Some losses cut deeper than others. The hip-hop culture experienced a gut punch with the passing of Mac Miller last year and now, more than a week after the devastating murder of Nipsey Hussle, our collective wound has been reopened.
The admirable characteristics of Nipsey (born name Ermias Asghedom) represented selflessness at its core. His focus on community-driven projects, sharing the importance of ownership as a self-made entrepreneur, and using music as a vessel for truth-rooted street scriptures and motivational life lessons now serve as badges of honor for a man whose legacy will live forever. Yet despite all of Nipsey’s best quality traits, there’s one that transcends even his own mortality; self-realization.
On his Grammy-nominated and only studio album Victory Lap, both the Los Angeles faithful riding with Neighborhood Nip since the Bullets Ain’t Got No Name mixtapes and new fans who gravitated toward the ‘Fuck Donald Trump’ mindset heard an artist reaping the rewards of staying true to the hustle and motivate mantra that got him there. However, Nipsey’s power of speaking things into existence materialized long before his recent mainstream notoriety. On June Summer’s song “Bigger Than Life” (released in 2010), we hear Nipsey in introspective form, offering a consolatory message and words of wisdom for the dreamers searching for fulfillment. Nipsey’s maturity and bare-bones honesty is not only beyond his years,
‘So life is what you make it
I hope you make a movement
Hope your opportunity survives the opportunist
Hoping as you walk across the sand you see my shoeprint
And you follow, till it change your life, it’s all an evolution
And I hope you find your passion, cause I found mine in this music
But I hope it’s not material cause that’s all an illusion’
Acting as a source of inspiration for the disadvantaged, Nipsey undoubtedly built his own movement. Real estate investments on the Crenshaw & Slauson streets that raised him and the plan to build STEM programs in inner cities represent Nipsey’s lyrics, from nearly a decade ago, in meaningful action. Overcoming the obstacles that come with gang culture through sheer will and work ethic (‘Look at where I started and look at where I’m standing, Y’all can say it’s luck, But I know that it’s planning, Shout out to the pain, That gave me understanding’), Nipsey shined a light on achievable methods of prosperity, influencing countless others to place priority on generational wealth over materialism. He gave courage to the hopeless by creating attainable opportunities for those who felt trapped in a never-ending cycle of hate and violence, instilling ambition in the people who needed it the most.
As Barack Obama worded it in his letter read during Nipsey’s emotional memorial service, “While most folks look at the Crenshaw neighborhood where [Nipsey] grew up and see only gangs, bullets, and despair, Nipsey saw potential. He saw hope. He saw a community that, even through its flaws, taught him to always keep going.”
“Bigger Than Life” is far from Nipsey’s biggest song. But as a gem in a discography filled with jewels, the record showcases a young, impressively self-aware Nipsey who eerily predicts a tragic fate, ‘The cops hate it, so they hope my homies kill me, But I don’t want the fame, I just want y’all to feel me.’ The mourning will continue and there’s no replacing the loss of an artist so willing to share knowledge, so integral to pushing hip-hop forward and so dedicated to making his city a better place. But with death comes life and the grieving process surrounding the proud Crenshaw representative can pave the way for a brighter future if we keep Nipsey’s values close to heart and pick up where he left off.
Like so much of his work, “Bigger Than Life” now serves as a self-composed eulogy and an ‘in memoriam’ of how Nipsey Hussle should be remembered, a man who made the most out of his time and gave us everything he could. God got you, Nipsey.