Slain rapper Nipsey Hussle was memorialized today in Los Angeles as thousands of fans and celebrities came to pay tribute.
The rapper, born Ermias Joseph Asghedom, was killed last month after he was shot outside of his Hyde Park clothing store over a personal dispute.
Hussle, who was nominated for a Best Rap Album Grammy earlier this year for his critically-acclaimed “Victory Lap,” had become a “potent symbol of black entrepreneurship,” in his south LA community, said the New York Times.
As a former gang member, Hussle became an outspoken voice in the Black community, working to build up neighborhoods and empower youth to opt out of gangs.
A Vegan Message to the Community
And for his mother, Angelique Smith, honoring Hussle’s memory also means adopting a vegan diet. “I want to encourage you to choose a vegan lifestyle,” Smith said to the crowd of thousands who poured into the free service held at the Staples Center in downtown LA. The service was followed by a precession that wrapped its way through the south LA neighborhoods where Hussle grew up. Hussle’s service marks only the second time the 21,000-seat Staples Center has been used to honor a musician — the last time was in 2009, when Michael Jackson died, notes the Los Angeles Times.
The artist was also memorialized on Thursday by another Los Angeles artist, Constantin LeFou. LeFou is the founder of the Vegan Club — a street art and clothing brand that highlights vegan celebrities.
“This homage goes to a true hustler,” Vegan Club wrote on its Instagram page. “That’s the price you pay when you fight the big corps and try to bring the truth out there… Being a vegan rebel has its price.”
The rapper received praises from fellow SoCal rap legend Snoop Dogg, who was in attendance at the service. “We’re going to respect another man from another neighborhood when he comes from where we come from,” Snoop Dogg said. “You are a peace advocate, Nip. That’s what you are.”
Vegan R&B music legend Stevie Wonder also took the stage to offer his respects and perform the song “Tears in Heaven.”
“It is a heartbreak to again lose a member of our family,” Wonder said. “It is a heartbreak because it’s so unnecessary. It is so painful to know that we don’t have enough people taking a position that says: Listen, we must have stronger gun laws.”
“It is unacceptable,” he added. “It is almost like the world is becoming blind. I pray that we will grow and that the leaders who have responsibility to perpetuate life will do it by making sure that the laws will make it very hard for people to have guns and take their frustrations out to kill life.”
Hussle had fans everywhere, including in former President Barack Obama, who praised the 33-year-old artist for seeing so much potential in communities hard hit by gangs.
“While most people look at the Crenshaw neighborhood where he grew up and see only gangs, bullets and despair, Nipsey saw potential,” the former president wrote in a letter that was on display at the service. “He saw hope. He saw a community that even through its flaws taught him to always keep going.”
Jay-Z, Drake, and Kendrick Lamar all offered praises through social media and written statements.
“You were a curious soul who was evolving at a speed that was truly inspiring. The seeds you have planted are already bearing fruit,” wrote Jay-Z. His Roc Nation managed Hussle.
Fellow South LA artist and activist Kendrick Lamar praised Hussle’s ability to build relationships, “I watched a young, ambitious black male orchestrate fellowship amongst the men around him,” he said.
“Sent off like a king and rightfully so,” rapper Drake wrote in an Instagram post.
A Voice for Change
Smith’s message of veganism tied into Hussle’s own personal diet and lifestyle as well as his anti-gang work; she commented on how veganism can be a critical part of avoiding the trappings that unhealthy diets, alcohol, and narcotics can lead to, such as gang activity and violence that ultimately took Hussle’s life.
“I want to encourage you to choose a vegan lifestyle,” she said. “I want to encourage you to let [go of] your use of alcoholic beverages and narcotic substances. I want to tell you that we come from royalty and regality. I want to tell you that we are very loving and kind and a spiritual race of people. I want to tell you that we are very traumatized and pressurized people.”
A strong vision to protect and preserve his local community, Hussle became an avid real estate investor, buying up property to keep gentrifiers out of the community.
Fans also were able to pay their respects in front of his black armored truck, “a fixture outside his clothing store,” the Times notes, that was brought out for the service.
Kathleen Gonzalez, 20, who attended the service, said she remembered how Hussle treated everyone — “a homeless man, an average man, a man without papers who was here illegally,” she told the Times, “He gave everyone the same praise he received.”
“He walked among the blue with a heart full of red, and all the colors in between, because his life was for unity,” Minister Louis Farrakhan, the Nation of Islam leader, said in his remarks at the service. “His homecoming will be a life call for us to get up from where we are and be a new man and new woman.”