“The work ain’t done yet. The marathon continues.”–from “For the Culture,” an Oct. 2018 article in the Player’s Tribute by Nipsey Hussle.

Condolences to all who knew or crossed paths with the deceased lyricist Nipsey Hussle, and may his soul rest in power. By now, his tragedy has been covered in nearly every conceivable medium and communication, so in this particular piece we will try to start at the beginning (all quotes attributed to Nipsey Hussle unless otherwise noted).

Setting the stage

“Don’t do the crime…”

“Gangbanging is a survival instinct, regardless of how anybody tries to paint it.”

A year ago, a gang meeting was held to iron out a reoccurring problem “in the life:” police informants. Criminal activities were being compromised to the point where it was apparent that information was being leaked. The situation had gotten to the point where it was apparent that more then “good detective work” was involved. The only other solution meant that “snitches (slum parlance for folks who provide information on their peers to the police, so that their own illicit activities may be overlooked)” were involved.

In due course, a series of executions were committed to eliminate the suspected snitches. People who become “snitches” get “busted,” then are encouraged by the cops and the District Attorney to give them criminally related information. They, in turn, are given reduced sentences. Thusly, anyone who commits a crime, and then is back on the street after an uncommonly short time is naturally viewed with suspicion by their peers. One such individual, known within his “cliché” as “Sh*tty Cuz,” fell into this category. He’d previously been a regular at the hub of Nipsey Hussle’s business empire, Marathon Clothing Company at Slauson Avenue near Crenshaw Boulevard. This arrangement was part of Hussle’s personal business model of inclusion to ‘buy back the block’ and provide employment in the process.

This individual had been banned from the store after he’d acquired a reputation as a “snitch.” For young men of the street, whose “street cred (acceptability and respect among young Black urbanites)” is the most tangible asset they possess, this insult is too much to bear. As for Hussle, who’d long abandoned the poisonous parts of gangbanging,yet maintained his connection to the streets, would not be willing to be associated with anyone of this ink. People who come under suspicion can get back into their friend’s good graces by producing their court documents. Someone who has struck up a bargain with the authorities will these conditions in writing on their personal paperwork.

In such situations, the record will say so, often using words to let the judge know they have “cooperated,” and are due favorable treatment from the court. In essence, folks embrace these conditions because “they can’t do the time.”Those who have not cooperated can produce documents without these incriminating works, or passages “redacted (passages blocked out with black marker), which show no assistance to authorities has taken place. Allegedly, Nipsey Hussle gave Sh*tty Cuz the option of producing these court documents to get back within his good graces, and regain his right to “kick it with the homies.”

On Sunday, March 31, Sh*tty Cuz returned to the Marathon Clothing Company, presumably topresent his paperwork and patch things up. Words were exchanged, and the angry party walked to a car where he apparently retrieved a firearm. At 3:25 p.m., shots were fired, striking Hussle and two others, while the shooter, later identified as Eric Holder, escaped in a white compact car. Hussle was pronounced dead at the California Hospital Medical Center.

The plot thickens

“…he was up to something GOOD and the system didn’t want that.” -Anonymous Instagram posting, dated April 1, 2019

Eventually the man’s given name of Eric Holder was revealed, and he was apprehended on Tuesday afternoon in Bellflower by the L.A. Sheriff’s deputies, who turned him over to the LAPD. He was then transported to the 77th Street Police Division under escort via police caravan with helicopters overhead. The actual murder was merely the beginning. On the night of the homicide, the family of holder was directly impacted by his actions. Street gossip suggests anyone connected to Holder is in danger.

Almost immediately, a vigil in his honor was set up at the intersection of Crenshaw and Slauson, an old bank trunk he’d converted into an armored car parked in front of his store. By the following evening, a rambunctious crowd numbering in the hundreds turned the gathering into a chaotic mess. More than a dozen people were trampled on and transported to the hospital as the mob threw candles and other debris at police attempting to clear the area. If nothing else, the fracas confirmed the area’s love for the rapper.

A stabilizing influence

“nothing really worthwhile happens overnight…”

More then a rapper, Nipsey Hussle was a guiding light in the City of Angels and a mentor to many, beginning his career by slinging CDs from the trunk of his car. Among the youngsters he recruited to distribute his CDs was young DeJon Johnson, a fellow resident of 59th Street and Fifth Avenue. Johnson remembers him as a quiet force who moved through the neighborhood with “…integrity and principles.” In one memorable incident, Johnson faced off with a much older adult who’d sullied the honor of his sister, when Hussle “…came out of nowhere, like Superman,” to intervene. The other man retreated due to the “aura of respect” that Hussle projected.

The example his elder set followed Johnson in his sojourn back east to complete his education. Throughout the challenges of academic and financial difficulty, he remembered the paradigm set by his mentor to stay the course, and finally earned a Master’s degree from the University of Delaware to become a software engineer.

“I would not be the man I am, or have the perspective on life that I have if not for Nipsey,” he says. Another Angelino, who did not know Nipsey Hussle personally, yet fell under his sway of optimism none the less, was an aspiring visual artist from Nipsey’s neighborhood, Demi Lauren. This mantra of perseverance guided her through high school and across the country to Washington, D.C.’s Howard University. As a tribute to her personal and artistic muse, she began a painting depicting the rap idol and his wife, the actress Lauren London. Artist and rapper connected via internet, and arrangements were made for him to view the work, postponed by his attendance at the Grammy Award ceremony. He never saw the actual painting. Lauren will present an exhibition of her work, including her portrait of Nipsey Hussle, at Earle’s Grille, 3864 Crenshaw Blvd, in Los Angeles, on April 20 from 1 to 4 p.m. In the mean time, it can be viewed at her Instagram account @_demilauren.

Deferred Dreams

“Easiest way to create a monster… make him Hate the sight of himself, He’ll then be incapable of loving anyone else.” –Instagram post by T.I. in the aftermath of Nipsey Hussle’s death.

It is ironic that Nipsey Hussle was killed in front of his store, the hub of an empire he envisioned to elevate his and other communities across the country. More ironic is the aftermath of his death, spawning turmoil and violence (the very factors he sought to end) under the guise of honoring his memory, and gossip behind the cause of his untimely end.

At the time of his death, Hussle was making a documentary on controversial Honduran herbalist Alfredo Darrington Bowman, AKA Dr. Sebi, who died under questionable circumstances in 2016. Rumors circulate among Afro-centric conspiracy theories that he was killed by the medical establishment, allegedly because his holistic cures (he claimed he cured AIDS and cancer) would cut into their profit margin. Following this train of thought, the rapper was sposedly eliminated to sabotage this film, possibly by the Illuminati secret society. Others question him dying at age 33, a significant number in Mason and numerology lore, and the age of Jesus of Nazareth when he died on the cross.

Elements aligned with the Crip’s arch enemies, the Bloods allege that this was a police backed execution, perpetrated to escalate the rivalry between the long time adversaries. Fellow Hip-hop recording giant T.I. claims the whole affair is just another example of “Hood Envy” (i.e., the pain of seeing another peer advancing in life). More theories and innuendoes are sure to follow, which in turn will only add to the mythology behind his name (akin to all the rumors in the wake of Tupac Shakur). In any event, in light of the mischief perpetrated before funeral plans have even been finalized means that the dust is far from settled in this latest cycle of dysfunction.

William Covington contributed to this story