Ermias Asghedom, otherwise known by his artist name, Nipsey Hussle, was an influential Los Angeles rapper, activist, and entrepreneur who used his platform to better his community up until his untimely death. He was a role model to many young men and women and his music as well as his life story shows the world that a young kid from one of the most dangerous places in America has the ability to make it out successfully. Even though he was taken from the world prematurely, Nipsey Hussle’s influence on the world through music, business, and activism keeps his memory alive. Thus, the marathon will forever continue.
Nipsey Hussle was born on August 15, 1985 in Los Angeles, California to an African American mother and immigrant father. His father, Dawit Asghedom, immigrated to the United States from Eritrea to flee the civil war happening in Eritrea at the time. He and his siblings Samiel and Samantha were raised in the south Los Angeles district of Crenshaw.
He attended Hamilton High School but left before receiving his diploma. He has always sought out ways to help in the home, thus over time he started working selling various goods on the street. Growing up in Crenshaw forced Nipsey to grow up early, thus, when he was just 14 Nipsey dropped out of school and joined the rolling 60’s crips.
Hussle was not excluded from the trauma, violence, and danger that came from being in a gang. Before making music, he was deep into street life, however he was still able to use his knowledge to make legitimate sources of income. He soon recognized that this was not the path he wanted to take in life. Thus, Nipsey Hussle made the decision to devote himself to music, sold all of his gang-related belongings, and worked for a while to save up for his own production equipment. After teaching himself the art of production, he started creating and selling his own mixtapes from a car. Nipsey totally focused on his career and business after finding inspiration from a trip he took to Eritrea with his father and doing time in jail. He consistently sought for methods to improve and assist the neighborhood where he was raised, whether it be by providing jobs, assisting students, or remodeling public areas. In his very first interview, viewers are able to see just how intelligent Nipsey Hussle was at a young age. He expands our knowledge about topics such as materialism, police brutality, and relationships between black and brown people in America. He also spoke about his Eritrean heritage and how the values of Eritrean culture shaped his life.
Nipsey released his first mixtape, Slauson Boy Volume 1 in 2005. He was just 19 years old and heavily involved in gang life when this mixtape dropped. It took him some time to secure a contract with the Epic Records and Cinematic Music Group labels since his fanbase had yet to reach the national level. Later, the first volumes of the Bullets Ain’t Got No Name series were released, which helped him gain more fame. Some of the songs included in the series included Burner on My Lap, Ridin Slow, Ain’t No Black Superman, Hussle in the House, and It’s Hard out Here. The names of the songs on the mixtape emphasizes the influence of the Rolling 60’s in Nipsey’s life. Nipsey would become well-known by 2009 after working with Snoop Dog and Drake on Upside Down and Killer, respectively. In 2010, he quit Epic and started his own label, All Money In No Money Out, and he also published Bullets Ain’t Got No Name vol.3. He would soon release The Marathon under this label, a mixtape that featured singles like Love?, Mr. Untouchable, Young Rich and Famous, and Late Nights and Early Mornings. At that time, he also founded The Marathon Clothing, a sports and casual clothing company based in his neighborhood. The Marathon Continues (2011) mixtape was later published, and he took part in the We Are the World 25 for Haiti campaign and was a featured artist in the well-known XXL Magazine Annual Freshman Top Ten. Crenshaw, a mixtape released in 2013, gained notoriety after Jay-Z personally purchased 100 copies for $100 each.
As a natural businessman, Nipsey Hussle knew the value of his work and charged accordingly. He would sell his mixtapes out of his truck all over Crenshaw. Even though other rappers were selling their mixtapes for around $5 at the time, Nipsey would charge $100 per mixtape. While this caused Nipsey to fall victim to criticism, his business skills were recognized by the right people such as Jay-Z, who bought $10,000 worth of mixtapes from Nipsey. Nipsey Hussle continued to pursue multiple sources of income, thus turning his motto, The Marathon Continues, into a clothing brand. This brand has become somewhat of an extension of Nipsey’s legacy. Each piece is curated specifically for his fans, allowing them to feel a personal connection to Nipsey Hussle. His clothes, music, influence, and intelligence keep the memory of Nipsey Hussle alive both in his hometown and across the country as well.
Nipsey’s music remained largely underground for the majority of his career, however, his final album, Victory Lap, skyrocketed his fame. Nipsey finally released his long-awaited first album Victory Lap on February 16, 2018, to great acclaim after numerous delays. Critics gave it high marks, and it was nominated for a Grammy for best rap album of the year. Numerous singles made it onto the Billboard and Itunes charts because of its enormous success. Nipsey, however, did not experience much fame.On March 31, 2019, Hussle was shot and killed in front of his store in South Los Angeles. When it was discovered that he had passed, the world was even more shocked that he had been murdered. A few hours after he tweeted about having “strong enemies,” he was gunned down outside his Marathon Clothing business in South Los Angeles. A Los Angeles County jury found Eric Ronald Holder guilty of first-degree murder in connection with Nipsey’s passing more than three years later. After his death, he received multiple nominations as well as 2 Grammy wins. This symbolizes just how influential Nipsey was during his lifetime. His death shook the world, however, it did not erase his memory.
