Nipsey Hussle’s music made him a star, but his message of financial empowerment and community activism propelled him into icon status. In 2013, Hussle launched his innovative Proud2Pay campaign, whereby he sold physical copies of his Crenshaw mixtape for $100. He sold 1,000 copies within 24 hours. Fans were rewarded with concert tickets, merch and other exclusive content for their purchase. Hussle then used those funds to help finance his record label.
In 2015, he upped the ante, duplicating the Proud2Pay process for his album Mailbox Money. Hussle charged $1,000 per copy and sold 60 units. He publicly posted his gross and net profits so others could understand his business model and learn from real numbers. His innovation landed him in Forbes and other major publications, which helped to increase his notoriety exponentially while inspiring other musicians to be more creative with finding ways to monetize their work. Through his Buy Back the Block movement, Hussle encouraged African Americans to educate themselves about real estate, and further their financial literacy. He was passionate about the hip-hop community using its platform and resources to help create stability and generational wealth.
The artist was born Ermias Asghedom on Aug. 15, 1985, in Los Angeles. It’s been almost one year since he was tragically shot and killed on March 31, 2019, outside of Marathon Clothing, which he owned. Hussle had a strong fan base in Dallas, and many creatives were inspired by his music and message. In April 2019, Dallas artist Ponchaveli unveiled a mural of Hussle in the Fabrication Yard. Last month, artists Jeremy Biggers and Hatziel Flores unveiled a massive 15-foot-high, 60-foot-wide Hussle mural at Glendale Shopping Center in South Oak Cliff. The latter work was meant to honor Hussle and commemorates his visit to the shopping center five weeks before his murder, when he was in Dallas for a Buy Back the Block event at Bruton Theatre. We spoke to several people within the Dallas-Fort Worth hip-hop community about their thoughts on his music, death and legacy.
Jeremy BiggersDirector, painter, photographer
“I was at dinner with my family when I heard he had passed; my mood immediately changed. One of my best friends was a huge Nipsey fan so I became a fan by proxy. Nipsey Hussle’s legacy is one of empowerment. From taking back power through the sale of his $100 and $1,000 albums, to his Buy Back the Block initiative. Nipsey was about us owning our own shit, and I think that’s his biggest impact on the culture. I think the results of the seeds Nipsey sowed through his music, his interviews and his interactions with others, remains to be seen. Of course there are already things we can point to that are a direct result of Nipsey’s impact. But I think it’s too soon to know exactly every facet it will affect and how it will be manifested. I think we’ll fully understand his impact in a few years. I do think Nipsey’s death and his teachings were a call to action to some people who would have otherwise been dormant.”
Lorenzo ZentenoConcert promoter, podcast host of The Premier Live Experience
“I was home when I found out that he had been shot; within an hour he was pronounced dead. I was instantly floored. I hadn’t felt that way since Pac [Tupac Shakur] passed. I was just with him a month prior.” [Zenteno promoted a party Hussle hosted during his last trip to Dallas and booked him for shows in Dallas and Houston the year before.] “His contribution in my opinion is undeniable. He laid out a blueprint on how to be effective as a major independent. He was authentic, he was self-made, he was a visionary. I love that he never compromised who he was or conformed, and eventually the world caught on.”
“The day before he passed, I listened to his album for the first time in months. I was devastated because it made me feel like my album wasn’t good enough to be released. It also made me question if it was possible for him to top Victory Lap. My favorite Nipsey songs are 'Picture Me Rollin' and 'Miracle.' They’re my go-to's for inspiration if I find myself in a negative mind frame. I woke out my sleep to calls and messages about him being shot. By the time I got up and researched it, his death was announced. Though we lost a great leader and warrior, we gained another powerful ancestor that left his marathon energy open and available to all of us who are willing to go the distance. Nipsey’s legacy will be that of him being the Moses to this generation of hip-hop. He showed independent artists how to build profitable careers without the backing from the majors. Long Live King Hussle.”
"My favorite Nipsey Hussle songs are 'Key to the City,' 'Killer feat. Drake,' 'The Weather feat. Rick Ross,' 'Overtime,' 'Blue Laces II' and 'Loaded Bases.' When he died, I was on the road headed out of town. I woke up and knew something was wrong. My best friend called and said they killed Nip and my heart dropped to my socks. My initial thought on the murder was wow ... I felt like I lost a brother. I didn't know him personally but watching him grow in the game makes you feel like you know a person. I think his greatest contribution was the free game he gave us. You can see that dude had a really good heart."
