He was different. From the beginning, his mindset wasn't on diamonds, cars, and clout. He was more focused on the condition of his people. When interviewed as a young up and coming artist, he made it shockingly clear that he was not like other hip-hop artists. His first ever interview, in 2006 with Davey D, said it all. He was wise beyond his years, and we would all be witness to him putting his words into action.
Ermias Ashgedom, known to most as Nipsey Hussle, was taken from this world on March 31, 2019. While circumstances surrounding his untimely death remain suspicious at best, there is nothing suspicious about his intentions for his home city of Crenshaw. He was a product of his environment, for better or for worse. He utilized his talents in ways that most people his age did not. Hip Hop was a vessel to usher in his true calling, his legacy. He was more than his music. He put his entire city on his back and was unapologetic about his intentions to improve his community. His Marathon Clothing store was one of the first "smart stores" that uses an app so customers can see exclusive content from Hussle. Less than one year ago, he and the sneaker company PUMA, donated an estimated $10K and remodeled the basketball courts at 59th Street Elementary School. His tireless commitment to investing in his community helped fuel the Destination Crenshaw project.
The Destination Crenshaw project is described by media outlets as "a 1.3 mile outdoor space dedicated to the arts and culture of black Los Angeles." The project was set in motion after the city agreed to place a section of the Los Angeles County Metro rail line along Crenshaw Boulevard. According to media source Curbed LA, many in the community expressed concern about construction harming local businesses. The harm comes in the form of outsiders coming into communities to capitalize off their assets and value while the community often doesn't benefit. However, Nipsey, affectionately known in the city as "Neighborhood Nip" had an endgame in mind. He said, ”We're going to create the content, own the platforms and be a part of the entire chain. So that no one is going to capture value of what we create without us participating. That makes a big difference."
As defined by the website toobigtofail.org:
Too Big To Fail is a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) center and Maker Space that encourages design thinking and innovation in local youth. In partnership with Vector90, we’re creating impact hubs where neighborhood youth can feed off of each other's talent, creativity, and support." The rapper planned to launch the academy with hopes the space can be a "bridge between Silicon Valley and the inner city.
The Crenshaw native didn't plan to stop in California; he explained the school will be "a model that we're going to scale." The plans include STEM academies in other cities, such as: Atlanta, D.C., and Baltimore. The ultimate goal is to create "a resource network across the country" that students can tap into for knowledge-sharing and networking.
Neighborhood Nip was trying to save the world, one inner city at a time. It was not hyperbole; it was the legacy he wanted to pass down and how he would've wanted to be remembered. Our task moving forward should be to contribute to the cause, duplicate the efforts and try to build up within to prevent constant displacement and gentrification. Please check out https://www.toobigtofail.org/ to find ways to continue to push this project forward and keep Neighborhood Nip alive.
Written by: Michael E. Creekmore, Jr., LPC