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Nipsey was true hip hop culture: revolutionary, unapologetic, standing for the rise of a people

By Jihad Hassan Muhammad, Contributing Writer | Last updated: Apr 2, 2019 - 1:11:19 PM

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Since its inception, hip hop culture has been infused with not only the storytelling of the downtrodden masses, but also concerned with making life better for neighborhoods where rappers dwell. This has been a part of hip hop from day one, starting in the South Bronx with pioneers like DJ Kool Herc en route to the global explosion of the music genre.

Nipsey Hussle embodied the true function of hip hop for a generation, and, some say, is a reminder of what true hip hop is.

He spoke of buying up the block where you live, and the unity of Black people, in his actions, and his music—messages are not commonplace in today’s “mainstream” rap music. His brutal murder March 31 in front his Marathon Clothing Store in Los Angeles rocked the hip hop community, fans, music lovers and those inspired by his vision and his honesty. 

Their responses poured out on social media. Sean (P. Diddy) Combs, hip-hop mogul, said via Instagram: “Nipsey represents change, he represents evolution, he represents everything our culture needs to embrace, Black ownership. Black love. Black wealth.” 

Rapper TI referred to Nipsey as royalty. “A true King that will forever live on Rest in peace Nipsey,” he said via Instagram.

The sports world was shaken and athletes shared their pain. NBA star Lebron James shared now he and Nipsey had recently spoken. “This One Hurts Big Time This is so painful!” he said. Former NFL player and activist Colin Kaepernick commented via Twitter: “@NipseyHussle was doing great work for the people. Keep his legacy alive by carrying on his work! Sending love to his family. Rest in Power King.”

Alongside the condolences, sadness, and pain were questions on social media about who and what caused the death of the 33- year-old artist and entrepreneur. A meme widely distributed on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram contained Nipsey’s words from an interview with filmmaker and social media influencer Tariq Nasheed. “If I die over this documentary y’all better ride for me,” he says. The documentary Nipsey referred to was his work about the trial of renowned natural health guru Dr. Sebi, who won a case challenging newspapers ads saying he found a cure for AIDS. Dr. Sebi, also known as Alfredo Darrington Bowman, was instructed by the New York state attorney to take the ads down, charging he was selling non-FDA approved products, and practicing medicine without a license. In court, Dr. Sebi said he had cured patients who received his treatments. When the judge asked for proof and patients, Dr. Sebi provided 77 healed patients to the court, and he won the case. He was later arrested on different charges and reportedly died from pneumonia in Honduras in 2016. Many believe he was targeted and questions about his death rose as questions were asked about Nipsey’s passing and documentary.

On his song “Blue Laces,” Nipsey rapped: “They killed Dr. Sebi, he was teaching health. I fuck with Rick Ross ‘cause he teaching wealth. Dropped out of school, I’ma teach myself. Made my first mil’ on my own, I don’t need your help.”

During an interview in 2018 with The Breakfast Club, host Charlmagne Da God asked why would Dr. Sebi, or a holistic doctor, be targeted? “Why do they kill all holistic doctors, you shortstopping their grind. Why do niggers get killed for hustling in front of another nigger’s spot? You’re shortstopping the grind. These niggers (pharmaceutical companies) their checks are billions,” he said as he talked about doing the documentary.

On Instagram, entertainer Nick Cannon promised to finish Nipsey’s Sebi documentary, saying, “It’s a marathon so I’m picking up the baton.”

James W. Muhammad, of Dynasty Hip-Hop Mentoring Program in Dallas, said, “Artists who rise up from the streets and evolve in hip hop always have a target on their back.” And, it’s not always from thug life. To prove it, racism exists on five major pillars, real estate, banking, judicial, education, and media, he said. “When our artist transcends on those levels, the media’s job is to destroy them so we will not awaken. The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan has said that they made a vow to destroy all avenues that help and awakening the once slave,” he said. Dynasty Hip Hop, for 13 years in St. Louis and Dallas, has used music to connect with young people and resolve conflict.

Dr. Abdul Haleem Muhammad is based in Houston and is the Student Southwest Regional Minister of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and Nation of Islam. “The hip hop artists are our gold and diamonds, they are our natural resource, that must be protected regardless because they influence millions of people, and when they marry wisdom and action with their message, the enemy considers them dangerous,” he said.  

Akwete Tyehimba is the owner of one the country’s largest Black bookstores, Pan African Connection. Nipsey affectionately called her “mama” on visits to Dallas where he would share his vision of helping his community and transitioning from the streets to a new person. “About a month ago he came to the store and we embraced and talked about revolution and change for our people. He was so real and authentic. He had a strategy and a plan that he was not forcing down the throat of the people, he was introducing the youth to information that would transform them,” said Ms. Tyehimba. She also shared Nipsey telling her how going to Africa changed his life.

Amin Imamu Ojuok is a community activist and African-centered educator, teaching youth throughout America. He is based in Fort Worth, Texas, has worked closely with Houston’s J. Prince, founder of Rap-A-Lot Records. He sees power in hip hop when evolution takes place, and hidden hands outside of the community that work to destroy good works.

“Watching Nipsey, and working closely with J. Prince, the true profiteers of the criminalization of the culture are not just the label heads, but the prison system, and now, the gentrifiers. There is a renewed sense of ownership and responsibility bring promoted, and exhibited by moguls like Mr. Prince and others that absolutely interrupts the economic agenda of those that benefit from Black failure. Unfortunately, those that are fighting to save our communities are painted as the problem, which creates an atmosphere of doubt around them that makes sustaining relationships with the broader movement difficult,” said Mr. Ojuok.

Hip-hop legend Nas spoke of the dangers Nipsey had to face. “It’s dangerous to be an MC. Dangerous to be a b-ball player. It’s dangerous to have money. Dangerous to be a Black man ...  So much hatred. We live like our brothers and sisters in third world countries live. Right in America ... It’s so deep rooted. It’s not a easy fix. Hard to fix anything when kids are still living in poverty. I ain’t shutting up though, Nipsey is a True voice. He will never be silenced,” Nas said on Instagram.