Legends Never Die
The first time I heard of Nipsey Hussle was in 2014 when a guy I was dating invited me to his show in Philadelphia at Theatre of the Living Arts. I looked up his music to familiarize myself with it before the concert. One song in particular stuck out to me. “Rose Clique” became the track I identified with the Los Angeles rapper and for a long time, with the guy who put me on to Nipsey. I outgrew the relationship but I’ll never outgrow the music.
Hearing the news of his death on March 31st was soul-crushing. Not because I was his biggest fan or anything like that, but because he’d become a staple in the culture. He’d become a pillar in LA and beyond. I simply respected him and felt a quiet comfort in knowing someone as solid as him was in the world, doing his thing. I wasn’t an avid follower of his moves. When everyone was posting his GQ spread with Lauren London a few weeks ago I didn’t get hype and repost or anything like that. I just respected it. Whenever I’d ride down Melrose Ave and see his huge Puma billboard I felt happy for him and his career in the way you might feel inspired by and excited for a hometown hero whose success you’d watched bud. I liked that he stayed low, minded his business and humbly made a name for himself.
I see strong parallels between his death and the death of one of my idols, Selena. Last Sunday morning I posted a picture of her on my Instagram story to commemorate the 24th anniversary of her passing. It’s chilling that hours later I‘d be posting Nipsey in memoriam as well. Selena and Nipsey were both self-made artists who never lost touch with where they came from. Despite their success they remained accessible in their communities which is what ultimately caused their demise. They were both gunned down in their respective home states—Selena in Texas and Nipsey in California. They both promoted positivity and belief in oneself. They’re both sorely missed.
I’m trying to understand why I’ve felt the weight of this moment so profoundly. Maybe it’s because I live in LA now and can feel the shift in the city. Maybe it’s because Nipsey Hussle was the prototypical honorable young, black man that young women like me hope to meet and raise. Maybe it’s the shock and permanence of it all. Maybe it’s knowing his woman and children never had a chance to say goodbye.
While driving back to Los Angeles from a road trip to Arizona my friend and I looped Nipsey’s Grammy-nominated debut album Victory Lap. I hadn’t listened to the album before, except for a couple singles (“Last Time That I Checc’d” & “Rap N****s”). When the fourth song on the project, “Young N***a”, came on one line stuck out to me. He raps, “I just caught a flight from Philly/we just sold out TLA.” That’s TLA, Theatre of the Living Arts, the first place I’d seen him perform back in 2014. In a way it felt like things had come full circle, at least for me in my itty bitty world. I realized that life is cyclical. History repeats itself. The best indicator of the future is the past.
Just as Selena’s influence has spanned generations, so will Nipsey’s. Just as Selena’s become legendary, Hussle’s legacy will live on through his family, his friends, and his fans. His reach will only expand. He’ll only become bigger and more larger than life. People who aren’t born yet will listen to his music, idolize, and imitate him. They’ll learn and grow from each gem in each bar in each song. He is immortal.