Does New Zealand truly appreciate the man behind the rap name Nipsey Hussle, or understand the impact of his death?
I don't think we do.
Nipsey Hussle, aka Nip, aka Hussle, aka Ermias Asghedom, was more than a Grammy-nominated, American rapper, who claimed a gang.
He was an entrepreneur who sold a mixtape ahead of the release of his debut album for $100, he was a businessman, he was a partner to long-time actress and model girlfriend, Lauren London and he was a father. Even further to that, Nipsey Hussle was an activist, a visionary, a peace advocate respected by many, even those from rival gangs, and his death has reignited the conversation around the need for tighter gun controls. He was a movement!
Nipsey Hussle was gunned down outside his clothing store, The Marathon Clothing, in south Los Angeles on March 31. Ever since that day tributes have consistently flowed from his music industry peers highlighting his talents, loyalty, his love of his family, his authenticity and his passion for peace. NBA stars James Harden, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Russell Westbrook are just a few of the names in the game to also pay tribute to the slain rapper.
As a man who worked hard to develop south Los Angeles and stop gang violence, what his death has prompted really recognises his power in his city and how respected he was. Not only have rival Los Angeles gangs agreed on a peace treaty as a way to honour Nipsey Hussle's passion for unity, gang leaders have also been involved in peace marches.
More than 20,000 people gathered to pay their respects to Nipsey Hussle at his Celebration of Life and funeral service held at the Staples Centre in Los Angeles on April 11 (Friday NZT). Beyonce and Jay Z were among the many celebrities who attended.
It has been reported that the last celebrity funeral service held at the center was Michael Jackson's 10 years ago, in 2009. That certainly should provide a gauge of the impact of the Nipsey Hussle movement on his city, and the world.
I spent my Friday night, snuggled on the couch, watching the livestream of the celebration.
The service opened with a letter from Barack Obama to Nipsey Hussle's family, followed by tributes from friends and family. His father spoke of his son coming into the world as a fighter, born with his umbilical cord wrapped around his neck, London acknowledged the pain she was feeling since his death was like nothing she had experienced before, highlighting the love she felt for her best friend and the sadness for her 2-year-old son who will grow up without his dad.
Rapper Snoop Dogg spoke about his friends' realness, the fact he was making records with rival gang associates and members and recognised him as a "peace advocate". YG was one of those rival gang associates Nipsey Hussle made music with and speaking at the service, he referred to Hussle as his "brother from another colour", who only spoke of goals and family and stood up for him as he did for Hussle. It was a brotherhood based on equal respect.
Artists Antony Hamilton, Marsha Ambrosius and Jhene AIko were among the performers at the service, while Motown legend Stevie Wonder said he was heartbroken by Hussle's death, describing it as "so unnecessary" and calling for tighter gun control in America, sparking the conversation around gun violence once again.
Nipsey Hussle was not someone who was out in the spotlight trying to get any attention any chance he got. Instead, he worked genuinely, behind the scenes, to help create unity and spread positivity any chance he got.
He was known to refer to life as a marathon, not a sprint, and the fact that Nipsey Hussle is continuing to create change beyond that marathon is not surprising at all.