Skip navigation

Friends, family and fans gather in Los Angeles as blogger reads letter from Barack Obama to crowd

Nipsey Hussles legacy as a persistent rapper, community activist, uniter, a doting father, a protective sibling and a loving son were underscored at his public memorial service on Thursday, with deeply personal testimonies from those closest to the rapper, including his fiancee, Lauren London; collaborator and dear friend Snoop Dogg; and his mother, who said she was at peace with the death of her superhero son.

Beyonce and Jay-Z were among the celebrities who attended the three-hour event in Los Angeles at the Staples Center, where the last celebrity funeral held at the concert arena was Michael Jacksons in 2009.

The arena was packed with more than 21,000 fans and drove home the important impact Hussle, who was just 33 when he died, had on his city and the rest of the world.

My son Ermias Joseph Asghedom was a great man, said Angelique Smith, dressed in all white. Standing onstage with Hussles father, Dawit Asghedom, she declared: Ermias was a legacy.

London, in dark sunglasses, was emotional but stood strong onstage as she told the audience: Ive never felt this type of pain before.

London called Hussle majestic and brilliant and said she had learned so much from his presence. She added though she was hurting, she was really sad for their son, Kross, whom she feared wouldnt remember his dad: My pain is for my two-year-old.

A blogger, Karen Civil, read a letter from Barack Obama. Ive never met Nipsey, but Ive heard his music through my daughters, and after his passing I had the chance to learn more about his transformation and his community work, the former president wrote. While most folks look at the Crenshaw neighborhood where he grew up and only see gangs, bullets and despair, Nipsey saw potential. He saw hope.

Snoop Doggs words to immortalize his friend were both serious and silly, as he told old stories about Hussle and their brotherhood. This a tough one right here, he said.

Hussles father said he knew his son was strong because when he was born, the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck but he prevailed. He was a fighter, he said.

Stevie Wonder was the last performer to pay tribute to Hussle, who he said he had the chance to meet. Before he sang his song Rocket Song, one of Hussles favorites, Wonder denounced gun violence and told the audience: Theres enough people being killed by guns and violence.

A DJ called the event a celebration, and indeed, Hussles mother danced in the aisle in tribute to her son as the R&B singer Marsha Ambrosius sang the Mariah Carey song Fly Like a Bird while fighting back tears.

A montage of photos featuring the rapper from infancy, childhood and adulthood, with fellow rappers, his family and his fiancee, the actor Lauren London, were shown to the crowd, set to Frank Sinatras song My Way. Singer Anthony Hamilton invoked the spirit of a church service as he performed in Hussles honor. The Nation of Islam leader, Louis Farrakhan, hailed Hussles ability to bring different factions together.

A fan holds a sign up along the procession route for Nipsey Hussle following his memorial at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on 11 April. Photograph: Kyle Grillot/AFP/Getty Images

People from Eritrea attend the memorial for slain rapper Nipsey Hussle, an Eritrean American, on 11 April. Photograph: David McNew/Getty Images

A sign outside the Staples Center bears the image of Nipsey Hussle, whose real name was Ermias Asghedom. Photograph: Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

A makeshift memorial is filled with candles for Nipsey Hussle outside his Marathon clothing store in Los Angeles. Photograph: Jae C Hong/AP

Hussle was killed last month at age 33 in front of a store that he tried to use to empower his south central Los Angeles neighborhood. Most who filed in for the public memorial at the arena Thursday were young adults, but ages ranged from small children to the elderly.

Were here for a great man. Were all here for big Nip. It wasnt his time, said Wutup Levy, 27, of Long Beach, California.

Daren B Harris waited outside the arena before the doors opened with his grandmother and other family members, who wore black T-shirts with Hussles face on them. Harris said he grew up listening to the rappers music and followed his journey to improve his community.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing, said Harris, 23, who lives in South Los Angeles. He was a treasure.

Harris grandmother, Reba Johnson, said she couldnt miss the occasion to celebrate Hussles life. He was bigger than his music, she said.

A fan at the memorial service wears a shirt with an image of Nipsey Hussle. Photograph: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

A fan wears shoes in tribute to Nipsey Hussle at the late rappers memorial service. Photograph: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

Books with an image of Hussle on the cover were handed out to service attendees. The book of nearly 100 pages contained numerous photos of Hussle with London, his children, and friends such as Russell Westbrook and Snoop Dogg. It also had heartfelt messages from Rick Ross, the Game and LeBron James.

Ive never cried myself to sleep over any public figure before, but Nipseys presence meant so much for our community, the actor Issa Rae said in her message inside the book.

The hearse carrying Hussles coffin was scheduled after the funeral to go on a 25-mile lap through the city, including past the strip mall where his The Marathon clothing store is located. Finally, it will arrive at a funeral home in the citys Crenshaw district, where the rapper was born on 15 August 1985.

Fans wait for the funeral procession following a memorial for Nipsey Hussle along Slauson Avenue in Los Angeles on 11 April. Photograph: Patrick T Fallon/Reuters

Masons attend the memorial for Nipsey Hussle in Los Angeles. Photograph: David McNew/Getty Images

Eric R Holder Jr, who has been charged with killing Hussle, has pleaded not guilty. Police have said Holder and Hussle had several interactions the day of the shooting and have described it as being the result of a personal dispute.

Hussle, whose real name was Ermias Asghedom, was an Eritrean American father of two. He was a beloved figure for his philanthropic work that went well beyond the usual celebrity giving back ethos.

Following his death, political and community leaders were as quick and effusive in their praise as were his fellow hip-hop artists.

Hussle recently purchased the aging strip mall where The Marathon is located and planned to redevelop it into new businesses and affordable housing, part of Hussles broader ambitions to remake the neighborhood where he grew up and attempt to break the cycle of gang life that lured him in when he was younger.

For a decade, Hussle released much sought-after mixtapes that he sold out of the trunk of his car, helping him create a buzz and gain respect from rap purists and his peers. His said his stage name, a play on the 1960s and 70s rhyming standup comic Nipsey Russell, was given to him as a teen by an older friend because he was such a go-getter, always hustling.

He received a boost when Jay-Z bought 100 copies of his 2013 mixtape Crenshaw for $10,000.

Last year, he hit new heights with Victory Lap, his critically acclaimed major-label debut album on Atlantic Records that made several critics best-of lists. The album debuted at No 4 on Billboards 200 albums charts and features collaborations with Kendrick Lamar and Cee-Lo Green.

On Thursday, his family and friends vowed to continue his work, and London told the crowd: The marathon continues!

Read more:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *