Barack Obama honored Nipsey Hussle at his memorial service in Los Angeles on Thursday with a letter addressed to the late rapper’s friends and family.
"While most folks look at the Crenshaw neighborhood where he grew up and see only gangs, bullets, and despair, Nipsey saw potential," Obama wrote in the touching tribute to the Grammy-nominated rapper, who was shot and killed in front of his Los Angeles clothing store, Marathon, on March 31.
"He saw hope," Obama added.
Hussle's friend Karen Civil read out Obama's letter during the public memorial service at the Staples Center. More than 20,000 people filled the arena to honor Hussle, who was beloved for using his celebrity and resources to invest in his South Los Angeles hometown and to advance social justice causes.
"He saw a community that even through its flaws taught him to always keep going,” Obama wrote. “His choice to invest in that community rather than ignore it — to build a skills training center and a coworking space in Crenshaw; to lift up the Eritrean-American community; to set an example for young people to follow — is a legacy worthy of celebration."
Obama said that even though he had never met Hussle, born Ermias Asghedom, he had heard his music though his daughters Sasha and Malia.
The former president said he had the chance to learn more about Hussle's “transformation and community work” in the wake of his death.
“I hope his memory inspires more good work in Crenshaw and communities like it," Obama wrote.
The memorial service featured a photo montage of the rapper's life and included musical performances by Jhene Aiko and Marsha Ambrosius.
Lauren London, Hussle's girlfriend, also took the stage and delivered a powerful speech at the memorial service.
"Never was I prepared for anything like this," she said through tears. “His soul was majestic. He was the strongest man that I ever knew. A gentle father, a patient leader, a divine light."
Rapper Snoop Dogg spoke in honor of Nipsey Hussle too, addressing how he watched the late 33-year-old grow up in South LA and how the two created a relationship over the years based on music and friendship.
“One thing that me and Nip had [in common] was a kind spirit," Snoop Dogg said. "We had that spirit of love ... we had the same spirit.”
Before singing "Rocket Love" and then Eric Clapton's "Tears in Heaven," Stevie Wonder pleaded to the crowd that "we must have stronger gun laws."
"It's unacceptable. It's almost like the world is becoming blind," Wonder said. "I pray that the leaders who have a responsibility to perpetuate life will do it by making sure that the laws will make it so very hard for people to have guns."
Stevie Wonder performed "Rocket Love." A previous version of this post misidentified the song as "Rocket Man."