Death in hip-hop can feel so commonplace that sometimes, we're desensitized to it. A trending topic for the day, a bump in streaming numbers, some kind words about the artist's music and then, we move on. But in the case of Nipsey Hussle, his impact since his 2019 death feels different.
A year ago this week, the city of Los Angeles said goodbye to the rapper and community advocate, who was killed on March 31, 2019, at his storefront, The Marathon Clothing, in the same neighborhood where he grew up. The artist's massive public remembrance at Staples Center was followed by a 25-mile funeral procession through the city that attracted thousands of people.
Hussle's music, and the movement behind it, centered around uplifting his community. In the year since his passing, the 33-year-old's initiatives for affordable housing, revitalization investments and STEM programs in his native South Central LA have been spotlighted. Hussle's thirst for knowledge has inspired the formation of pop-up book clubs around the country that read and dissect the same texts that Hussle did during his life.
And, of course, the rapper's motivational music is still the centerpiece of his movement. At the 2020 Grammy Awards, Hussle's rap collaborators honored him with an on-air tribute performance and Hussle was awarded awards in two categories, best rap performance and best rap/sung performance.
But with plans for community gatherings similar to the Staples Center moment being scrapped this year due to the coronavirus and social gathering concerns, fans convened on social media to pay their respects. I asked fans online to share what Hussle's legacy means to them. As I heard from voices across the country, even in death, Hussle inspires people to put actions behind their goals in order to achieve them.
"I started reading more books about investing," Alan Douglas says from Seattle. "I've also just started learning to code in a boot camp to do some web development."
"Nipsey always taught us if there's something that you want to do, you go after it all money in, 10 toes down," Calkie Fisseha from Springfield, Va., explains. Fisseha says Nipsey inspired her to pursue a law degree and she's planning to become an intellectual property lawyer to help artists. "I'm studying for the LSAT and sometimes I want to give up, but I have to realize that this is just the beginning of my marathon."
Brett Tyler from Miami says that Nipsey's slogan, "the marathon continues" has become a personal mantra of motivation for him.
"The biggest thing I learned from Nip was literally just keep going and to not stop," Tyler says. "And that's still with me today. Like, even in trying times like now, it's like the world is in panic, but we gotta keep going. The marathon continues."
It's a message of resilience that we could all benefit from right now.
What has Nipsey Hussle inspired you to do? Leave a voicemail at 202-403-0385 or send a voice memo to firstname.lastname@example.org. Your answer may be used in an upcoming story.
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
* A year ago this week, Los Angeles said goodbye to killed rapper and community activist Nipsey Hussle. A massive public remembrance at the Staples Center was followed by a 25-mile funeral procession.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: We love you.
UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: Nipsey, Nipsey, Nipsey, Nipsey, Nipsey...
SHAPIRO: Plans for a similar community gathering this year were scrapped because of the coronavirus, but NPR Music's Sidney Madden hasn't stopped thinking about the loss of Nipsey Hussle. She asked fans to share what Hussle's legacy means to them.
SIDNEY MADDEN, BYLINE: Death in hip-hop can feel so commonplace that sometimes we're desensitized to it. A trending topic for the day, a bump in streaming numbers, some kind words about their artistry, and then we move on. But Nipsey Hussle's death and his impact feel different. That's because his music and the movement behind it were about uplifting each other and ourselves. His ideas for housing, investments and STEM programs in his community have been highly publicized, and they're continuing to grow.
(SOUNDBITE OF NIPSEY HUSSLE SONG, "HUSSLE AND MOTIVATE")
MADDEN: And, of course, his music is still the centerpiece for this movement. Take the song "Hussle & Motivate."
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HUSSLE AND MOTIVATE")
NIPSEY HUSSLE: (Rapping) Pull up in motorcades. I got a show today. It's all I'm trying to do, hustle and motivate. Choppers a throwaway. Hustle the Hova way. That's why they follow me, huh? They think I know the way.
MADDEN: That's why they follow me. They think I know the way. And people are still following him. As I heard from fans across the country, Nipsey's legacy is inspiring people to take action. Alan Douglas from Seattle says Nipsey's appetite for learning rubbed off on him.
ALAN DOUGLAS: I started reading more books about investing, and I've also just started learning to code in a boot camp to do some web development.
MADDEN: Calkie Fisseha from Virginia was inspired to pursue a law degree. She's planning to become an intellectual property lawyer to help artists.
CALKIE FISSEHA: Nipsey always taught us if there's something that you want to do, you go after it - all money in, 10 toes down. If I want it, I'm going to get it. Now I'm studying for the LSAT. And sometimes, I want to give up, but I have to realize that this is just the beginning of my marathon.
MADDEN: Other callers, like Brett Tyler from Miami, said that Nipsey's slogan, the marathon continues, has become a personal mantra of motivation.
BRETT TYLER: The biggest thing I learned from Nip was literally just keep going and to not stop. And that still sits with me today. Like, even in trying times like now it's, like, the water is in panic, but we got to keep going. The marathon continues.
MADDEN: It's a message of resilience, one that we could all benefit from right now.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "VICTORY LAP")
HUSSLE: (Rapping) I'm going to take it there. This time around, I'm going to make it clear. Spoke some things into the universe, and they appeared. I say it's worth it. I won't say it's fair. Find your purpose, or you're wasting air. It - though, y'all scared. Eyes opened, I can see it clear.
MADDEN: Sidney Madden, NPR Music.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "VICTORY LAP")
HUSSLE: (Rapping) They don't make it where I'm from. Now we take it here. They don't see in due time. I be making mils (ph). Bossed up in this game, I been making deals. Get your lawyer on the phone. We can make it real. I got checks and balance. I flex dramatic. Another 50 on my neck, just my reckless habit. Ain't no - on my rep. Disrespect the savage. I make one phone call, and the rest get handled. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.