Even though Nipsey Hussle wasn’t physically at the 2020 Grammys, his spirit and presence presided over the proceedings.
Two of Nipsey’s final collaborations before his death — “Racks in the Middle,” featuring Roddy Ricch and Hit-Boy and DJ Khaled’s “Higher” featuring John Legend — won Best Rap Performance and Best Rap/Sung Performance. But the prevailing question throughout the night was how Meek Mill, Roddy, DJ Khaled, Legend and YG would honor the life of South Central rapper after his death last March within the confines of a restrictive award show. Part of the answer was debuting new song, “Letter to Nipsey,” which features Meek and Roddy eulogizing their lost comrade.
“Letter to Nipsey” is a balancing act; Meek and Roddy try to deliver an uplifting message amid tragedy and the sobering reality of losing a gifted rapper so young. Meek’s verse begins with the Philadelphia rapper telling the story of Nipsey’s funeral before transitioning to the present and past to explain how he’s coping.
“And I ain’t finna say it like I’m your main homie,” Meek raps in his patented yelp. “But when we lost you it really put some pain on me/Got me scared to go outside without that flame on me/And when them niggas went against me, you ain’t change on me.” Roddy’s melodic sensibilities anchors the hook as his voice dips and soars asking, “How many tears did you cry when you lost someone?”
In a December interview with Rolling Stone, Roddy discussed losing Nipsey and the subsequent success of “Racks in the Middle,” one of his last songs. “I got a portrait of Nipsey at my house, bro,” Roddy said. “I got to put a platinum plaque by that, and my brother is not here to share that with me. That’s his first platinum single. We did that together. Nigga, that hurt me… But at the same time, that’s life.”