Victory Lap (Rest in Power Nipsey)

Rest in Power Ermias”Nipsey Hussle” Asghedom

August 15, 1985-March 31, 2019

I have no idea how it has been two whole weeks since our dear Nipsey passed away, but here we are. I’ve been at a bit of a stand still with trying to curate my thoughts around this tragedy. For the last two weeks, I have been taking extra time to check in with self. I have been reading everything I can get my hands on to learn more about Nipsey, to feel an inch more of his energy than what I’d known while he was alive. I have learned so much about him, his spiritual enlightenment and material investments, and I am proud and an awe of such greatness.

It’s an artist’s duty to reflect the times¹

As I’ve been working on this, I debated with myself on who I was writing for. Am I writing for myself? Am I writing for my people? Am I writing for Nip? The truth is, I’m writing for every one of us. I’m reminded of Nina Simone’s quote, “It’s an artist’s duty to reflect the times”. This call to action really settled in my spirit and validated my feeling of responsibility to immortalize this king with my words. I intentionally manage my energy around communal and global occurrences, understanding that every person can’t speak on everything as there is so much pain going on all over the world. There is a lot of love but the pain cannot be overlooked either. I embrace my calling to write whenever my heart is in it. And right now, my heart is in it, heavy with grief.

Grief is the final act of love²

I never thought I would mourn a famous person as I am now. I remember when Michael Jackson died, I broke the news to my mother, nonchalantly, and she cried. I was so confused as to how she could cry for someone she didn’t know. She wept the same for Whitney Houston, claiming that she’d “grown up with her”. I didn’t understand it then and I’m not even sure I understand it now but I know that grief knows no bounds.

I won’t pretend I’m a die hard, day one fan of Nipsey but I do know he was a real one. I was first introduced to Nipsey in high school by my homeboy. He would be walking down the hallways at school, headphones blasting, and when I would ask him what he was listening to, he would tell me, “You don’t know nothing about this”, showing me the name on his screen─ Nipsey Hussle. I remember Googling his name to see what he looked like. He didn’t look like anybody I’d ever known. This was long before I was introduced to the intricacies of the African diaspora. It was later that I learned of his paternal, Eritrean roots. My homeboy suggested a few songs for me to listen to by Nipsey but I never really got into him back then. I couldn’t relate to anything he was saying and so I didn’t pay much attention.

Within the last two years, while my life was changing drastically, I started to not only listen to Nipsey’s music but to pay attention to his message. I would watch interviews of him speaking about ways to become financial free, owning his own businesses, selling clothing, and investing in cryptocurrency to name a few. Here was a man who literally went from gang banging on Slauson and Crenshaw, to going legit, dominating nearly everything he touched. Even when he didn’t dominate on his first try, he stayed persistent and he never gave up. Nipsey personifies every hood nigga’s dreams, to make it out the streets, go legit, and secure the bag. Nipsey got it out the mud, for real.

I appreciate the process but I’m so conflicted about the status³

It’s not fair and I know that nothing in life is but this loss is so great. You don’t have to identify with the street shit to recognize a young, black man who really turned his life around, uplifting and employing those around him. Nipsey did what so many couldn’t do and he told us to go out and do the same. From the time I was a preteen, I grew up in Uniacke Square, surrounded by dope boys, and later by pimps. I would see them standing on the corner of Gottingen and Uniacke, out front of our neighborhood aunty’s house, doing their thing. As I got older and had conversations with some of them, it was all the same thing. Everybody was just tryna eat. Everyone wanted to move their mama out the hood, to make sure their kids were good. Years flew by and summer after summer, a lot of those boys got locked up. Some of them were murdered. A lot of the ones who didn’t make it out by hearse or a jail cell are still in it─ still hustling, still dreaming of making it out and maybe even content with who they are and what they do. Some will never leave but Nipsey, he was different.  Nipsey entered the rap game proudly representing his hood, not to glorify his actions within it but to show the youth that they can be different. There’s more to life than that gang shit. He wanted his message to impact gang culture. In his 2018 interview with the crew from The Breakfast Club, Nipsey said:

“I wanted what I had to say to impact individuals like myself, young people that was in these areas that was controlled by gang bangin’… I wanted to be able to say, you know, l’m one of you and where I’ma go, wherever I end up, you gon’ know that you can end up there too. Whether it’s at the top of the game or in a successful situation as a business owner, I came from this and it’s authentic and I’m not on the outside of this culture. That’s why I came in like I came in… I just want it to be clear that, you know, wherever I take it, I’m not different. I’m exactly the same. I been through everything you been through or you gon’ go through as somebody in that culture”

This is the message that our young kings need to hear. This is the example that they need to see set. They need to know that it’s possible to get out on the other side. Even more than that, they need to know that they don’t have to gang bang and sell dope to begin with. It may seem like there are little to no options but knowing the vast majority of those who hustle end up dead or in jail, isn’t it worthwhile to at least try a different way? Nipsey showed us that there are many, many ways to secure the bag. His advice to all of us was to turn what we are passionate about into income(s), be an inspiration to others, and never limit ourselves to one hustle.

