Even those who attempted to smear his legacy had not a single leg to stand on | Think Piece

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We hear about celebrities dying pretty often, and I always do the same thing. Call my cousin, say, “damn that’s too bad” then reflect on what their career meant or didn’t mean in my life, and move on. It takes all of three minutes.

However, the evening I heard that Nipsey Hussle was killed, I cried. I didn’t just well up, I wept. Not because I lost a personal friend. I wasn’t even that familiar with his music. But I was familiar with his work. That community work that set him apart. I wept for his wife and children. I wept for the community that I grew up in. I knew this was a big deal and I knew it was some bullshit.

The murder of Nipsey Hussle was unsettling because I almost instinctively knew it was unprovoked and unsanctioned by the streets. That was my old stomping grounds so I definitely knew it was not gang related. I also knew that people really wanted it to be. It was senseless and I wasn’t sure if I was the only one who felt that way.

The outpouring of love and respect for Ermias Asghedom was something that I had never seen in my lifetime. Even those who attempted to smear his legacy had not a single leg to stand on. His life had so much meaning to so many who had not ever laid eyes on him, but why?

I can only speak for myself. I remember when I first heard the stage name, Nipsey Hussle. I also remember laughing because to me it was clever. He reminded me of Snoop in a lot of ways, but just more laid back. I always followed his career thinking, this is a really cool dude. I see him making moves and I respect it.

In interviews, you can still see a young man seeking knowledge. A young man wanting something better and recognizing the glitches that so many of us get caught up in. Like all of us who are growing and seeking knowledge, some things can be taken out of context, but what was clear was that Nipsey Hussle knew something was “off” at least in his hood.

He sought out ways to remedy some of those issues with his own resources. He played the background way more than he had too and, at the same time, never sold out his people. Shit, I even respect the fact that he didn’t sell out his “set.” There was no reason for him to distance himself from his tribe because it seems to me that they also respected his growth. How can you not?

I even respected how he treated his wife and children. The way a regular “street dude” leveled up and built a family unit that was to be admired. He didn’t seem to dim her light and, at the same time, she didn’t have to live in his shadow. It was like the hood just wanted them to win. Hell, I wanted them to win. And to a certain extent, Nipsey Hussle did.

Although his murder was senseless, it woke up many people. Not even Tupac’s death changed Los Angeles the way Nipsey has. I’m sure he didn’t know at the time the magnitude of the impact in this world he had in his 33 years. And his legacy will live on.

He famously said in an interview “if they kill me [over this documentary], y’all better ride!” And maybe it’s not about a documentary, but LA is ridin’. That’s what we do. And we thank you, Nipsey, for bringing LA back, if only for a short time . . .

Dr. Rolanda West is a professor who focuses on social justice and prisoner re-entry.

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