Nipsey Husssle is another in a line of iconic figures who have left this world too soon.
The past week has been heavy. Hussle’s passing rocked not only the city of Los Angeles, but also people around the world, as news of the tragic homicide spread rapidly across social media.
Hussle was known for his work as an independent artist and more so for his LA community — which involved real estate development, investment in STEM education, job creation for those in need, and addressing gun violence. He was a cerebral person, constantly learning from his environment and putting people — those in his community, as well as us listeners — onto game he learned from his own mentors.
Indeed, the last few days since his passing have been sad. But this period of time has also been one of reflection and reverence, as the legacy he left behind, through his music and his work in his Los Angeles community, has not been overlooked. His work in his community, for his community, is well documented.
In honor and celebration of his life, we take a look at his commercial debut album Victory Lap; and while there are numerous gems within the 16-song tracklist, we decided to recap five of our favorite, legacy-defining lyrics.
“I’m a master of my fate / Plus I’m the type of nigga own the masters to my tape.”– from “Young Nigga”
Nipsey, born Ermias Asghedom, was well-known for his hustle as an independent artist, sustaining one of the more impressive and lucrative indie careers of modern hip-hop artists. Independence is oftentimes incorrectly associated with sustained hardship and financial struggle, but Nipsey’s own hardships and struggles resulted in a successfully carved-out lane as an independent artist, which goes back to his days of selling CDs out of the trunk of his car. Knowing that many artists sacrifice ownership of their work for pop success, Asghedom’s feat is honorable and impressive. It’s one of the aspects of his career he seemed to be most proud of, as he boasts about his ownership over his discography on other Victory Lap songs like “Rap Niggas” (“I own all the rights to all my raps, nigga“) and “Dedication” (“Royalties, publishing, plus I own masters“).
“I laid down the game for you niggas / Taught you how to charge more than what they paid for you niggas / Own the whole thing for you niggas / Re-invest, double up, then explained for you niggas.”– from “Last Time That I Checc’d”
In a music industry that has been notorious for cheating and devaluing artists, Nipsey wanted every artist to know the value of their work and use money as a tool for reinvestment. Nipsey himself is known for a sales strategy he pulled off back in 2013. In a late-stage pre-streaming era, when artists were simply giving music away for free on Datpiff, Hussle decided to use the opportunity to launch a Proud2Pay campaign, in which he sold a thousand physical copies of his Crenshaw mixtape, bundled with other signed memorabilia and concert tickets, for $100. He ended up selling all one thousand copies and pocketing $100,000, which he subsequently reinvested back into his independent label. If that isn’t a prime example of placing high value on your own art, then I don’t know what is.
“All black Tom Ford, it’s a special evening / City council meeting, they got Hussle speaking / Billion dollar project bout to crack the cement / So one of our investments had become strategic.”– from “Blue Laces 2”
And speaking of reinvestments, Nipsey was widely known for his business ventures in retail, real estate and education, all of which aimed to uplift some segment of his local community. One of those acclaimed strategic investments was called “Too Big To Fail.” A joint venture between Hussle and business partner David Gross, “Too Big To Fail” was a STEM program initiated by his startup incubator Vector 90, designed for local youth in the Crenshaw District of Los Angeles to serve as “a bridge between Silicon Valley and the inner city.”
“See, it’s a couple niggas every generation / That wasn’t supposed to make it out, but decode the Matrix / And when they get to speak, it’s like a coded language / Reminds niggas of they strength and all the stolen greatness.”– from “Loaded Bases”
Given the dire nature of his circumstances and the violence/poverty that permeated the environment in which he grew up, Nipsey was well aware that he “wasn’t supposed to make it out” of the “Matrix” that a white supremacist society often traps inner-city Black Americans in. So the fact that he was one of the few to not only make it out, but also thrive, served as an inspiration for those that feel pigeonholed by their surroundings. And perhaps what’s most inspiring about it all was his commitment to bringing others out of those same conditions. In his success, he never forgot where he came from; if anything, his past fueled his motivation to do what he did. His career, in both music and community work, sparked big conversations about civil rights and empowering Black people, as well as served as a reminder that Black people come from a lineage of “strength” and “greatness.”
“This is for who walked down that road / Sold everything, but they soul.”– from “Hussle & Motivate”
And if we were to list the major themes across Victory Lap, and in Hussle’s music in general, the concept of redemption is most certainly among them — the idea that a person’s life and potential doesn’t have to be defined by their upbringing, and that people, regardless of the questionable things they may have done in their life, are redeemable. Nipsey’s career wasn’t just a guiding light for those that felt enslaved by the poverty and violence that surrounded them, but he was also hope for those seeking both a better future and redemption of their past.
R.I.P. Nipsey Hussle. The Marathon continues.