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Inside Nipsey Hussle’s Memorial Service, A Salute Fit For A King

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Thursday marked the eleventh day since he took his last breaths on the streets that raised him. It was also the day that his city showed up at the Staples Center to honor him in a manner fit for a young king, stepping firmly into his greatness. And rightfully so.

The celebration of life for Ermias Joseph Asghedom was set to start at 10 a.m., but around 9:40 a.m., it got a little hectic. There was a touch of drama—a tussle over there, some noise over there. The reason?

It seemed that folks were anxious to be there, to get inside. But whether you were posted up in the 21,000-seat Staples Center or streaming the service online, everybody wanted to be there. Jay-Z and Beyoncé were in attendance, as were Diddy, Meek Mill, Teyana Taylor, Cassie, Russell Westbrook, Lena Waithe, Master P, DJ Quik, Usher and so many more.

The crowd defied demographics. There were strollers and wheelchairs, O.G.s and teenagers. They wore dresses and jeans, all-white, all-blue and all-black ensembles, heels, sneakers and dress shoes. The brothers from the Nation of Islam were on-hand, in their suits and bow ties, too.

A fan wearing a t-shirt with Nipsey’s face holds roses along the procession route for after his memorial at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on April 11, 2019. – Hussle, born Ermias Ashgedom, was fatally shot outside his Marathon Clothing store in South Los Angeles on March 31, 2019.

Hussle’s image was plastered all up-and-through the venue and nearly everyone was holding onto a copy of The Final Call, with his face on the cover, as well as the program, which included personal photos and dedications from his Granny, parents, siblings and his longtime partner Lauren London, of course, as well as Yara Shahidi, Michael B. Jordan, Issa Rae, DJ Khaled and Ava DuVernay, among them.

Guest were still filing in at 10:45 a.m., but when the lights dimmed 7 minutes later, the entire place erupted.

“Make some noise for …”

Everybody complied. But seeing the montage of family photos and home movies up on the screens brought complete silence. Seeing his casket sitting at centerstage—covered with white, sky blue and lilac flowers—made it all too real.

He was a little brother, a big brother, a father, son, grandson, a life partner, a friend. And he was incredibly loved and respected. To have lost his life so tragically, at 33, was—is—just…sad. Even still, there was a feeling of love and light all around. Marsha Ambrosius sang, as did Anthony Hamilton and Jhené Aiko. Minister Louis Farrakhan spoke for nearly 15 minutes and made sure the world knew that Hussle’s birth name means “God is rising.” He also compared Hussle’s influence on his generation to that of Bob Marley’s on his.

Everyone was on their feet when his parents, Angelique Smith and Dawit Asghedom, took the stage, and again when his older brother, Samiel, spoke through tears, and when London, his sister Samantha—both dressed in white—stepped up with the children, his legacy, including his 2-year-old son with London, Kross.

“Give the kids some love, they’re a little nervous,” London said.

Her son, Kameron, spoke of seeing Hussle so vividly in a dream after his death. Later, London read a text message she’d sent to Hussle on January 21 of this year: “I want you to know I feel real joy in my heart when I’m around you. I feel safe around you; protected.”

Barack Obama sent a touching letter, Snoop spoke from the heart, shared good memories, and like everyone else, was awed by the fact that our 44th president put pen-to-paper to speak so highly of his friend. When Stevie Wonder began his performance with a plea for peace, there was more silence. Then he sang “Rocket Love,” which was among Hussle’s favorites.

In the past 11 days, murals have been painted on buildings around the country, his record sales have skyrocketed and social media remains on fire. The culture has lost a visionary. After so many years of laying the groundwork, his impact was making a rippling effect. Along with his mixtapes and the Best Rap Album Grammy nomination he received for his album, Victory Lap, his work outside of the studio will leave a lasting impression.

He was focused on reinvesting and rebuilding his community. He refurbished basketball courts and playgrounds, bought shoes for the kids and at the time of his death, he was in the process of transforming a strip mall, with his Marathon Store as the cornerstone. He set an example of what is possible, which is why Los Angeles, and beyond, loved him so. Yesterday, his family and friends shared even more about Hussle…about Ermias, the man.

He fell asleep with earbuds in his ears, listening to audiobooks. Before he took his daughter, Emani, to school each morning, they’d stop by Granny’s house, with a green drink. He once built a computer, which Samiel still can’t believe. He was Samantha’s protector, guide and superhero…sometimes, he even acted like her dad, too. He was conceived on his mother’s birthday and born exactly nine months later, on August 15, with the umbilical cord wrapped his neck. His father was in the delivery room on that day in 1985.

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Karen Civil Reads Letter From Barack Obama for Nipsey Hussle Homegoing

It was a beautiful celebration, one which was quite somber at moments, but in the next, the whole crowd was rocking and reciting his lyrics. The service concluded just after 2 p.m. and at precisely 2:32 p.m., the procession headed out past Georgia Street and Chick Hearn Court to embark on the 25-mile lap around the city, including a stop by his Marathon Store at Slauson and Crenshaw. The streets were ready to keep the celebration going.

Friday marks the twelfth day since he lost his life, 35 minutes after being shot outside of his store. It’s sad. It was senseless. Thankfully, his legacy will live on through London, his children, extended family, friends and his community.

“He loved everybody. He loved who he grew up with and where he grew up,” Samiel said of his little brother. “You made the world proud.”

He represented LA. He represented hip-hop. He represented positivity, progressive thought and forward-movement. He was Nipsey Hussle and he won’t to be forgotten. To quote his mom, “Ermias will never die,” she said in a video clip last week, which quickly went viral. “You have him in your hearts. Every time you think of Ermias, he lives. His spirit is everywhere now.”


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