Updated: Apr 6
So…since I'm a music fan, and it is the anniversary of Nipsey Hussle’s death, I was inspired to write a blog post. I was a child of the 80’s. I grew up listening to The Sugar Hill Gang, Kurtis Blow, Grand Master Flash… ”Don’t push me because I’m close to the edge.” In fact, the first album I ever purchased was Rapper’s Delight with the cotton candy blue jacket and whatever that swirly thing on the front was. Being a creative type, it made me giddy. Fast-forward to the 90s when Tupac reigned and Biggie Smalls was threatening to take over the charts and female rappers Queen, Kim, Lyte, and Foxy served as examples of feminine power to little girls everywhere, much to their parent’s chagrin. I loved every minute of it.
Rap has changed a lot. Gone are the thought provoking lyrics. Gone are words that spoke of societal ills, and gone are the invitations for us to pursue money but not to forget who we are and our people in the process. I don’t listen to a lot of today’s hip-hop; one because we had such quality when I was growing up. And two, I just can’t relate to many of the lyrics. I’m approaching midlife so some of the stuff just no longer resonates.
Two years ago, I came across this young man, Nipsey Hussle. I didn’t know of him until the day that he was murdered outside of his clothing store in Crenshaw. I was scrolling through my Twitter feed and saw young people lamenting and mourning his death…how he was taken too soon, etc.
I wanted to assess the hullabaloo, to see if this young man, Nipsey Hussle, was worthy of being considered one of the world’s greatest rappers, as he was being referred to. Please…I thought… there’s only one Tupac, only one Biggie, only one Lauryn and there will be no more Eric B’s or Rakims. What could they possibly be talking about? Curious, I decided to check him out.
A quick Google search told me he had a sordid past…most rappers do, with baby mamas, a stint in jail, drug deals and gang violence. I don’t think you can actually tell stories of life in a way that resonates with the masses until you’ve actually lived, but something about this young man was different from today’s rappers.
First…the music. The beats were slamming. The arrangement. The vocals. One track included a symphonic melody. He was an obvious talent.
Alright...I was starting to warm up a little bit. And then the lyrics hit me. Hard. Yes, as is characteristic of most rap, the lyrics were peppered with misogyny, violence…but if you read between the lines, there was something more to his music. And being a writer and an absolute worshiper of words and reveling in the power that they have, of course to destroy, but also to uplift and inspire, I was moved by his ability to use words as an instrument. Every one appeared carefully selected and arranged, in effort to relay a message and tell his story. And that’s what great artists do, whether in a song or in a book, or even in film. They are storytellers. And this young man was that. One of the greatest I’d ever heard.
And there was more. Though his past was his past and he had been conditioned by the streets, he was filled with a wisdom that was uncommon. Not only amongst men or women his age, but that level of wisdom was rare amongst human beings in general. After I’d listened to a song or two, or three, I wanted to know more. Who was this kid? So I hit google once more to dig deeper and find out. I was shocked to find quotes that rivaled some of the greatest minds in history. His views on life, on entrepreneurship, were well beyond his years. And I was
completely stunned to find out, that in addition to him being a phenomenal artist, he was building wealth. And not only for himself; he had launched a successful clothing line, was buying high end commercial real estate, but he was giving back to his community; revitalizing neighborhoods, building a groundbreaking STEM education program, all at barely 30 years old! I was floored to find out that this young black kid from South Central LA was hobnobbing with politicians, financiers, and his name was known in the circles of those that were on the leading edge of the thought movement…those talking about human consciousness and the power of the mind. There was something about this young man that was simply BEYOND.
And I felt robbed.
It seems that the good ones are taken from us really early. I’m not sure why. But had this young man been able to live, he would’ve continued to inspire an entire generation of young black men and women who feel hopeless, who have no role model they can relate to. His ability to translate to young people the value of service, using your power for good, and understanding money, was something over which I grieved a deep loss. For the youth and for my community. I watched kids sharing stories about how he came to their school, watched their games, gave them lunch money or bought them shoes. I was reminded of the saying that you can’t judge a book by its cover. He was poet, sage, Humanitarian. He was making good on past mistakes. His story was one of redemption.
But he’s gone. Perhaps there was some karmic debt that had to be repaid that caused his life to be cut down when it was really just getting started. He was outspoken about his ties to gang life in the past and Lord only knows whether the acts he rapped about had actually been committed prior to him becoming a rising star. Those questions I’ll never know the answer to. And as a Christian I know some will say if you live by the sword you die by it, and there is some truth to that. I believe in the spiritual law of Reciprocity, but I’d rather not judge. I can only believe that all the good he did somehow measured up against the bad. Certainly, he’d done more good in his short life than I had in mine. The last few years of his life balanced some of that Karma for sure.
Situations like this, and I’m reminded of the complexity of being a human being. How life is often outside of the realm of our understanding. Why such a great mind could be embodied in a Crenshaw kid, one who broke bread with some of the smartest minds of our generation, who was committed to righting his wrongs and whose life’s journey ended well before his full impact was revealed.
There just are no easy answers to being human. We are all doing the best we can. I’m learning to extend amnesty and grace. Yes, he was a rapper, and society demonizes rappers but I will posit this:
We live in a society that loves violence and misogyny. Are these kids any different than a Quentin Tarantino who’s wins awards for gratuitous violence? Or M. Night Shyamalan whose characters even resort to cannibalism? What about weekly episodes of Law and Order, riddled with dead bodies and autopsies? Someone killed them, you know? But it seems that when black kids tell stories of murder and mayhem, the behavior is now offensive and needs to be banned. There’s an unfairness and injustice to it all.
Is it harmful? As a spiritualist I’d be the first to say our entire society would be better off without our emphasis on it. And the older I get, I’m way more conscious of my energy and vibration and I’m moving away from anything that has the potential to affect me spiritually. I find myself connecting less and less with these particular types of art forms because I prefer my resonance to be higher. But what I choose not to do is blame these kids for trying to do what they can to improve their lifestyle with one of the few opportunities afforded to them if they aren’t good in sports. We can blame that on a hierarchal society that relegates some human beings as less valuable than others. In reality though, young black kids have every right to pursue the American dream through the avenues available to them. Until we hold everyone accountable for violence and misogyny in entertainment, we should hold no one accountable.
I digress. For rap or against it, is not the issue. He lived a remarkable life in such a short time. A dark past pitted against a bright future and whose light was dimmed way too soon. His legacy leaves a trail for others to follow. Simply by being here and accomplishing what he did in such a short time…we all are inspired.
Rest in Peace.