Nipsey Hussle, the Los Angeles rapper who earned a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Album earlier this year, was shot and killed in L.A. on Sunday, according to NBC, citing multiple law enforcement sources. He was 33.
Hussle, whose real name is Ermias Asghedom, was one of three people shot outside of a clothing store he owned, NBC reports. Mike Lopez of the Los Angeles Police Department told NBC that the shooting occurred at approximately 3:20 p.m. in the 3400 block of Slauson Avenue. TMZ reports that one man fled the crime scene in a car. The other two victims are in serious condition, according to NBC. Asghedom died from “gunshot wounds of the head and torso,” according to a spokesperson for the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner-Coroner.
As news of Asghedom’s death spread online, stars took to social media to pay tribute to the rapper. “My whole energy is just at a low right now hearing this,” Drake wrote on Instagram. “… You were having the best run, and I was so happy watching from distance, fam. Nobody ever talks down on your name, you were a real one to your people and to the rest of us. I’m only doing this here cause I want the world to know I saw you as a man of respect and a don.”
“This doesn’t make any sense!” Rihanna added on Twitter. “My spirit is shaken by this! Dear God may His spirit Rest In Peace and May You grant divine comfort to all his loved ones!”
“Nipsey is a true voice. He will never be silenced,” Nas wrote in a tribute on Instagram. “He still is a stand up general for the people who never left his people. He is loved by the people.
Asghedom was born in 1985 and started releasing mixtapes in the mid-2000s. While many rap careers in the streaming era are based around viral hits and seemingly overnight success, Asghedom relied on a different model: He built a fanbase gradually, never sacrificing his connection with West Coast hip-hop in an attempt to reach a wide audience. “I was trying to make progress with every release,” the rapper told Rolling Stone earlier this year.
His focus remained resolutely Los Angeles-centric: Asghedom’s lengthy list of collaborators included Snoop Dogg, YG, the Game, DJ Mustard, Ty Dolla $ign, Joe Moses, Kendrick Lamar, Buddy and Dom Kennedy, among others. Perhaps because Asghedom was such a champion of the West Coast, he never achieved anything like a national hit — his biggest solo success on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart was “Feelin’ Myself,” a 2010 collaboration with Lloyd that reached Number 93.
But Asghedom still knew how to seize the attention of a mass audience when he wanted to. He joined YG on “FDT [Fuck Donald Trump],” which remains one of the great protest songs of the Trump era: Cutting, incisive and catchy all at once. The track’s gleeful video has earned more than 20 million views on YouTube to date.
Asghedom was affiliated with Epic Records for a time, but then he decided to return to his roots as an independent act. A recent partnership with Atlantic Records proved more fruitful. “It got to the point around the last couple mixtapes, Crenshaw and Mailbox Money, where I reached a plateau on the indie level,” the rapper explained. “… There were things we felt like we were capable of doing that being indie was preventing us from doing.”
With Atlantic, Asghedom finally released his major-label debut album, fittingly titled Victory Lap. The album reached Number Four on the Billboard 200. It also went on to earn a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Album, putting Asghedom in the same category as million-sellers like Cardi B and Travis Scott.
“My producers, like Mike & Keys, have been on Grammy nominated albums prior to working on mine,” Asghedom told Rolling Stone earlier this year. “So when they would start that talk [about awards], I’d be like, ‘Chill out.’ That ain’t really what the spirit of the project was.”
“But,” he added, “people who love hip-hop, the art of storytellin’, the underdog, banging production, they gonna love this album.” And they did.
Following Asghedom’s death, stars remembered his gifts as a rapper, but also his philanthropy and his unwavering commitment to elevating those around him. He was a fierce proponent of entrepreneurship; he famously turned down major label deals when he wasn’t offered an equitable partnership in his music, sold a mixtape for $100 in a statement that his music was more valuable than the music industry allowed for, and owned a series of businesses in Los Angeles that hired members of the community as its employees. He spoke — often and at length — about the importance of young black men like himself owning what they make, and believed in his ability to make his corner of the world a better place.
“In our culture, there’s a narrative that says, ‘Follow the athletes, follow the entertainers,'” he told the Los Angeles Times. “And that’s cool but there should be something that says, ‘Follow Elon Musk, follow [Mark] Zuckerberg.’ I think that with me being influential as an artist and young and coming from the inner city, it makes sense for me to be one of the people that’s waving that flag.” To that end, Asghedom opened a STEM center and co-working space to help black Los Angeles residents break into the tech industry.
“I just want to give back in an effective way,” the rapper said. “I remember being young and really having the best intentions and not being met on my efforts. You’re, like, ‘I’m going to really lock into my goals and my passion and my talents’ but you see no industry support. You see no structures or infrastructure built and you get a little frustrated … That’s a dangerous thing. I would like to prevent as many kids from feeling like that as possible. Because what follows is self-destructive.”
His efforts did not go unnoticed. “You were about something positive and for your community in every chance you had to speak,” Pharrell Williams wrote on Twitter. “Watching Nipsey inspired me to invest and own in our communities,” added Issa Rae.
The director Ava DuVernay encouraged those who knew Asghedom to remember him as “bright, genuine [and] forward thinking.” “I’ll remember the beauty that he saw in our community,” she wrote. “And the beauty that he was. He loved us. He’s left that love with us. And it cannot die.”
— one won’t do. two is not enough. you need Thr3e. (@th3oryhazit) April 1, 2019