I’ll be the first to admit that I have no idea about Los Angeles.
My entire Los Angeles experience includes conducting the mandatory “Black person who visits LA and watches Insecure” pose in front of The Dunes apartment building, going on an OJ tour because my obsession with that trial is fucking unhealthy and eating a Rice Krispie Treat which had me hallucinating for an inordinate amount of time. Aside from the Rice Krispie almost killing me and the traffic, L.A. is special.
From the weather to the culture to the food to the people, every time I visit Los Angeles, I’m reminded that Tupac’s words in “Live and Die in L.A.” (Even if the words are in a 90’s time capsule) aren’t simply lyrics, they are gospel. My knowledge of Los Angeles’ geography, including South Central L.A., is shameful. Like most non Los Angeles people, I generically associate South Central with gang culture, 90’s movies and Crenshaw. However, the people who are actually from that area, who occupy the homes; and buy from the stores; and play on the playgrounds call it home. They view it as an area to proud of; an area worth investing in; an area worth saving. Nipsey Hussle embodied this collective aspiration.
Ermias Joseph Asghedomd/Nip/Neighborhood Nip/Nipsey Hussle saw the beauty in the area he was raised in. And even though he was more or less a product of his environment, he desperately sought to evolve the environment that raised him so this same environment could raise it’s future better than it’s past. Nipsey Hussle’s priorities were different from an average musician. Musicians—especially the young ones who have access to a lot of money, women and drugs—often obsess over fortune and fame and usually fall victim to unfortunate events caused by the very same fame/fortunes they sought and obtained.
But not Nipsey, not Neighborhood Nip. Nipsey’s central priority—aside from his immediate family’s well-being—was the well-being of his extended South Central neighborhood family. He wasn’t trying to save world by creating some grandiose plan that would presumably end world hunger or cure America of its racism. He was on a practical, systematically efficient mission of saving one block at a time; one neighborhood at a time; one community at a time. Nipsey’s 2006 interview sheds light on a young Nipsey’s mind-state, a mind-state that chose investing in real estate over non ancillary possessions that are synonymous with Hip-Hop like jewelry and cars.
Ever since Nipsey first appeared on the music scene, dropping his first mixtape entitled, “Slauson Boy,” he has done his best to represent South Central L.A. better than anyone who has ever done it. The Crenshaw District, specifically the intersection of Crenshaw Boulevard and Slauson Avenue (where he was born in raised) were always at the forefront of both his lyrics and his heart. His lyrics would paint a gripping reality of gang culture, but would also highlight what the area could turn into with the right guidance and leadership. He highlighted the potential of the intersection he was proud to be a product of.
Neighborhood Nip was more than a nickname…
Neighborhood Nip was Nipsey. Nip’s store, Marathon Clothing—the same store he was tragically murdered in front of—sits at that the same Crenshaw/Slauson intersection he inspired to buy, rebuild, and refocus it’s resources on the same community it resided in. The apparel shop is deemed as a “smart store” in that it uses an app so customers can see exclusive content/deals. While on the endeavor to promote black STEM within his community, Neighborhood Nip sought help from black wiz tech genius, Iddris Sandu to create the app and build the store. In February of 2019, Neighborhood Nip accomplished what most artists only rap about, and that was buying the block. Him and his and his business partner, David Gross, bought the entire plaza at the intersection most paramount to Nipsey.
Nip’s plans for this block was huge, according to reports. He planned to not only invest in traditionally financial endeavors but he also planned to more importantly invest in non traditional community brain power. Nip, who invested in Vector 90 (a coworking space specifically meant to breed STEM training) hoped to implant Vector 90 and companies like that in order to encourage and develop black and brown STEM within black and brown communities. In other words, he was non-fictionally planning to do what Shuri fictionally did in the movie Black Panther.
Aside from also owning several other businesses in the surrounding area, Neighborhood Nip invested plenty of time, money and resources into the area’s children (Because the children are indeed our mf future). Nip was fully committed to the well-being, protection and future of the local children by giving shoes to the students as well as renovating the basketball courts (A sport that was near and dear to his heart) and playgrounds.
I will always contend that Nipsey was much more than an artist..
But even as a music artist, Nipsey revolutionized the mixtape circuit. Most artist give out their mixtapes for free in order to generate buzz which will hopefully set up monetary gain in the form those same listeners purchasing a studio album. But not Nip Hussle. Nipsey previewed his sharp business acumen by selling his mixtape “Crenshaw” at $100 each, selling out the 1,000 physical copies he had in less than 24 hours. This tactic, in itself, created the same amount of buzz a free mixtape would’ve accomplished while also literally generating 100,000 times more (in profit) than what a free mixtape would’ve financially generated.
Aside from the cornucopia of business ventures that littered his portfolio, Nipsey dropped gems in countless songs and interviews. In the highly anticipated and Grammy nominated/critically acclaimed “Victory Lap,” which was Nip’s first commercial studio album, on the track “Blue Laces 2,” he rapped: “Billion dollar project ’bout to crack the cement/So one of our investments had become strategic/Summer roll ’18, man it’s such a season/’Bout to make more partners look like fuckin’ geniuses.”
Here, Neighborhood Nip strikes again, as he refers to Destination Crenshaw, a 1.3 mile long outdoor art and culture experience celebrating Black Los Angeles. The project is a response to the city’s decision to put a section of the Los Angeles County Metro rail line at ground level along Crenshaw Boulevard. Community members warned that the construction of that Metro line would harm local businesses and outsiders would presumably (As they always fucking do) come into the communities and capitalize/exploit Black Los Angeles. But Neighborhood Nip made sure that shit didn’t happen. Neighborhood Nip implored that the community-inspired project would be there for its original purpose, which is to use the iconic Crenshaw Boulevard as a canvas and anchor for public art and streetscape design.
But most of us, who aren’t from South Central L.A., can’t relate to the real world impact he made on his community. Yes, we were inspired, and of course inspiration is an amazing tool, which can spark any brain with enough zeal to strive for the immensity of the sea..
But Neighborhood Nip changed lives, literally. Neighborhood Nip was the brain Tupac referred to when he stated: “I’m not saying I’m gonna change the world, but I guarantee that I will spark the brain that will change the world.” Neighborhood Nip’s world was South Central Los Angeles. And because of that, he did in fact change the world… Neighborhood Nip’s world.