Nipsey Hussle leaves behind a legacy of community service and activism. His presence is felt in his community through the programs and business endeavors he left behind. With the help of the inner-city initiative Vector90, he opened a coworking space and a business incubator. He began a STEM program for children in Crenshaw. He collaborated with the neighborhood on Destination Crenshaw, a mile-long outdoor museum honoring the neighborhood’s black residents. At a peace rally, he strolled beside Trayvon Martin’s parents. He renovated a skating rink. He gave a local elementary school a $10,000 donation to repair their basketball court through his Marathon Store and a collaboration with Puma. He presented at business schools in Los Angeles. He was passing it on at every chance. Nipsey gave an explanation of his strong commitment to giving back in a piece he wrote for The Players Tribune titled “For the Culture.” “Success isn’t about winning, and failing isn’t a guarantee that you’re unsuccessful. The definition of true failure, according to him, is falling and not getting back up. “We owe it to future generations to transmit it through our music and way of life. The work is still under progress. His passing—the result of yet another pointless shooting, in front of the company he owned no less—serves as a grim reminder of how much work remains.
Not only did Nipsey leave behind his legacy through his businesses, but his family as well. Nipsey Hussle is a father to two children, Kross Asghedom and Emani Asghedom, one of which he had with his partner, Lauren London. His legacy continues through London and his children, who keep his memory alive every day. They continue to run Nipsey’s “marathon” alongside the numerous people who look up to him. “The Marathon” was more than just the name of a clothing brand or a mixtape for Nipsey Hussle; it represented his way of life, his unrelenting quest for greatness, and the perseverance needed to face challenges day after day. Hussle was adamant about entering the winner’s circle with his entire community because he was determined to win the race to success on his own terms. Nipsey’s family has continued his legacy via the creation of The Neighborhood “Nip” Foundation. The Neighborhood “Nip” Foundation, established by his family in 2019, acts as a training ground for aspiring musicians and members of the music business. The Los Angeles Times said that Atlantic Records contributed “six figures” to launch the project, and the non-profit is being supported by other significant partners. One of Hussle’s partners in the Marathon Agency marketing and management film, music executive Steve “Steve-O” Carless, told the Los Angeles Times that the rapper was “extremely concerned about being deliberate and intentional, giving back, and doing it right where he came from.” “For us, it’s a privilege to know that we will be able to carry on that vision in the future, and we want to ensure that it has the tenacity that he had. We are quite enthusiastic about it, and this is just the beginning.”
Influences and Contemporaries
Hussle was influenced by artists such as Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, and Ice-T. However, his contemporaries include artists such as YG, Blxst, Bino Rideaux, and Dom Kennedy
The life and legacy of Nipsey Hussle goes far beyond music. He is embedded in the sound, lifestyle, and culture of Los Angeles. This is made evident when he was acknowledged by BET and given the Humanitarian award even after his death. “As a prolific artist and leader, Nipsey Hussle was zealous about driving change for the betterment of his community, empowering and employing those in need, and being an influential and highly respected leader. His passing was a tremendous loss to the entertainment industry and to the culture,” BET executive VP and head of programming Connie Orlando states during her announcement of the winner in 2019. “We will continue to remember his advocacy and be inspired by the groundwork he set forth and his dire commitment to social change. We are forever grateful, humbled, and honored to have experienced his presence and we are invested in doing our part to ensure that the marathon will indeed continue. It is an immense honor for us to recognize him with this year’s Humanitarian Award.” However, his legacy does not end there, Vibe Magazine states that “Marathon Book Clubs” have sprung up all across the country since his passing. The rapper participated in several book clubs, some of which contained novels he wanted to read and others which were influenced by his life.
Ultimately, there is no doubt that Nipsey Hussle was able to accomplish more in 33 years than one accomplishes in a lifetime. The odds were always stacked against him, however, he proved the world wrong every time. Hussle matured from a gang member to an artist to an entrepreneur and businessman. Nipsey’s music continues to play through the speakers of thousands and songs such as Higher continue to inspire generations. Lyrics such as, “Looking back at my life make my heart race/Dance with the devil and test our faith, I was thinking chess moves/But it was God’s grace.” emphasize the growth and maturity Hussle had reached right before his untimely death. His lack of formal education never hindered Hussle or discouraged him. He took it upon himself to study what he deemed as important, becoming proficient in finance and marketing. Hussle’s contributions to the youth of his community undoubtedly changed the lives of thousands of young men and women who could have easily fallen into the unforgiving life of a gang member. Without the wise words and actions of Nipsey Hussle, the youth of Los Angeles would not have as many positive extracurriculars as well as a role model that they could look up to. While Nipsey may not be here to run his marathon himself, his legacy is not only carried on by his loved ones, but his fans as well.
- Ralph, Michael. “Higher: Reflections on the Life and Legacy of Nipsey Hussle (Ermias Asghedom).” Transforming Anthropology, vol. 27, no. 2, 2019, pp. 81–84., https://doi.org/10.1111/traa.12157.
- Dyson, Michael Eric. “Nipsey Hussle and Loving Blackness.” Auctr.on.worldcat.org, https://auctr.on.worldcat.org/oclc/8059983452.
- Kenner, Rob. The Marathon Don’t Stop : The Life and Times of Nipsey Hussle. Atria Books, 2021. Accessed 7 Nov. 2022.
- Greenburg, Zack O’Malley. “Nipsey’s Never-Ending Hustle.” Forbes, vol. 202, no. 9, 2019, pp. 19–19.
- McFerguson, Marquese and Durham, Aisha (2021) “Higher Hussle: Nipsey’s Post Hip Hop Literacies,” : Vol. 16: Iss. 1, Article 4. Available at: https://digitalcommons.fiu.edu/communityliteracy/vol16/iss1/4
- National Political Science Review – NCOBPS. https://www.ncobps.org/assets/uploads/2020/09/Volume-20.2-National-Political-Science-Review.pdf.