The Thug Life Marathon: How Nipsey Hussle And Tupac’s Social Agency Align Them

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Just last year, the late Nipsey Hussle ominously called himself the “Tupac of his generation” on “Dedication” from his Grammy-nominated Victory Lap album. Artists have compared themselves and been compared to Tupac for a variety of reductive reasons since the iconic rapper’s 1996 murder. If an artist is shot, comes home from jail like Boosie, or boasts a devoted fanbase at the time of their death like XXXtentacion, artists and their fans won’t hesitate to evoke the legacy of Makavelli. But for Nip, his claim wasn’t a self-gratifying boast. He told Billboard it was about “intent.” Hip-hop fans have collectively celebrated Nipsey’s life and shared his wisdom throughout the past two week. It’s become clear that his intentions for his community and culture were more aligned with Tupac’s than most artists.

Unfortunately, there have been fans both old and young on social media who have pitted the two against each other, claiming that one wasn’t worthy of being compared to the other. The slander coming from both sides represents a disheartening low in hip-hop’s generational fracture. The reality is, to paraphrase Nas’ “Got Urself A…” line about he and Tupac, Nipsey and Tupac were soldiers of the same struggle. Nipsey knew that.

Last Friday, gang sets from all over LA walked in unison for Nipsey in a peace walk that hasn’t occurred on such a massive scale since the 1992 truce between Bloods and Crips. On the night of Nipsey’s death, many LA natives thought that his Rollin ’60s Neighborhood Crip set would set off a shockwave of retaliatory gang violence in a similar manner to the bloody aftermath of Tupac’s murder. But Nipsey was allegedly shot by someone he had known for years, which alleviated that possibility. Instead of gang members affirming Nipsey’s legacy with trigger fingers, the Crips and Bloods met with open arms.

One of the Instagram captions of the proceedings stated, “Nipsey Hussle look what you started!” It was a powerful, bittersweet moment. As hundreds of sworn enemies stood together in locked arms, one could see the fruition of not only Nipsey’s dream, but the seeds of Tupac’s “Thug Life” goal to unite gangs tragically bloomed through bloodshed. Hopefully, there will be a day where there’s a better reason than martrydom for gang members to come together, but at least it occurred in the memory of an artist who had been planning it all along.

Last week, apparent Blood member FireBugg recalled a chance meeting with Nipsey Hussle that commenced plans to initiate a gang truce between their rival sets. He recalled that the men shared an uneasy moment when they first crossed paths at a restaurant, but ultimately, “we shook each other hand with a firm grip and didn’t release the shake til [five minutes] later.” FireBugg also said that “we both acknowledged the fact we was sworn enemies by gang rights but we said we was born brothers by essence.” Nipsey reportedly stared at FireBugg’s Malcolm X tattoo while telling him he wanted the two to help bring their gangs together, noting “I have no energy for negative sh*t and conflicts.”

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Nip, On God If Satan listening I Rebuke You and every minion that stand beside em.. I Know Fate and Tragedy didn’t serve us like that King.Destiny Didnt Work us like that. We Felt Each other energy so cold you doubled back on me and sat down in the booth and we shook each other hand with a firm grip and didn’t release the shake til 5 mins later. It’s Crazy when I walked in, you had your back to me unaware and I had to tap you to get bye, we both looked like Ooh what we on, I said “What Up Nip” and you said hold on to the person you was talking too and said “Yo Name FireBugg Huh From Centinela.” You said “ I been peeping your campaign and push for a minute you don’t remember we was in the tank together when you first fell. I been wanting to run into you. You said “ Let me come holla at you after this conversation”. We sat in that booth and you said “Bro I got a vision and I been needing a nigga who hold a voice and solid mindstate,” We both acknowledged the fact we was sworn enemies by gang rights but we said we was born brothers by essence and you said our meeting would bring controversy but the one who could stand it is the one you honored to deal with.” You said “ I’m heading to Anaheim real quick I’m in the studio tonight would you Mind pulling up I wanna work tonight” I told you drop a location and I’ll pull up Nela Alone you laughed and said Fa sho call you so you could store it in, you said “let’s get this flick and fuck the streets up.” Cold Part I’m out with my niggas last night and they was supportive on it but was skeptical, then you hit back checking in on me and I knew shit was real. I didnt see no Red And Blue yesterday I seen Martin and Malcolm and you told me some shit ima carry Nigga. You said “Bro I ain’t heard a demo out you but im telling you it’s your time and ima help you”🙏🏽 Hopefully you got the message to @jstone_allmoneyin for me. @killatwan_allmoneyin told me you tapped in with em and spoke highly of me. 1 Love And Peace God. We lost a Prophet. Niggas is lost B. RIP King 👑 Nip Hussle. Homage from a Inglewood General. #RIPNIP#RedBlueGreen#Frenemies#🙏🏽YaFamily

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Energy. That’s one of the major differences between Tupac and Nipsey in the last years of their lives. At the time of his death, Nipsey was a 33-year-old Father of two in positive head space, looking to make good for his Hyde Park section of LA. Tupac was a 25-year-old, free-spirited nomad who his friends and loved ones recalled was looking for a big brother figure in all the wrong places.