"The most important thing is to get rid of doubt. If you got doubt in what you’re doing, it’s not gonna work."- Nipsey Hussle
March 31st marks the three year anniversary of the tragic death of Nipsey Hussle, SoCal born and raised rapper, serial entrepreneur, and community-focused father of two. Living proof that anybody can exit gang culture and turn themselves around to become a successful man of honor, his sudden death sent shockwaves of grief throughout communities and cultures that looked up to his story of triumph against not only society, but also his own demons. His posthumous impact inspired millions to be the very best they can to this day.
Whether you know his story or not, I wanted to take this opportunity to give a little backstory on Nipsey for those who aren’t familiar, shine a light on his incredible success against all odds, highlight his local community impact, and end with how he influenced myself and Drawlz.
SUCCESS THROUGH DETERMINATION
“You’ve got to have faith in what you’re doing and not take no for an answer.”
Born and raised in the Crenshaw District of South LA, Nipsey’s career in music began in 2002 at 17 years old. The release of his first independent mixtape in 2005 quickly earned him a loyal local fanbase due to an unmistakable sound inspired by West Coast gangsta rap of the 1990s, and he was eventually signed on to Epic Records and Cinematic Music Group three years later in 2008.
After releasing more tracks and collaborating with giants like Drake, Nipsey started building a larger audience and opted to not renew his contract with the record labels when it expired.
He instead chose to go independent and create his own record label called All Money In so he could have more control over his finances, time, and creativity. This move proved to be the best as word of his message, character, and sheer determination began to spread throughout the music industry.
Nipsey never signed onto another major label again and relied entirely on himself to reach the commercial success that eventually earned a Grammy nomination and caught the eye of cultural icons such as Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Sade, Jadakiss, and others. But it wasn’t his success so much as what he chose to do with his success that made Nipsey a household name.
USING THE PAST TO IMPROVE THE PRESENT
“If you 35, 28, or 30 years old, and you decide you're gonna pick up a rag and start bangin', and you can look yourself in the mirror and you still feel like you're a man?”
At 14 years old, Nipsey left home and joined a local subgroup of the Crips known as Rollin 60’s out of frustration from not having any outlets to express his passion for music. In an interview with VladTV, Nipsey explained how the culture of his area was gang culture; he was always around it, so he figured that he might as well be a part of it seeing as everyone else around him did it, too. He eventually got out but was vocal about his experience - but what separated him from others was how he chose to use his violent past to create a prosperous future.
Instead of glorifying gang violence and perpetuating the narrative of using the hood to gain success elsewhere and then leave it behind in shambles, Nipsey chose to instill pride in his listeners and inspire them to stay in their neighborhoods by building them up through investing in business infrastructure to create opportunities for themselves and others.
In other words, he had the wisdom to understand that in order to solve the problem of violence in the hood, communities have to remove the cause of the problem altogether.
A TRUE LOCAL LEADER
“We don’t want to wait on someone to hire us and give us a check. We want to create our own opportunities.”
There’s no doubt that Nipsey was a true leader within his community, choosing to lead by example through investing money he earned from his record label back into his community.
In 2017, Nipsey partnered with DJ Khaled to buy real estate in the Crenshaw District and opened up his first clothing store called The Marathon Clothing in order to build the local economy, an experiment that allowed customers to purchase in store as well as receive exclusive music, apparel, and other content in an app.
The experiment proved to be so successful that one year later, Nipsey co-founded Vector90, a half co-working space / half STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) center in the same neighborhood to further provide opportunities for and improve his local community.
Although Vector90 is still open for business, Marathon Clothing did shut down their brick and mortar location - but only because the amount of online orders they received after Nipsey’s death was so overwhelming.
Nipsey's revolutionary idea of shouldering the responsibility to fix his hood and provide opportunities within it instead of abandoning the hood altogether to find opportunities elsewhere proved to be a success. This commitment to his faith in not only his community, but humanity, is what has made him a household name and an inspiration for others to do the same.
IMPACT ON DRAWLZ
“Lay a brick everyday instead of trying to build a brick wall”
Nipsey was a man of respect, integrity, community, and a force of sheer will. He was presented with the pathway to easy money, looked back to his suffering community, and chose to put the fate of his success and passion for music in the hands of the people who made him instead of the people who wanted to own him.
These values echo throughout Drawlz; when building my vision, I stayed true to myself regardless of what others thought and continuously strive to build a community of strong, confident men capable of being the change they want to see in their community. Strong confident men create strong confident families, and strong confident families create strong confident communities.
Nipsey’s story is one of success through determination and tearing down the accepted norm of the stereotypical urban male, a story that both inspires Drawlz to stay true to itself regardless of what may come and confirms my decision to do the same.