in wanting to unify his community in the midst of the gang violence that is commonly associated with his neighborhood, South Central Los Angeles.

By meeting alongside community leaders and the Los Angeles Police Department to discuss solutions to local problems, Nipsey showed that open dialogue, even with those who do not see eye-to-eye, is necessary for progress.

Learning through living life’s good and bad, is what he contributed to the culture of hip-hop.

Nip showed the masses that you have that focus and willpower to progress if you desire to.

Through his establishment of his Marathon store in 2017, Nipsey poured money back into his community and made clear his wishes of building up the place he called home.

According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, by Angel Jennings, Nipsey attributed his maturity to a trip he took to his father’s homeland of Eritrea in East Africa when we was 19.

Seeing and being around a culture where people of his own skin color were in charge, Nipsey had an eye-opening experience.

And he returned to Los Angeles with a mentality to make a change in Crenshaw by taking a leadership role within that community.

All in all, Nipsey’s life was filled with a vision with inspiration and impact for his community that ultimately defined his legacy on this earth.

Hussle said, “A thousand burpees on the path to my own destruction or success, but what is a mistake without the lesson? See, the best teacher in life is your own experience.

“None of us know who we are until we fail. They say every man is defined by his reaction to any given situation, so who would you want to define you? Someone else or yourself?”