I weighted risk and the reward and seen the scale tippin’

Nipsey was a jack of all trades type of man. The ambition that fueled him was unmatched. In reading more about his journey to stardom, I learned that Nipsey sold his mixtape, Crenshaw, for $100 a piece. Do you know how confident you have to be to sell a mixtape for $100? When my book, “The Teen Sex Trade: My Story”, was due to be released, I thought $22.95 was expensive. I disregarded how much work had been put into writing, editing, producing, and distributing my book and focused solely on thoughts of being unworthy of people spending their money just for me. Within a few months, the feedback I got from my story was enough to convince me that I was in fact worthy. This time around, with plans to self publish, “The Teen Sex Trade: Part Two”, I don’t need external validation. I know that shit is highly anticipated. That’s the type of energy Nipsey had and that’s the type he encouraged us to have as well, so Ima keep that same energy. It didn’t stop there, though.

The Marathon Continues

One of his most known accomplishments was his store, The Marathon Clothing, of which he was co-owner of the entire plaza, along with his family. Inside the store is the world’s first smart store. With each product (merch, art, logos), customers can download The Marathon Store app (created by Idris Sandu), scan the barcodes on their items, and get early access to exclusive streaming content. In addition to this, The Marathon Clothing store displays Nipsey’s whole catalogue of music where when the image of his cd covers interact with the app, you can get a preview of that project’s music.

In addition to the storefront, Nipsey had plans to build an affordable housing complex above the stores. Building on his real estate investments, this 33 year old King (along with his business partner David Gross), opened Vector 90 in the Crenshaw district─ a co-working space and business incubator. This new business venture is geared towards young entrepreneurs who are interested in the STEM program. At Vector 90, young people can also be connected to mentorship that prepares them to break into Silicon Valley. In addition to this, the space also offers entrepreneurs the chance to pitch their business idea to the management team for potential funding for their first round of investors. You can also rent space in the offices to host business meetings and what have you. The entire venture is brilliant!

With the type of foresight Nipsey possessed, he was able to learn about and invest in cryptocurrency, a widely misunderstood market. More particularly, that market is vastly lacking representation as far as black people are concerned. Along with cryptocurrency, he also invested in the weed industry. These are two industries that are not seeing as much black representation but Nipsey wanted to change that and had begun to create a platform for that too. He even owned a hair store! That’s right. In this interview, Nip talks about how he invested in the hair game after spending some time in the county jail where a fellow inmate told him that “the hair game is bigger than the dope game”. His store, Elite Human Hairis located at 3816 W Slauson Ave in Los Angeles, California. 

And if that wasn’t enough to convince you of how much of a mogul he is, Nipsey also owned the masters to all of his music. This is something that artists like Michael Jackson, Prince, Chris Brown, and Rihanna did later in their career. Nip understood the importance of creative control from jump and he wasn’t allowing anyone to convince him otherwise, he believed in himself, as we all should.

Motherhood Observation

You may be asking yourself, “What does this have to do with motherhood?”. My answer to that is, everything. Ermias “Nipsey Hussle” Asghedom is Angelique Smith’s son. I want to speak directly to her speech at his homegoing service where she offered words of peace, encouragement, and spoke to the type of man that he was. Mrs. Smith described her son as, “a great man, a superhero, radiant, and intelligent”. All of the attendees and online viewers had to have felt the love she put forth for her baby boy. He has left a legacy but he is also someone else’s legacy. Did you know Nipsey’s grandmother experienced eleven miscarriages before giving birth to his mother and uncle. In this interview (6:46-7:21), Nipsey recounts this legacy and the importance of making his grandmother and mother proud. Nipsey is also a father. Equally important is that the mothers of his children, Tanisha Asghedom and Lauren London, are grieving and are heartbroken for their children. He leaves behind a daughter who, without him, is susceptible to the dangers of everything he stood against. His black son has now entered the same reality that so many of our young, black boys face─ to grow up in a country, in a world, dead set on destroying him, particularly in the absence of his father. This is a father who didn’t make a conscious decision to abandon his responsibilities but was slain in front of everything he worked for. The pain inflicted on Nipsey’s son’s soul is irreversible.

We done took a dream and turned it to a zenith

For myself, in the wake of such news, within my grief is a sense of hopelessness. If they could take Nipsey, how did any of the rest of us stand a chance? Still, the marathon continues because dream chasing transcends gender and hood politics. I can name some black entrepreneurs right now who are executing their visions, many of which were raised in the hood.

