I had a weird, ominous feeling the last 48 hours that something bad was going to happen. I was out with True this weekend enjoying myself, but couldn’t shake the bad vibes. I didn’t know what, but I had this bad feeling that someone I knew, on some level, was going to have misfortune come their way.
I hate when I’m right about stuff like that.
When I heard Nipsey Hussle was shot, my worst fears were confirmed. I never knew or met the man, but I felt a bit of brotherhood with him over the fact that he started as an indie artist, was a father, and was a man young people could aspire to be like. He made his mistakes, like everyone. However, he was a person you could look to and say “do X like Nipsey would and you can possibly succeed too.” Not many rappers were out here promoting financial self-sufficiency and brotherhood while still recognizing that the hood helped to refine and define who he was. He gave back to his community as much as he could and still never lost touch with reality. It was something to commend in a world where Instagram likes often dictate how “real” someone or something is perceived to be.
Nipsey Hussle’s death hit differently for me than a lot of other celebrity deaths over the years.
I always empathize with the families, friends, and even fans of the departed. When XXXTentacion passed on not even a day before Jimmy Wapo did the same, I thought it was horrible that these young men were gunned down. I called for gun control, as I always do. I prayed that their souls found peace. Still, I wasn’t floored by these deaths as much as some of my younger brethren. It is tragic in its own right that I’ve become as desensitized to people dying as I have, and it shows that our world is in a horrific state. But, aside from Mac’s death, I haven’t been “floored” in a while. Death is a natural thing, even if the circumstances surrounding some deaths are unnatural. Then, Nipsey happened and I found myself awake last night thinking about everything. I rode into work this morning writing this and I started to get a lump in my throat over the whole thing.
This is the one that eats at me and may do so for a while.
I’ll never get up on a platform and say I was Nipsey’s biggest fan. As a running joke, I always made light of the fact that he blocked me and me not knowing why. We also, as I mentioned in a post on his Victory Lap album, may have had some ideological differences. Even with that, though, I still respected what the brother did for his people, for his community, and as a family man.
Never mind the rap, which he also excelled at, or even his comedic timing (his appearance/rap in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend was one of the reasons why I first tuned in to watch the show) He was for promoting Blackness, togetherness, entrepreneurship, and family. These are all things that I strive for in my life. My respect for the man was deeper than rap and deeper than him saying things I didn’t always agree with. I keep thinking about it like “damn, that could’ve been one of my friends or even me.”
That’s not to say that Nipsey and I had exactly similar lives. However, we are both still Black men in our early thirties who’ve seen a lot and have suffered hardships. I empathize with his plight more than some other departed artists because of this. He and I were, in some ways, similar. Different in many ways, but we still had similarities to the point where, again, I lied awake last night shook over his death like “damn, that could’ve been me or one of my close friends.” One of my worst fears is getting snuffed out randomly minding while my own business, leaving everyone to mourn me and talk me up after I’ve transitioned to the next part of the cycle.
Death, while natural, hits closer when you can relate more to it.
Nipsey’s death also hit harder than most because of its proximity to the anniversary of my mother’s death. I just spoke with some friends about how I didn’t really cry or get emotional this past Thursday about Mama Young like I had over the years. I felt kind of horrible, as I always felt something. This year, I didn’t cry, I didn’t grieve. I continued on with my life, enjoyed time with her grandchildren, and worked my butt off at my job. Having Nipsey murdered so close to that date immediately put me in his family’s shoes, having someone close to them here one day, then gone the next. It’s something I’d never wish on anyone.
Let’s step back and forget the conspiracies about how/why Nipsey Hussle was murdered. The fact remains that another young Black man is no longer with us. His family, his friends, and his community are left to mourn him and figure out how to go on without him. I go back to how hard it was for me to put things together after Mama Young died. I’ve been around death most of my life in one way or another, but when something sudden happens, it gives you a gutpunch that isn’t easily replicated. Putting together homecoming services for someone is not easy.
A mother lost her child and two children lost their father. A community lost a pillar and rap will never be the same again. Friends lost their go-to. Those who looked at him as a father figure lost that. We all lost a legend, a revolutionary.
In short, as I’ve said online the last twenty-four hours, give people their flowers while they can still smell them. It’s cliched, yes. But life is not infinite, even if our actions can have long-lasting effects on the world after we’re gone. Nipsey’s legacy will live on, even as the man, unfortunately, will not. That’s not to take away from the tragedy, of course. But, if we must find some solace in this event, we must know that his work and his legacy will not be in vain.
…I just wish that we stopped uniting as a people only when someone dies or when we want to “cancel” someone.