Nipsey Hussle knew exactly what he was doing when he coined the phrase “The Marathon Continues.” Evidenced by his untimely death, the statement signifies a message, a rallying cry if you will, beyond the Crenshaw rapper’s own career. It’s the message for a generation to change our culture, communities and effectively the world. When you consider that his debut studio album has the title Victory Lap and reflect on what the Hip-Hop community has seen, experienced and heard over the past month, the lore of our fallen hero will last forever.
Longtime fans of Nipsey Hussle will be the first to provide a testament to his foresight. Nothing done by Nipsey was for a specific moment. Nothing was done to compliment a fad, trend, or wave sparked elsewhere. Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” at his homegoing celebration wasn’t just a mood-setting, poetic swan song. It was a Hip-Hop super hero’s theme music, reminding you who exactly he was and what he stood for.
“I’m prolific, so gifted/I’m the type that’s gon’ go get it, no kidding” – Nipsey Hussle on Victory Lap
Throughout his career, fans saw Nipsey be about what many talk about. From his All Money In imprint to the Proud to Pay campaigns that surrounded the release of his Crenshaw and Mailbox Money projects, ownership in a business and the creative property was valued. The result? He continued to be successful, and elevated to the next effort.
However, those efforts don’t work if the music doesn’t slap. As an artist, Nipsey knew that. He also knew where the movement is rooted. You know a Nipsey Hussle record when you hear it. His voice is unique. His projects were cohesive to his spirit and the sound is clearly from the West. The features come into his backyard; you have to match his sound. The care given to his work is what built a strong base for his career. You hear the passion of what is in his future when you first press play on “Hussle in the House.” You are welcomed into his neighborhood and the realities of his life when you run “Blue Laces.” You get the camaraderie of Nipsey and his peers when you hear him and Dom Kennedy bounce off each other on the hook and set up Cobby Supreme to get off a stellar appearance on “Checc Me Out.” You hear the coming of age story and sense the accomplishment on “Young Nigga.” Each venture into a new song, mixtape, piece of work, no exaggeration, is all authenticity.
This sense of authenticity fueled how respected he was in a genre where everyone isn’t always friends or cordial. JAY-Z saw his business acumen and was an avid supporter of his campaigns and albums, eventually revealing he would drop gems on the late rapper. At his memorial, Snoop Dogg spoke to Nipsey’s spirit and ambition, not asking for a handout of a recording contract when shopping his music; instead he asked for just an ear because he knew what was already coming to him. The Doggfather also pointed out how special he was by being able to record with rappers regardless of gang affiliations, a fact made evident by his relationship with YG. The list of those who respected him in the rap game for this is endless: Puff Daddy, Rick Ross, Meek Mill, The Game, Kendrick Lamar—- Just name them.
Nipsey Hussle is not just his music. Survey the Hip-Hop community after his death, and you will see inspiration everywhere. As quick as the world’s clock turns, as headlines roll and life continues to power forward, Nipsey’s death still feels like it was yesterday. The tributes still ring as loud today as they did a week after his death, as they will a year from now. That’s the impact of an icon. As the days and weeks passed after his death, Hip-Hop would really learn and assess how Hussle moved. Ownership became the conversation. The Marathon Clothing line became the suits for creatives looking to be their own head honcho. Nipsey bought his block and developed businesses to not only better the area surroundings while dipping into real estate, but to provide an opportunity for employment. Real estate was not going to be limited to home as plans to be a partner in the opening of a new Las Vegas resort and casino had been revealed. Ownership isn’t only about raising your position on the Forbes ranking, but is about responsibility to your people. Nipsey‘s Vector 90 effort connected hoods with Silicon Valley, cultivating interests of the youth to effectively change their lives. When acquiring buildings, Nipsey utilized the space to provide space for those who had the ambition to have a hub for work. That’s thinking beyond oneself and impacting a generation. That’s called being a leader.
Leadership is about impacting people directly and indirectly. When it comes to Nipsey, check the scoreboard. Hop on a social media app and click the Nipsey Hussle hashtag. How many rally flags are you seeing in bios, Nipsey owns that emoji now. The conversation about Nipsey’s life and career has sparked bigger conversations about what the community needs to do to continue his legacy. The impact of an artist isn’t just limited to how their records chart on Billboard or how many shows they can sell out when they’re hot. It is also about the impressions left on the people who are watching and listening. It is about the ideas that you place into the ecosystem of your people and culture. It is how you are remembered and what you contributed to the greater good of the area you occupied. When it comes to the legacy of Nipsey Hussle, each of those categories is overflowing with evidence that he handled his business.
“Could you imagine what else Nipsey could have done?” was an echoed sentiment in the lengthy run of April. While Hip-Hop and the world were robbed of what would be next for “Young Nipsey the Great,” we did get to experience a phenomenal father, artist, businessman, philanthropist and a dozen additional titles we can give to the legend. That is plenty for the rest of us to pick up the flag for the marathon.