Learn tech skills and push for representation in the industry. Invest in real estate — not cars. Help people from the neighborhood get ahead.
Rapper Nipsey Hussle, who was shot and killed Sunday night, used his fame from his Grammy-nominated music to help advance social justice issues and entrepreneurship projects in his hometown of South Los Angeles.
Born Ermias Davidson Asghedom, the 33-year-old was due to meet with Los Angeles Police Department Commissioner Steve Soboroff and Chief of Police Michel Moore on Monday afternoon.
The meeting, requested by Hussle, aimed "to talk about ways he could help stop gang violence and help us help kids," Soboroff said on Twitter. "I'm so very sad."
Last year, Hussle received a Grammy nomination for his debut album Victory Lap, losing the Best Rap Album award to Cardi B.
He had timed the album's February 2018 release to coincidence with his opening Vector90, a coworking space and STEM training center — where people learn coding and other tech skills — he had launched in the Crenshaw district of Los Angeles.
"Growing up as a kid, I was looking for somebody — not to give me anything — but somebody that cared," Hussle told the LA Times in 2018 in an interview about the business. "Someone," he said, "that was creating the potential for change and that had an agenda outside of their own self-interests."
Vector90 is specifically aimed at providing space and training for kids from South Central LA to learn and connect them with Silicon Valley. Hussle said he was concerned about the low numbers of black people at major tech companies.
"The goal is to create a bridge between the inner cities and Silicon Valley," he said in an Instagram video posted on Vector90's account. "Especially it’s important to LA, because that’s an hour away. And there’s minimal representation."
Hussle had been a member of Rollin 60's, part of the infamous Crips gang, as a teen — his death is being investigated as a gang-related homicide — but encouraged other young people from his neighborhood to look toward technology and entrepreneurship as a way forward.
"In our culture, there's a narrative that says, 'Follow the athletes, follow the entertainers,'" Hussle told the LA Times. "And that's cool but there should be something that says, 'Follow Elon Musk, follow [Mark] Zuckerberg.’ I think that with me being influential as an artist and young and coming from the inner city, it makes sense for me to be one of the people that's waving that flag."
Hussle released over a dozen mixtapes but Victory Lap was the first album released through a major label, and was regarded as one of the best hip-hop albums of 2018. His music was known for his gritty and raw lyrics, amplifying issues and causes such as gun violence, education, and abuse.
For his mixtape Crenshaw in 2013, he only printed 1,000 physical copies and then sold them each for $100 — Jay-Z reportedly bought 100 of them. He did a similar thing for 2015's Mailbox Money, offering 100 copies for $1,000 each.
"I believe that economics is based on scarcity of markets," he told Forbes in 2015. "And it’s possible to monetize your art without compromising the integrity of it for commerce."
Hussle was shot and killed in the parking lot outside his store Marathon Clothing, in a strip mall on Slauson Avenue near where he'd grown up.
In February, the rapper had bought the entire strip mall and had planned to turn it into a mixed-use condo development with restaurants and other retail stores. He already ran a barbershop and fish restaurant on the block.
"There’s such a narrative to this parking lot — that’s a part of my story as an artist," he told a reporter just weeks before he was killed there.
In a 2017 interview with Billboard, Hussle explained his vision for the just-opened Marathon Clothing shop:
This is us trying to disrupt retail, create a theme park for the brand. This is us trying to create a retail network to become vertically integrated. This is us trying to super serve the core with an upgraded experience. This is us trying to fuse hip-hop, fashion, and tech... We believe that's what the Marathon store is. It's an immature concept. It hasn't evolved to its fullest form yet. But I think we're in the process of seeing technology integrated with everything, become a part of the world. So I think that we're just putting our chips on experience. We think this is where retail is going. So we want to be one of the leaders.
Hussle met engineer Iddris Sandu, then 20, in 2017 at a Starbucks. The pair opened Marathon Clothing together, the world's first "smart store," with an app where people could download exclusive music and content.
"Nipsey to me was what Jay-Z was to Ye; giving him the chain of authenticity. So just imagine what I'm going through right now," tweeted Sandu hours after Hussle died.
Activist and football quarterback Colin Kaepernick posted a video of a young Hussle giving an interview where he spoke about his interest in investing in real estate and other things that would appreciate in value.
"Invest in some assets. As opposed to trickling off my money on liabilities such as diamonds or cars that lose their value as soon as you drove them off the lot," he said.
Hussle and his long-term girlfriend, actor Lauren London, had a 2-year-old son, named Kross, together. He also had a 7-year-old daughter, Emani.
“We look at life like it’s about what you can get from life. I read something, and I was like, that’s not what it is, you’re always be unfulfilled if you look at life like that. It’s about about knowing you’re going to leave one day," Hussle said in an interview with Nessa from Hot 97.
"And you know when you leave, the only way you’re going to be fulfilled is if you know you gave everything you had," Hussle added. "You emptied yourself here, you left it all here, because it’s temporary and you’ve got a moment."