The late and great rapper, activist, and entrepreneur Nipsey Hussle is considered one of the greatest activist rappers of his generation.
Before his death, the Grammy-nominated rapper came from humble beginnings such as selling mixtapes out of the trunk of his car to eventually selling out shows. Nipsey also used his influence and fame to uplift others, especially those from his community, and always gave back in ways that he could, whether through volunteering with youths to prevent them from resorting to crime to make ends meet to creating his own clothing company.
Nipsey Hussles’ short-lived life and the tragedy surrounding his death will never tarnish the lasting legacy he has left in both the musical world and from his philanthropy efforts.
Ermias Joseph Asghedom
Born Ermais Joseph Asghedom on August 15, 1985, Nipsey was raised in Los Angeles California by his mother Angelique Smith and Eritrea-born father, Dawit Asghedom. Nipsey grew up in the Crenshaw neighborhood, which is south of Los Angeles. He has a brother and sister, Samuel and Samantha.
When Nipsey was 14, he left home to join the Rollin 60’s, an affiliation of the Crips, which was based in Crenshaw. Nipsey went to Alexander Hamilton High school in Castle Heights but dropped out before he graduated.
Nipsey Hussle’s stage name is a childhood name that was an homage and a play on words of the name Nipsey Russell, who was a popular comedian at the time.
When Nipsey was 19, his father took him and his brother on a three month trip to Eritrea, East Africa in 2004. When reflecting on the trip, Nipsey credits the hardships he saw the town people face in that area, which inspired him to become the philanthropic community leader he would later become and recognized for during his storied career.
By December 2005, Nipsey dropped his first mixtape, Slauson Boy Volume 1, which he produced and distributed on his own. His first mixtape generated some moderate success and created a growing buzz around Nipsey in the Crenshaw area, thus building him a rising fan base in the West Coast area.
The buzz around Nipsey eventually caught the eyes and ears of Cinematic Music Group and Epic Records, who eventually signed him to their respective labels.
Bullets Ain’t Got No Name
By 2008, the first two mixtape installments of Nipsey’s Bullets Ain’t Got No Name helped catapult Nipsey to mainstream visibility, thus exposing a larger audience outside his base on the West Coast.
Nipsey’s career continued to expand into 2009 when he and Drake collaborated on “Killer”, Nipsey’s track from the first album in his mixtape series, Bullets Ain’t Got No Name. Nipsey also collaborated with Snoop Dog and Problem on the track “Upside Down”, which was featured on Malice n Wonderland, Snoop’s 2009 album.
The third mixtape installment, Bullets Ain’t Got No Name, was also released the same year and produced “Hussle in The House”, Nipsey’s first hit debut single.
In 2010, Epic Labels was undergoing financial issues and because of this, Nipsey saw the writing on the wall and an opportunity for him to go independent. He decided it was in his best interest for his career not to renew his contract with Epic, thus cutting his ties with the label.
Soon after going independent, Nipsey explored more philanthropic projects and appeared on the “We Are the World 24 for Haiti”, which was a charity track remix of 1985 hit. “We Are The World”, which was also a charity track benefiting the hunger crisis of Africa at the time.
Nipsey was also working hard on his first independent album, South Central State of Mind, which was set to be released in October 2010.
South Central State of Mind
Prior to the drop of South Central State of Mind, Nipsey released the album’s single “Feelin’ Myself”, which featured singer and rapper, Lloyd. The album was also rumored to feature Trey Songz, Sean Kingston, and various other rappers and singers. During this time, Nipsey also slipped that he was planning to release the mixtape, Red and Blue Make Green, with rapper Jay Rock.
After the music video dropped for the “Feelin’ Myself” single from Red and Blue Make Green, the album was pushed back for a December 2010 release. However, this never happened because both South Central State of Mind and Red and Blue Make Green were shelved with no release date in sight.
After deciding not to renew with Epic and then going independent with his career, Nipsey later created his own music label, which he named All Money In.
Late 2010, Nipsey released the mixtape The Marathon, his first single released under his newly created record label. The mixtape featured an eclectic arrangement artist such as MGMT and Kokane. Nipsey would eventually release the follow-up album, The Marathon Continues, featuring Dom Kennedy and YG the following November.
Nipsey released another collab album with Blanco named “Raw” in April 2012 which also featured YG, Kokane, Mistah FAB, B-Legit as well as many other notable rappers.
By May 2012, released his first-ever Rick Ross collab, “Proud of That” as well as being featured on “Fountain of Youth”, a track from Ross’s label, Maybach Music Group. “Fountain of Youth” also appeared on All Money In’s released album, Self Made Vol. 2.
