The Marathon Continues

A Goodbye to an Idol, Nipsey Hussle

Sam Hadelman, Writer - The Reporter

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This piece has not been edited from its original published form, and so may reflect inaccuracies concerning dates. 

This is a dedication.

 

This past Sunday night, I read a headline that made my heart drop instantly, “Nipsey Hussle was just shot in L.A.” Though I am a seasoned fan of hip hop at this point in my life, which includes losing rappers to the very conditions they are attempting to escape, this sentiment truly turned my stomach inside out. Losing Nipsey was not just as simple as being robbed of a rapper, because to compartmentalize his existence to simply his work on the mic would be completely ignoring true essence of legacy: his community.

I found Nipsey Hussle back in 2013, on the cornerstone of my early music fandom which I have detailed in other reviews, Datpiff. His name particularly caught my attention because of his individualistic and unique marketing strategy for his mixtape, Crenshaw. Though the mixtape was available for free on streaming sites, Nipsey sold physical copies of the record for $100 a piece, while only making 1,000 copies. This perplexed me at the time, I could not seem to grasp why someone would sell a product at such a high price point for something one could acquire for free online. This would not be the only time he would use this pricing model for a mixtape. In 2014 he sold physical copies of his project Mailbox Money, for $1,000 while only making 100 copies. It would not be until much later in my life that this entrepreneurial spirit would truly change the way I look at the wealth within the hip-hop world and marginalized communities alike.

It wasn’t until Nipsey Hussle released his Grammy nominated magnum opus, Victory Lap, that his lasting impact would strike my psyche. This was not a mere collection of songs to me; rather, it was a blueprint for identifying self-worth and conquering the set of hardships which we face everyday. His raps played like sermons to my impressionable ears; I obsessively analyzed and internalized his rhetoric. I crossed paths with this record at a time in my life where I fell astray from my destined path. For the first time in my life, I was unable to write the next chapter of my story and felt like my screams were being drowned out by the weight of anxiety. My highest aspiration had always been to be involved in the music world in some capacity, whether it be in the boardroom or the newsroom, I wanted to be intricately involved in the culture to which had given so much to me. The most significant drawback to my career desire was the idea of being part of the community of influencers within this culture that are running artists dry. I could not consciously be a part of the moving force of people in the music industry actively acting on self-interest, rather than rewarding the work of artists. I never want to colonize the culture that my existence has comprised of. It was not until this record and looking into Nipsey’s music industry business model that I was awoken to the method of acquiring rightful reparations that he had operated under for his whole life. By owning all his own masters, which are the ownership rights to one’s music, Nipsey Hussle had effectively broken the chains that the music industry had put on an entire generation of hip-hop stars, from Lil Wayne to Lil Yachty.

Nipsey opened my eyes to the fact that I could operate within this culture without running it dry, that there was a whole movement bringing rappers to the table from which the industry had been eating from for years. These ideas led me to my current path. I want to give back to this community while simultaneously communicating the rhetoric of the marginalized communities which produce the content that has had such a lasting effect on me. The lyric that sparked this inspiration came on the title track of Nipsey’s debut record, “find your purpose or you’re wasting air.” That simple bar had a lifelong ripple on my path, making me realize that I can either attempt to figure out my true purpose or lose the opportunity to actualize the reason I was put on this Earth. There is nothing more depressing to me than wasted potential, but what people don’t tell you is that the biggest detractor from what is possible is you. This record taught me that to make anyone else believe in my passion and ambitions, I first had to believe in my own abilities. I cannot be scared of success. Instead, I have to attempt to reach the highest level attainable and make my perceived pitfalls dissipate.

Though Nipsey Hussle initially became my idol though his music, his work off-screen is what truly inspired me and an entire generation alike. Through his community outreach programs, he was able to create a culture of cultivation in marginalized areas, rather than letting them succumb to the conditions set before them. In almost every facet, Nipsey Hussle’s goal was to teach the youth to value their worth, and to own their existence. He bought back his neighborhood, including the block of stores within which he operated his store, The Marathon Store, and kept his community at arms reach.

There has been a swell of stories about how personable Nipsey Hussle was in the area of Crenshaw and Slauson Avenue, and it is obvious that he touched the lives of an entire group of people. From promoting STEM programs to the youth of Crenshaw, to frequently employing released convicts, to his frequent acts of kindness in his section, Nipsey Hussle became an icon not only locally but globally. This was one of the myriad reasons that there was such an anguish over his existence being ripped from us with his passing. The concrete that birthed the movement to which he dedicated his life would also serve as the place where he would take his last breath, only adding to the gaping hole he left in our lives. From sports to music, even reaching the Chief of the LAPD, his death was not only wholly detrimental, but serves as a reminder that an entire movement cannot rest solely upon the shoulders of one individual, no matter how strong their conviction. It is up to those with the ability to continue his mission to further his work, to continue to communicate that self ownership, determination, and perseverance are the oil in the machine of true success when the world is betting against you.

I have spent the last few days attempting to communicate his message to anyone who would listen. I sent over videos of his interviews to my mother to show to her high school classes because I truly feel as though this is the most I can do at a micro level. I hope to continue spreading his ideals and work throughout my whole life, and I believe this is what those who followed him should also do. I have not really had time to process that this is the second musical idol of mine to die unexpectedly in six months, I have channeled my sorrow and anguish into resolve. It now serves as the fuel that pushes me harder toward my goals. Even though his death will forever weigh on my conscience, and my dream of sitting down and explaining to him how much his work meant to me and my path cannot come to fruition, I hope to inspire others to have the same epiphany he inspired within me. All I can do is continue the vision he inspired me to contemplate and communicate amongst my peers. His victory lap now lies within his followers and fans, not to let his legacy die with him, but to instead serve as a catalyst for the change toward which he worked for his entire life to spark.

 

Rest in power, Nipsey Hussle.