When Nipsey Hussle was gunned down yesterday in front of his Marathon clothing store in LA, all those in mourning were plagued by the same question: why him?
The rapper was a philanthropic icon in the black community and a savvy businessman when it came to his music. More than that, he was also a raw entrepreneurial spirit, dedicated to creating economic growth and job prosperity in his Los Angeles community. The store he ultimately perished in front of had transformed a block known for hustling into a legitimate commercial hub, teeming with job opportunities for the community. Just this past February, Nipsey and business partner Dave Gross paid "a couple million" for a strip mall off Crenshaw Boulevard, with the hopes that in 18 months they would "knock everything down, and rebuild it as a six-story residential building atop a commercial plaza." The same duo had additionally collaborated on Vector90, a co-working space where aspiring young professionals could obtain "technical training, professional development, and a comprehensive launch curriculum for [their] start-ups." Additionally, Vulture writes, Nipsey joined Destination Crenshaw, a mile-long "open-air museum" that was "set to open alongside a new rail line servicing the area."
The deep-rooted connection Nipsey had to his community and the betterment of black culture is what made his death so jarring. In February, he told Billboard that he was planning to release a joint-album alongside Meek Mill, another rapper who, like Nipsey, recently transitioned into a social justice hero. Later that month he told The Breakfast Club that he was also working on a documentary surrounding the life and controversial death of Dr. Sebi – a Honduran herbalist who claimed to have found a cure for AIDS and other terminal illnesses. The documentary was set to explore whether Sebi was potentially killed by the US government. "If they kill me for this documentary, y'all better ride for me," Nipsey said of the project. Nipsey, who himself is a former gang member, was also scheduled to attend a summit meeting alongside the LAPD and Roc Nation the day after his death. The summit was meant to be an open discussion on how to quell gang violence in LA. With all these pieces in motion, the eerie timing of Nipsey's death draws comparisons to the case of 21 Savage, whose arrest by ICE came mere days after the rapper started speaking out against immigration policies.
It's important to note these factors, because they are unsettling, but it's also equally important to keep them at a distance. If we shift our gaze onto conspiracy theories and divert them away from Nipsey's legacy, then we lose sight of the real issue. He was a man budding with charisma and intellect, and the circumstances surrounding his death won't push his ideas forward. It should only matter now what his community does next with the groundwork he laid out for them. "The question of what they could've accomplished if one day went a little better never settles," writes Vulture. "It's tough to know what the way forward is but easy to say what it isn't. Division isn't it...crackpot theories and misinformation aren't it."
Nipsey was killed in his hometown, at his place of business, surrounded by friends and family. He was in what anyone else would view as the safest space imaginable. "Wherever you're from is where you'll get hated the most," said hip-hop icon Boosie Badazz in a 2016 interview. "Most rappers die in their own city, that's a fact." The recent killings of XXXTENTACION, Jimmy Wopo, Bankroll Fresh, Lil Snupe, Chinx, and Smoke Dawg only prove this. Unfortunately, where Nipsey was most comfortable was also where he was most vulnerable, but it seemed Nipsey was fully aware of being an open target. Hours before he was killed, the rapper tweeted that "having strong enemies is a blessing." The tweet paints a picture of an artist aware of a brewing danger, but willing to risk it all to show up for his community anyway. Nipsey was a public servant, and the most we can do now is finish what he couldn't, and make sure our actions going forward reflect the fearless optimism he carried until the moment he died.
Mackenzie Cummings-Grady is a creative writer who resides in the Brooklyn area. Mackenzie's work has previously appeared in The Boston Globe, Billboard, and Metropolis Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @mjcummingsgrady.
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