Neighborhood Nip. Forever.

“Don't be dethroned by these systems of control

just keep your fingers crossed

and get them locks off your soul”

Ab Soul, The Book of Soul


Tears gather like pools of rain water in pot holes on Slauson.

A King is dead.

The people mourn. They gather in remembrance at his passing. Their collective conscious clinging to memories etched in perpetuity like tattoos on darkened skin, evident and undeniable.

A mother cries, and all one can pray for is that the wages of this society’s sin, doesn’t result in their own death. But moments like these shake faith, leaving more devastation than Northridge earthquakes.

This reeks of betrayal.

How can you plot on one who prays to the same God as you? How do you rob those, who by their lot in life, have already been stolen from the most? An East African son is our only source of light on this path we all follow, because at dusk, clouds begin to swallow the moonlight. This is not the first time, a colony buried within an empire gave stage to a tragedy. Hatred must have blinded them to how many they would impact when they blotted out the stars. Either that or they didn’t care.


Nipsey Hussle was murdered on March 31st, 2019.

That sentence is something I’ve struggled to write since I began penning this piece. Hoping that before the end of this outpouring of scribed emotion, that I will come to the realization that this is somehow a vile nightmare from which to wake from. There is a tightness that grips my chest, a weight placed on my mass like straps on a gurney. Perhaps this is what my OGs felt when Pac died. The words of these artists take on a different meaning with their passing. The braggadocious manner with which they flaunted their rise from the clutches of circumstance. A thumbing of noses at the jailer on their way out the cell, circling back to help release those who were similarly shackled. Looking back over their catalogues, you realize that every bar was written with the passion and forethought of a final will & testament. A trust in which we are the benefactors.

To have your life taken in front of the very monument to your own journey from the jungle? It feels cruel. Such an act feels like an attempt to tarnish a symbol of achievement. A bid to mar the realized dream of one who scribed the LA gospels, and proceeded to nail them to the church doors of our conscious like Martin Luther. One can only hope that the subsequent outpouring of love in that same place, can help wash away the stain of hate that lingers there.

But I am tired.

Fighting for your own existence is exhausting. Human life is already finite by nature, but to be perpetually faced with the tenuous hold you have on a heartbeat is debilitating. It is a form of violence in of itself on your very psyche. That’s the reality of being a black man in America. Crabs forced in a bucket, climbing on top of each other, only to find out that regardless of your attempts, you end up boiling in the same coffin.

Eric Holder has to this point been charged, and plead not guilty for the murder of Nipsey Hussle. And although it increasingly appears that Holder was the culprit, given the history of Los Angeles, it would have been just as likely that the LAPD, not far removed from the Rampart Scandal, could have been involved. This is the ruptured windpipe that the black people of LA are attempting to draw the breath of life from. These ever present conditions where young Black people readily usher each other into the afterlife, were set by the last 50 years of state and federal policy. Conditions that would unnerve Tsitsi Dangarembga, make your brother look at you as an obstacle. Maybe that’s what Yasiin Bey meant by “Black on Both Sides.” For but a moment, we should be afforded respite. For a time, let us put down the armor and lower scrutinizing eyes, searching for where the next threat comes from. But this of course is an empty hope. A shaking of clenched fists at the South Central skies, marred by yellowed smog. My arm grows weary at the futile attempt, and my soul settles deeper into my being. For those who live by the sword, die by the hands of those who forced the sword in their hands from the genesis of it all.

This was accomplished by sinister design.

Seeing conditions of the streets of LA, is like witnessing claw marks in the inside of a coffin. This isn’t sports, or even the military, where you build brotherly bond through shared struggle and circumstance. Instead, the opposite occurs, as the smallest gleam of light gets blotted out by those around you. A multitude of flared nostrils striving to catch a whiff of the savory scent of freedom from a single crack in the door, on the other side is a dinner they were never invited to, but forced to craft. The epilogue to this tragic scene, must be Charles Burnett’s Killer of Sheep, a city gutted by racial capitalism as jobs flee, opportunities shrink and the slowly encroaching haunt of mass criminalization sets the stage for our anti-hero Ermias Asghedom.  But we have seen this movie before, the DEA let the Sinaloa Cartel flood Chicago with drugs, and redlining before that, and now Chicago hemorrhages  gang-violence. Los Angeles has also been marked by purposeful actions such as incarceration and discriminatory hiring practices that are the seeds of aggression. When looked at it from that scope, Nipsey Hussle’s blood is just as much on the shooter, as it is on forces much more powerful. Fate stalks Ermias. A fellow Los Angeleno might have pulled the trigger, but the United States loaded the clip.


Save your detractions. The mourning following black death holds no light for debate.

Save your critiques for tone deaf think pieces that don’t consider the full measure of a man, but consume him like crumbs that are the remnants of a meal at Earle’s on Crenshaw. For we know our icons aren’t perfect. You couldn’t hear the music of Nipsey Hussle, and not be confronted with the devil and angel that took up residence on his slender shoulders. But amongst us, we knew. We knew that this was a man who battled for his righteousness, and for our portion of glory. You see the most riveting stories aren’t golden, but gilded. No tale devoid of conflict, is worth telling. There’s no such thing as a perfect hero, and frankly we wouldn’t want it to be so. The truth of Nipsey includes his community empowerment, artistic excellence and confrontations with sexism and homophobia, and as already has been said, “ignoring it isn’t keeping any of us alive.” It is strange to hope that a death can be a seed for peace, and maybe a new approach to addressing the harms that plague our communities outside of the systems that created these inhumane conditions. To be victorious, means to have beat some measure of odds levied against you. Being in the winner circle, means you have overtaken and lapped your shortcomings and still show potential to grow and transform. Take this time to celebrate the path, with all its potholes and cracked blacktop, the breadcrumbs are there, we just need to simply follow them.

They already write about him in the past tense.

Ermias Asghedom was. Nipsey Hussle did. But it’s not hyperbole to claim that he lives on in the music, the murals, the lessons, the people he led to ocean views they would have never seen or crests they would have never reached. He resides in the voices of those speaking up at city council meetings on behalf of the marginalized. He exists in the fledgling entrepreneur, painstakingly managing their finances to afford their first store front. He is present in the altruistic efforts of those who leave the streets, and subsequently come back to feed the streets. The ethos lives on. Forever reminding you that you have something to contribute. We memorialize him for what he is. A Status Symbol on his Victory Lap.


A playlist has been made, as a collection of some of the best work by Nipsey Hussle. Listen to it, while you read this piece.

Images by: Niko Rodriguez

Words by: Jotham Ndugga-Kabuye and Benjamin Ndugga-Kabuye