“Leave the hood behind.”
That’s the phrase so many rich and famous Black people stew over. Lil Boosie has infamously spoken on the hood being “hypnotized with hatred” toward people who make good for themselves. Meek Mill regretfully surmised, “know they’d kill me in my hood, but I just keep on comin’ through” on “100 Summers” from his Championships album. When the despair of poverty, self-hate, and violent conditioning converge, tragedies like Nipsey Hussle’s shooting death at 33 can happen.
At the time I write this, there’s no concrete info on what circumstances led to the fatal shooting. The latest reports are that he was killed outside the Marathon clothing store that he owned in the Hyde Park section of South Los Angeles, along with two other people who are in stable condition. The LAPD are apparently looking for a Black male suspect. Even when his murderer is caught and a motive arises, it won’t alter the feelings of many who are ruing that Nipsey is the latest example of someone who was killed showing love to a Maad City that didn’t love itself enough to reciprocate.
Black entertainers, athletes, and just about any Black person with a decent income have grappled with whether to “leave the hood behind” forever. Capitalism means “haves” and “have nots,” and in impoverished communities like certain stretches of Nipsey’s native L.A., it’s an unfortunately tenuous task for both groups to live harmoniously. That’s why so many who grew up rough get their first “come up” and don’t look back. Sure, gun violence is happening everywhere, but it’s a higher risk to live in areas where, as incarcerated drug kingpin Kenneth “Boobie” Williams told Rick Ross on his Hood Billionaire album, “minute thinkers become vicious haters” and prominent people become targets.
Like Jay-Z, the best-case scenario for anyone making the transition from the streets to more positive pastures, Nipsey was focused on using music as a vehicle toward generational wealth from day one. He got out of the streets — and didn’t trivialize his gang connections afterward. He didn’t run and take the first major label deal he was offered, he decided to ascend the ladder with his crew independently and build leverage before signing with Atlantic in 2017.
He made himself an independent blueprint with ingenious, successful marketing like selling his Crenshaw album in $100 bundles. When Snoop offered him a chance to get into Hollywood by playing Snoop in the Straight Outta Compton biopic, he passed because, as Snoop says, he “wanted to do his own thing.” That’s what he always did.
After earning a higher profile in the music industry through gritty, motivational music, he embodied his “all money in, no money out” mantra by investing his money into neighborhood. He bought a local shopping center with plans to become a real estate mogul, and tried to deter residents in his Crenshaw neighborhood from selling their homes and letting the area become gentrified like so many American cities. He was working to bring opportunities and awareness to the plight of formerly incarcerated people and was set to help children in different learn cities coding and other valuable skills through a STEM program. He embodied not only the possibilities for Black ownership and investing in the betterment of your community, but hope for young people who are still lost to the traumatic fog of the streets, where the value of life is dirt cheap. He was doing everything right, and still someone saw fit to end his journey in the very parking lot where it began over a decade ago with him selling his CDs.