Crenshaw and Slauson: Where Were You When We Lost Nipsey Hussle?

Maybe, you were making breakfast. Washing your car, walking your dog, running a mile or too. Hitting the gym. Hitting up the homies. Normal stuff. You were somewhere, in some urban city tagging up walls with a name or a set or an avenue. Somewhere with nets missing from the rims in the playground, where thick spring air meets project building decay in a town close to you or a home far from yours. Somewhere, someone parked a car with Chuck’s on the dashboard and lit a smoke, rolled down a window and poured out an ounce or two for a man they never met. Some of us, we lit candles, convened at our own versions of the Staples arena—a corner, a condo even, posted up looking at the skyline. We shut down convenience stores. We pulled out old CD’s; we reminisced and made phone calls and sent texts with jittery fingers. We broke bread and in between the crumbs and open mouths and laughter, somebody sobbed until the clouds did, too. Some of us may have ran to the Marathon Clothing store. Somewhere in that day you sat down and said a prayer for Lauren. For Kross and Emani. For Blacc Sam. Maybe you made Salat, found a stereo system large enough to fit all the sounds of the ancients, of the ancestors, and dedicated music to the sounds of California, playing “Victory Lap” until everything besides the sun melted from the vibration.

If you were anything like your author, you cried and yelled. Cried like a loved one was just lost, like a close friend was no longer here; cried like something was stolen from me, for us; cried for Lauren, cried for his babies. Cried for parents who had to bury their son. Cried for the city, for the future…cried for the culture. If you were anything like the author, you hustled to the Marathon Store online and, if you hadn’t already, pulled out your wallet and posthumously purchased your Crenshaw jersey. If you were also anything like your author, you had to wait over a year to get your Crenshaw jersey shipped to you. And you may have even wore it when you had the opportunity to rock a stage and maybe channel some of that Nip energy into a crowd. And rocking that jersey, you knew you would have waited a year longer or more. Any amount of time would have been the right time to wait for Nipsey. If you had the time, maybe your body got itself from it’s loveseat and ran to Crenshaw and Slauson. You could have knelt there. You would have seen a mural or two, faces with floodwater tears on them, everyone washing away, waiting for an answer of something.

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The moment I found out Nip died, I was in bed. And I feel like I had an enjoyable day. I don’t have a journal entry for it, so it’s hard to remember exactly what was going on. But a typical Sunday, before the baby and bills, included coffee and breakfast somewhere in Bedstuy. Eventually, we came back home. And looking at my phone that afternoon, I struggled to make sense of what I was reading on Twitter, what my partner told me to read. What seemed to be trending didn’t make sense. Rappers get shot all the time, right? It has become the rite of passage as a successful artist who came up in the streets to have their credentials tested, to have their music serve as a mirror reflection of the ones back home they represent. Except, Ermias wasn’t a normal rapper. Ermias wasn’t a rapper, at all. Ermias Asghedom could have been anything — a lawyer, a doctor, an engineer. Calling him just a rapper belittles the work, the energy. The same one who sent kites and care packages to the ones coming home from a bid. The same one who created STEM programs for the community. As a father, as a Black man, my heart was in shambles. And everyone felt the same hole that I did. When certain folks move on, you can feel the energy pivot — something changed.

I wore a blue bandana in my blazer when I stepped on the TED stage in December of 2019. Not just for Nipsey, but for all the Nipsey’s, for Ermias. I wore it because at best, I knew there was something to be said of a father who no longer could be physically present like me. Who, on any given day, could have been my cousin, my brother, my bodega bound, strip mall hero. This man who talked finance and trap and spoke about legacy like they were next door neighbors; drug talk, street talk, Wraith talk, Rolex talk. Nipsey was all of us.

With that, we have to be careful to not make this man into a myth, a mountain of an image to attach our dreams to, to make . Nipsey was as real and as tangible as the block he rebuilt. He didn’t have a chance, a chance to all the things; a chance to be a grandfather, to walk his daughter down the aisle. The chance to grow old with us. Unfortunately, a lot of Nipsey’s never do. Thirty-three years is far too limited of a time for anyone. Imagine Hov not making it past 40? With all the flaws, all the humanness in his experience and language, age and experience allows for growth, for reflection.. A life brutally snatched away. What will we do with this time? What will we do in this moment, now? How do we want to be remembered? How do we remember Nipsey? What does a legacy look like and mean? Define “community?” How do we celebrate a life? How do we mourn it? If you come from where some of us come from, we ALL know/knew a Nipsey. We lose Nipsey’s everyday. Some don’t make a blip on the news or social feeds. With the passing of his life, we create a memorial of his message at the gravesite, each of us leaving a wreath or a piece of memorabilia as a memory.

It is so scary to think and believe that we don’t have control over what happens tomorrow. That divinity does not ensure a decisive path to end on. A beautiful, young, flawed Black man was murdered — a father, a partner, a businessman, an artist; gone far too soon. I don’t need to remind you to keep your loved ones close. We can’t control the when, or even the how. All we can do is show up as the truest versions of ourselves, intentionally, with the love our hearts are afforded, and make amends and peace with the self we no longer remember. Each of us walks with a piece of Nip somewhere inside of us. That is why it is okay to cry over Nipsey, today. It is okay to pray about Nipsey, today. It is okay to have unresolved feelings about Nipsey, today. It is okay to love Nipsey without knowing Nipsey, today. It is okay to miss Nipsey without knowing Nipsey. To show up as you are, for Nipsey.

The marathon will forever continue.

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he/him. @tedtalks giver. @EBONYmag / @medium writer. @frankwhiteco . creative. @taylorstrategy senior copywriter. @thecc_nyc 21’ class. @twloha board. #BRONX

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Joel Leon.

Joel Leon.

he/him. @tedtalks giver. @EBONYmag / @medium writer. @frankwhiteco . creative. @taylorstrategy senior copywriter. @thecc_nyc 21’ class. @twloha board. #BRONX

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