Alex “Cunny” Ross, Family Over Fame

Ashley Lorde, Bad Publicity

Corey Writez, Scheme Apparel

Nevell Provo, Smooth Prep

Donica Willis, The Blaqk Gold Project and DW Creativ

Guyleigh Johnson (author of, “Expect the Unexpected” and “Afraid of the Dark”)

Circle got smaller, everybody can’t go

Without comparing their hoods to Nipsey’s, we all know what a destitute place the hood can be, anywhere in the world. Countless dreams have went unrealized, stripped from our youth by way of guns, incarceration, and helplessness. And then, we have Nipsey who made it out; not only made it out but courageously came back and invested in the very neighbourhood that eventually saw his demise. Robert Downey, founder of Strive to Reach Association, made a great point in episode 2 of his newly launched podcast Qtr Past 4 when he spoke on the pressure of a successful black businessman to stay in the hood once he makes it. Robert says, “I’ll check in when I have to check in. I don’t want to be there on a frequent basis. I don’t have to be there every week ‘cause you can’t control the people that come in and out of that store… I’m working from afar but I will be there when I need to be there”. He goes on to talk about whose opinion matters when being critiqued on your presence in your hood or lack thereof. When Damardi (co-host) raises the question, “What about the people that say you aint bout yours if you aint there?”, Fredelle (co-host) challenges that question by asking which type of people say that. To which he (Fredelle) responds to his own question with, “It’s always the people that are either jealous or the people that just don’t want to leave the environment they’re in because they’re too comfortable with their environment”. Robert builds on Fredelle’s response by saying, “Those are the people that you don’t care about. You worry about the people that you want to make happy, the people who are gonna learn from whatever you put into the environment”. That’s peace. I resonated with their perspectives a lot. People have to understand that Nipsey didn’t owe his hood that. As much as we are made to believe that once we make it out, we are supposed to come and give back, our safety doesn’t always leave us in a position to do so.

Used to be “stay safe”, now it’s “stay dangerous” ‘cause ain’t no point in playing defense nigga

Recently, I was having a conversation with my cousin about this notion of going and giving back to the hood and she raised a very important question. When I said that I can move back home to Nova Scotia, she asked me, “But can you?” I was caught off guard because truthfully I don’t know. From early on, I have had my safety questioned when I went public with my story of being sexually exploited as a teenager. I don’t directly feel threatened by anyone but given the unpredictability of those very people that Fredelle spoke about, I can’t confidently say that nothing will happen. I also can’t let fear direct my life. Of course, I will move with some level of caution given that I have two young souls depending on me, but as Nipsey would say, I can “never fold”. So, shout out to the souls of young, brave, selfless men and women who disregard the threat to their well being to continue the fight to uplift and empower the nation in their own unique ways.

T.H.U.G (True Hero Under God)

Nipsey can be named amongst the greats of our generation and those before us. He said it himself, he’s the Tupac of our generation. Society at large, our kinfolk included, has been perpetuating the narrative that Nipsey was no more than some kind of rehabilitated thug who still dabbled on the front lines of gang culture. This is the same narrative that fueled the death of our beloved, Tupac Shakur. Regardless of what they were or were not involved in, or who was behind their murders, Nip and Pac were our true heroes under God. I was four years old when Pac died. I wasn’t aware of the magnitude of grief that encompassed our community when he was killed. Still, I see the way his legacy lives on when people speak of him. On March 31, 2019, our community was changed forever, in a way that I didn’t see coming, with a blast of heartbreak that I didn’t know was possible for someone I don’t know “in real life”. We lost a thug.He was a prophet of the times.

I send my deepest condolences to the Asghedom family, the Slauson and Crenshaw community, and all of Nipsey’s fans. May his soul rest in eternal peace. I leave you with this ritual, based in African spirituality, delivered by Nipsey’s mother at his funeral:

“I would ask that all of our ancestors guide and protect us and give us the gift of perfect peace (I pour libations, Ase) We are also asking for Ermias to have safe transit to his final resting place and so when he reaches his resting place we are also asking for these ancestors to reach him… Ase”

1. quote, Nina Simone¹

2. quote, speech given by Lauren London at Nipsey’s homegoing service²

3. song lyric, Status Symbol 3, Nipsey Hussle feat. Buddy³

4. song lyric, Loaded Bases, Nipsey Hussle feat. Cee Lo Green⁴

5. mixtape title, Nipsey Hussle⁵

6. song lyric, Blue Laces 2, Nipsey Hussle⁶

7. song lyric, Victory lap, Nipsey Hussle feat. Stacey Barthe⁷

8. song lyric, Dedication, Nipsey Hussle feat. Kendrick Lamar⁸

9. song title, Z-ro the Crooked