“Nipsey was to the hip-hop community what Bob Marley was to the reggae community,” Minister Louis Farrakhan said as he paid tribute to Nipsey Hussle during the rapper’s homegoing celebration Thursday at Staples Center. “He was a prophetic voice.”
As the entire city of Los Angeles paused to remember Ermais Joseph Asghedom, better known the masses as Nipsey Hussle or the endearing Neighborhood Nip, lyrics from his song “Dedication” proved themselves hauntingly prophetic.
2Pac of my generation
Blue pill in the [expletive] Matrix
Red rose in the gray pavement
Fans wrapped around the Staples Center Thursday morning ahead of his homegoing celebration. The last person to be laid to rest at Staples Center was Michael Jackson – arguably the most famous entertainer in modern music with the biggest selling album of all time.
Nipsey Hussle’s debut album “Victory Lap” was released last year to commercial and critical acclaim – including a “Best Rap Album” nod at the 2019 Grammy Awards.
But the mixtape veteran with one studio album who applied his hip-hop residuals towards buying back and rebuilding his South Central Los Angeles community, was given an icon’s farewell.
The 33-year-old had his life tragically cut short by gun violence on March 31. At the service, the recurring message by family, friends, fellow rappers, his fiancée Lauren London and Pastor Shep Crawford was that the legacy he left through his work – in music and beyond – will inspire generations to come.
“The Marathon continues,” was repeated over the course of the remarks as homage to the brand built by rapper – and the name of the clothing store he built in the heart of the Crenshaw district.
After saying the aforementioned phrase, Pastor Shep Crawford recited Ecclesiastes 9:11. “The race is not won to the swift or the strong, but the one that endureth till the end.”
Snoop Dogg called him a peace agent who left his mark on the world by using music to bridge the gap between the famous gang rivals. Snoop pointed to Hussle’s collaboration with Game and YG.
In his remarks fellow LA rapper YG called Nipsey Hussle his “brother from another color.”
“This man got a letter from President Barack Obama,” Snoop Dogg said. “Barack Obama, y’all.”
After pointing out that the 44th president took time to pay tribute to the life of Nipsey Hussle, Snoop Dogg saluted towards the casket that sat on stage nearly swallowed by blue and white flowers.
“For God so loved the world that he gave us a good Crip,” Snoop Dogg said. “The late great Neighborhood Nip.”
The man beyond the music
“If you come up saying, ‘I’m gonna be the next Nipsey Hussle’ please don’t think you can do it with just an album,” Crawford said during the eulogy. “He named his first album ‘Victory Lap’. I believe it was because it wasn’t the album that gave us the victory. It was the road to the album that won the race.”
On that road was an unyielding commitment to family and his city.
In a letter read by Karen Civil as part of the services, those watching learned that like many, former president Barack Obama was not aware of Nipsey Hustle as a community change agent until after his death.
“I’d never met Nipsey Hussle, but I’d heard some of his music through my daughters, and after his passing, I had the chance to learn more about his transformation and his community work,” Civil read.
“While most folks look at the Crenshaw neighborhood where he grew up and see only gangs, bullets, and despair, Nipsey saw potential. He saw hope. He saw a community that, even through its flaws, taught him to always keep going. His choice to invest in that community rather than ignore it -- to build a skills training center and a coworking space in Crenshaw; to lift up the Eritrean-American community; to set an example for young people to follow -- is a legacy worth of celebration. I hope his memory inspires more good work in Crenshaw and communities like it.”
Those closest to the rapper asked mourners to look beyond the heartbreak and apply the same work ethic and commitment to uplifting their neighborhoods as he did his beloved Crenshaw.
“You changed the game and the whole world is gonna move different because of you,” his sister Samantha Smith said.
The services also included heartfelt reflections from his mother, father, brother, London and his stepson Cameron Carter.”
“A lot of people thought he was gonna get some money and leave" after he made it as a rapper, his brother Samiel Asgehdom said. “They didn't know him. Nip put his heart and soul on Crenshaw and Slauson. … Bro stayed and died on Crenshaw and Slauson.”
Among the most touching were London’s remarks – which included a text she wrote to him as he slept earlier this year that expressed the mutual unconditional love and devotion the couple shared.
“I want you to know I feel real joy in my heart when I’m around you. I feel safe around you. Protected. Like a shield over me when you’re around, I am totally myself when I’m with you,” London had written. “You’ve made me into more of a woman. You’ve given me an opportunity to really love a man,” she continued.
She also spoke about the “pain she has never known” that has come with his passing.
“His soul was majestic. He was the strongest man that I ever knew. A gentle father, a patient leader, a divine light. He was brilliant. He researched everything, completely self-taught, constantly seeking knowledge,” London said. “I feel you everywhere. My pain is from a 2-year-old that probably won't remember how much his dad loved him,” Lauren London said of their son Kross.
In the ceremony’s final remarks, Crawford issued a challenge to continue the rapper’s efforts.
“He is still here. He is in all of us,” Crawford said. “Nipsey showed us that we are stronger together. He had Bloods and Crips working together. He turned his marathon into a relay race. If we don’t leave here without buying up South Central, we’re dropping the baton.”