“I was in Dallas at my people house when I got on Twitter and saw he [Hussle] had been shot. I was stunned because I just saw him tweet the last time I was online. I just sent a prayer up for him. Eventually they announced he passed, and it was heartbreaking for hip-hop. As far as his legacy goes 20 years from now, only time will tell. I know for Cali he’ll forever be a symbol of hope but also a reminder of the hate. His perseverance shined with the people. For hip-hop as a whole, a gap will be there until the next one gets to complete the mission from start to finish.”
"I was waking up from surgery after getting shot my damned self [when I heard about Nipsey]. It made me think about my own situation. Seeing him go like that made me question how I survived getting shot at eight times and only got hit once. Nipsey and I competed for a deal with Epic Records — which he clearly won — so I always felt very connected to him and his story. I feel pain every day knowing we lost someone so amazing. Nip spoke for me and a million others like us. He will forever be someone I carry with me as a guide to what I should be doing. I have vowed to continue the marathon in my own way as well."
A. Cognito, fka AnonymousRapper
"When I heard Nip was murdered, I was in the hospital myself. It’s weird because it hurt as if I lost a brother even though we never met. It’s hard to name a favorite Nipsey record, but my favorite tape of his is Crenshaw. He is the epitome of the independent hustle and set the example of how to get on and buy the block. In my opinion Nipsey's death was tragic but necessary because the universe has its ways of implementing change in society."
DJ UneeqDJ, club promoter
“I was a big fan of Nipsey Hussle. My favorite songs were 'Ain’t Hard Enough,' 'Picture me Rollin’,' 'Checc Me Out,' 'All My Life' and 'Blue Laces II.' I hope his legacy 10-20 years from now will be as strong if not stronger than what it is now. I think there will be a lot more bosses and entrepreneurs from a wave he started. His intelligence and willingness to teach others about financial literacy, and educating people about investments was his biggest contribution to hip-hop.”
“When I heard about the shooting, I was coming home from the movies. It wasn’t confirmed he was shot but a video surfaced of him laying lifeless and I turned it off instantly. I fought back tears because Nipsey was an inspiration. I couldn’t see one of my idols like that. His greatest contribution to hip-hop was in his name, it was his hustle. The grind he put in upfront from being a neighborhood gang member to becoming a mogul, not just for himself but for the community. It would be super hard for me to pick a favorite Nipsey song but a couple that come to mind are 'Ocean Views,' 'Picture Me Rolling,' 'None of This,' 'Victory Lap,' 'Real Big, Dedication' — man that list could go on forever.”
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Billy SynEngineer, producer, recording studio owner
“I got a chance to work with Nipsey when he made a stop in Dallas during his tour with The Game. It was my first time experiencing an artist with a large entourage. I mean I had just opened my studio and I was not ready to handle — what a whole tour bus brought. It was definitely my first look at the industry outside of Dallas. It was early in his career so he was an icon in the making. Looking back, I was lucky to see that moment. I loved everything that Nipsey made. It’s hard to name a favorite track of his 'cause it’s about his full bodies of work. Crenshaw is a classic, The Marathon is a classic. But I was exposed to him during his Bullets Ain’t Got No Name series. I believe his spirit of entrepreneurship let everyone feel they could do it too. He was the first artist since the late '90s that I really gravitated to, but now it was more personal because I met him and followed his rise after that. I think his legacy 20 years from now will be about true entrepreneurship and independence from the machine."
“I was at the Nines in Deep Ellum preparing for a show. We were following the news in real time. He was in critical condition. I remember saying a prayer for him and his family. Before I could finish, my business partner Byron 'P' Portley interrupted me to let me know they pronounced [Nipsey] dead. It was kind of like that one scene on Ali when the guy was running through the streets yelling, 'They shot Malcolm!' It literally took the energy from the whole block. All I could think was, Why? Was it because of his awareness of Dr. Sebi, or was it Cali gang-culture? I was at a loss for thoughts. 'That’s How I Knew' is my favorite Nipsey record. Nipsey’s death triggered an awakening for the black artists and black entrepreneurs. His greatest contribution to hip-hop was selling physical copies when they said the out the trunk era was dead.”