During this time, rumors were circulating that Nipsey might end his independent streak and sign with MMG. Nipsey added fuel to the fire when he started dropping hints about signing with the label but ultimately ended up stating he was still looking for the right label and hadn’t made up his mind yet.
TM3: Victory Lap
Later on, in 2013, Nipsey made news when he said he would be releasing the last mixtape of The Marathon mixtape trilogy with TM3: Victory Lap. This caused waves in the rap community, especially since the mixtape kept getting pushed back from it’s original December 2012 release date. Nipsey also announced that a joint mixtape with YG was in the works and would drop soon.
During this time, Nipsey performed at the March 2013 Paid Dues festival in March and decided against signing with a major label. His reasons being that he would be robbed of creative freedom and control of his work. With that decided, he chose to produce and release his forthcoming album, Victory Lap, independently.
Later that year, Nipsey released other tracks from his next mixtape, Crenshaw, which included the track “Face the World” and “Blessings”. These tracks were especially notable because they involved production from producers 9th Wonder and The Futuristics, who are a part of the 1500 or Nothin’, which is an in-house group of producers, singers, songwriters, videographers and other featured talents in the music business.
By August 2013, Nipsey raised eyebrows and interest when he said his mixtape Victory Lap would be released as his debut album, rather than as a mixtape. Nipsey once again surprised fans when he later announced one month later that he would be releasing another mixtape, Crenshaw, later that year.
In September 2013, Nipsey released the tracklist for Crenshaw, which would feature Rick Ross and Dom Kennedy, Slim Thug, James Fauntleroy II, Z-Ro, Skeme, and Sade, as well as many others.
The Futuristics, 1500 or Nothin’, 9th Wonder once again stepped in to help with producing the project along with Mike Free, Ralo, and Jiggy Hendrix, among others. Nipsey also dropped a Crenshaw documentary, which was released in conjunction with the mixtape to help promote it.
Nipsey dropped another preview of the mixtape in October of that year and finally released the first edition of Crenshaw that same month. The mixtape made headlines when it was revealed that Nipsey would be selling 1,000 copies at $100 each. Hip Hop mogul Jaz-Z even caught Nipsey fever and personally bought 100 copies for himself. Allegedly, all 1,000 copies sold out within 24 hours of being released. In total, Nipsey made $100,00 in sales for the mixtape.
After Crenshaw dropped, Nipsey started hyping up his next album Victory Lap and gave it a release date for early 2014.
In November 2013, Nipsey would reveal to fans that Victory Lap would feature producers Ralo, 1500 or Nothin’, The Futuristiks, and DJ Mustard as well as other producers who were not named at the time of the reveal. He would later further reveal that Cannon and DJ Khalil would also be on the album as producers.
At the end of 2013, there was still no more mention of when Victory Lap would drop in the coming year. However, Nipsey excited and surprised fans when he released a new mixtape on New Year’s Eve 2013, Mailbox Money. As he did with Crenshaw, Nipsey again released 1,000 copies of Mailbox Money with a $100 price tag.
Nipsey was also featured on numerous albums and singles throughout 2015 and 2016. These guest features include working with Trae Tha Truth, YG, and Jadakiss.
Famous Lies and Unpopular Truth and Fuck Donald Trump
By 2016, Nipsey dropped his eleventh mixtape, Famous Lies and Unpopular Truth. During this time, Nipsey made national news when he released the politically charged and anti-Donald Trump track, “FDT” (Fuck Donald Trump) with frequent co-collaborator, YG. The track was an attack on Donald Trump’s presidential administration and included positive elements about the Mexican community, which has been heavily and publicly criticized by Donald Trump himself.
After numerous delays, the highly-anticipated Victory Lap was finally released on February 16, 2018. Since it was so hyped up, the album ended up debuting at number four on the Billboard 200 and sold 53,000 copies within its first week of release. The album was a smash hit with fans and received worldwide praise from critics. A few tracks from Victory Lap even ended up break into the Billboard Top 100, which included “Dedication”, “Double Up” and “Last Time I Checc’d”.
Continuing the success of the album, Victory Lap was also nominated at the 61st Annual Grammy Awards for Best Rap Album. However, it would eventually lose out to Invasion of Privacy from Cardi B.
A year after Victory Lap’s release, the album would see renewed popularity on the charts when it was pushed up to number two on the Billboard 200 in April 2019. The cause for the surge of the album on the charts was due to renewed attention on the rapper after his tragic murder on March 31st, 2019.
In addition to the new fascination with Nipsey’s career and past work after his death, his single “Racks in the Middle” featuring Roddy Ricch and Hi-Boy also was reignited on the charts and peaked at number 44 on the Hot 100.
