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A World Leader, Hip-Hop Peers Celebrate Nipsey Hussle's Life In Los Angeles

Rapper Nipsey Hussle, photographed in Atlanta on Dec. 10, 2018.
Prince Williams
Rapper Nipsey Hussle, photographed in Atlanta on Dec. 10, 2018.

Updated April 12 at 12:00 p.m. ET.

Nipsey Hussle was a lot of things in life: a son, brother, father, a rapper, an owner, an inspiration. In an industry where hood cred is everything, Nipsey Hussle was a credit to his hood. They called him Neighborhood Nip in South L.A.'s Crenshaw District, and on Thursday — about a week-and-a-half after he was gunned down in front of the Marathon Clothing store he owned in that same hood — his life was celebrated in perhaps the largest public memorial a hip-hop artist has ever received.

Some 20,000 people packed into L.A.'s Staples Center for the memorial service. The memorial included a reading of a letter of condolence from former President Barack Obama, a eulogy from the Nation of Islam minister Louis Farrakhan and performances from Marsha Ambrosius, Jhené Aikoand Stevie Wonder, who called for gun control and an end to violence. (Despite that, four people were shot during the funeral procession that took place after the memorial, as Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore posted. One of the persons shot died from their injuries.)

But it was the words from family and friends — including Nipsey Hussle's mother Angelique Smith, brother Samiel "Blacc Sam" Asghedom, longtime partner Lauren London, as well as industry peers and collaborators Y.G. and Snoop Dogg — that resonated.

"Yesterday we witnessed the power of emotion, and the importance of coming together as one city family united in one mission," Chief Moore posted on Friday.

"For those that knew Nip personally, you know he had love for every gang member in Southern California — no matter what neighborhood you came from," Snoop said from the podium of the Staples Center, acknowledging how Nipsey Hussle's success and community service transcended his gang ties and served as a point of pride for rival and allied Blood and Crip factions alike.

In the days since his death, Nipsey Hussle has served as a rare beacon of solidarity for many who lived the struggle he represented and rose above in South L.A. Footage of a peaceful "Unity Walk" that took place at his Marathon Clothing store on Apr. 5 spread across social media. "He built something and people are coming and paying homage like a Mecca ... from all over the world, all over the country," his brother Blacc Sam said during the memorial service.

The memorial's program featured remarks by Kendrick Lamar, Issa Rae, Michael B. Jordan and LeBron James. Members of Hussle's immediate family, including his mother, father, brother and sister, spoke as well as members of his hip-hop family.

His partner London held back tears while speaking at the podium. "I love you beyond this Earth. And until we meet again, the marathon continues," London said.

The intersection that he invested so much into as a businessman who believed in economic empowerment, has been named in his honor: Nipsey Hussle Square.

With additional reporting by Andrew Flanagan.

Stream the Celebration of Life in honor of "Neighborhood Nip" — running on a loop — below.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mandalit del Barco
As an arts correspondent based at NPR West, Mandalit del Barco reports and produces stories about film, television, music, visual arts, dance and other topics. Over the years, she has also covered everything from street gangs to Hollywood, police and prisons, marijuana, immigration, race relations, natural disasters, Latino arts and urban street culture (including hip hop dance, music, and art). Every year, she covers the Oscars and the Grammy awards for NPR, as well as the Sundance Film Festival and other events. Her news reports, feature stories and photos, filed from Los Angeles and abroad, can be heard on All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, Alt.latino, and npr.org.
Rodney Carmichael
Rodney Carmichael is NPR Music's hip-hop staff writer. An Atlanta-bred cultural critic, he documented the city's rise as rap's capital outpost for a decade while serving as music editor, staff culture writer and senior writer for the alt-weekly Creative Loafing. During his tenure there, he won awards for column writing, longform storytelling, editing and reporting on cultural issues ranging from gender to economic inequality. He also conceptualized and co-wrote "Straight Outta Stankonia"—an exhaustive look at Atlanta's gentrifying cultural landscape through the lens of OutKast—which was voted as one of the Atlanta Press Club's Top 10 Favorite Stories of the Past 50 Years.