Nipsey also had a short-lived acting career before his March 2019 death.
He made his first appearance on screen as an actor in 2007 with his small role in Bone Thugs-n-Harmony’s semi-autobiographical film, I Tried.
His next role was in 2010’s action prison drama, Caged Animal where he played the character of Joey, and he starred alongside Ving Rhames, Robert Patrick, and Gillie Da Kid.
In 2015, Nipsey showed off his comedic side when he rapped a couple of bars for his cameo in “The Sexy Getting Ready Song” song and scene for the pilot for popular CW show, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.
Nipsey linked up with real estate developer Steve Carless in 2013 after Carless became inspired by Nipsey’s Marathon branding. Thus, Nipsey’s famous Marathon brand was born. Sometime in October 2016, Carless who was now head of the agency, revealed that Nipsey was so dedicated to the brand’s mission, that he invested well over six figures and was declared a silent partner of the agency.
This led to Nipsey eventually opening the Marathon Clothing brick and mortar in June 2017, which was founded alongside his brother, Samiel, and his business partner, Carle Civil. Nipsey made sure he had a lot of input on the store’s location and eventually the store was opened at the intersection in the Crenshaw district. This was important to Nipsey to have it there because he wanted the store to create opportunities for those in the neighborhood of Hyde Park, opportunities he himself wished he had growing up.
Marathon Clothing is also considered to be a part of a new trend of stores called “smart stores”. Smart stores’ mission is to create a connection between culture and technology by allowing customers to get instant access to exclusive music and other content created by their favorite rappers. The Marathon Clothing brand does this through an app that was created to cater to these unique and innovative fan needs.
Nipsey Hussle’s last name Hussle is an ode to his entrepreneurial spirit, and hustle he definitely did during his short-lived career.
During his career, Nipsey was always looking for successful business ventures and was always looking to hustle and make his big break. Since the age of 11 when he would charge $2.50 to shine shoes in order to pay for clothes, selling mixtapes out of the trunk of his car at various places all around the West Coast in order to help him make it big.
Because of Nipsey’s alternative sale strategies, such as selling his limited mixtapes at luxury prices even though they were being distributed for free elsewhere, he knew the economics of hyping his work. Had he lived longer, who knows what other strategies he may have come up with to move his albums and mixtapes? However, we definitely know it would have been innovative, regardless of how he went about it.
In March 2019, Nipset was tragically shot at least 10 times, and two others were wounded, in the parking lot of his store, Marathon Clothing, in South Los Angeles at about 3:19 p.m. All three victims were transported to a nearby hospital, where Nipset was pronounced dead at 3:55 p.m. He was only 33 years old.
Police have identified 29-year-old Eric Ronald Holder Jr. as the suspect. According to investigators, the suspect Eric Holder had known Nipsey and that the shooting was thought to possibly have been motivated by a personal matter between the two.
Before his death, Nipsey Hussle was highly regarded as a community and social activist, rap talent, hard-working hustler, and a business-savvy entrepreneur.
His death sent shock waves across the community and many have mourned and continued his legacy through music.
A petition was also started to rename the intersection of Slauson Avenue and Crenshaw Boulevard near Nipsey’s store Marathon Clothing to “Nipsey Hussle Square”. On the day of his funeral, the council announced it was set to be renamed Ermias “Nipsey Hussle” Asghedom Square to honor him and his contributions to the neighborhood.
A strong artistic response also came about after Nipsey Hussle’s death. Within a few months, over 50 murals dedicated to the rapper were painted across the City of Los Angeles with one mural created in an alley near the strip mall where he was killed. The Marathon Clothing store has also remained closed since his death.
At the 2020 Grammy Awards DJ Khaled, Kirk Franklin, John Legend, Meek Mill, Roddy Ricch, and YG gave tribute to Hussle in honor of his legacy.
Puma released the Marathon Clothing collection in September 2019 with 100% of net proceeds to the Neighborhood ‘Nip’ Foundation, which was created in Nipsey’s honor after his death.
On March 6, 2020, thrash metal band Body Count released their seventh studio album titled Carnivore. The album features a song titled “When I’m Gone”, which was written for Nipsey Hussle by the band’s singer and fellow Los Angeles rapper Ice-T. The song features a spoken introduction in which Ice-T says of Nipsey, “the outcry of love and support after his death was incredible, but it inspired me to write this song.” The song also features guest vocalist Amy Lee from the band Evanescence who is also credited by Ice-T as having co-written the song.
A documentary on Nipsey Hussle is in development at Netflix and is set to be co-produced and directed by notable up-and-coming filmmaker, Ava DuVernay.