The energy is off in Los Angeles, and we’re mourning our native son, Nipsey Hussle. One of the biggest rappers from Los Angeles we’ve ever known (not Compton, Inglewood, Long Beach, but LA city proper) to hit the mainstream. The respect the city of Los Angeles heralded for Hussle came from his humble nature, through reputation, and community spirit. He was our Grammy nominated, Snoop adjacent, masters owning, courtside sitting, independent king. A man on a mission no matter what the conditions to lift his family out of poverty and his hood out of desolation. A brilliant mind relegated to martyrdom in seconds under a blitz of gun-fire. 

Images of Hussle’s near lifeless body were spawned across social media as if it were just a little viral phenomenon. But it was not a meme, a knockout, or a twerk session; it was the ending of a purposeful life and that life deserved respect and dignity. Where are we as a culture when the millions share these images of blood spilling from our own? When is a father lying on the floor fighting for his life entertainment? When is a man being gunned down at his place of business curated content? In the last decade, we have experienced unprecedented trauma via social media. Countless images of violence of all scales; after-school fights, domestic disputes, police shootings, and murder are on a loop on our screens and in our heads. It’s making us less than human, and we must do something about it. 

Nipsey represented the dream of every kid from every hood. It’s simple, get rich and come back to buy the neighborhood or “buy back the block” according to Rick Ross. These are our adolescent discussions, in line with your dream car, dream spouse, and dream house. We can all tell stories of being racially profiled at the corner store and thinking, “I can’t wait 'til I get rich and buy this place.” Or maybe you promised you’d buy your basketball team the uniforms your squad desperately needed once you “made it.” Or you were the kid who promised to redo the playground and replace the busted swings and backboards once you “got on.” As Nipsey famously said, “A dream without a plan is a wish” and he was a real dreamer, turned believer, turned doer. A rarity in a world full of culture vultures profiting from our greatness and purloining the revenue from our people. 

The few of us who are lucky enough to transcend our upbringing are often shrouded in pressures and suffering from survivor’s guilt. Survivor’s guilt is a mental condition that occurs when a person believes they have done something wrong by surviving a traumatic event when others did not, often feeling self-guilt. This guilt keeps many of our best and brightest away and continues to plague the wealthiest of Black Americans. Too often, gaining success is associated with increased access to the antithesis of blackness; a dangerous manifestation of self-loathing. You can see this played out in the lives and careers of OJ Simpson, Clarence Thomas, and most heartbreaking Kanye West. These are representatives of the Talented Tenth who are using misusing their gifts to the detriment of their people. 

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But not “Nayborhood Nip” who placed his people, his purpose, and his city on his narrow shoulders. His path was akin to the teachings of our greatest leaders and profits. In 1903, W.E.B. Dubois coined the term the “Talented Tenth,” in calling for the most able 10 percent of Black Americans to develop their intellect and leadership capacities, in order to dedicate their lives to “leavening the lump” and “inspiring the masses” to break free from mental slavery and second-class citizenship. Whether he knew it or not Nipsey lived by the code of the “Talented Tenth.” In his song “Million While You Young”, he stresses the importance of education, hard work, and focus, saying, "Can't be actin' like a b-tch tryna get saved, bruh/Get that dirt up off your shoulder, step yo game up/Can't be chasin' p-ssy, switch your ways up/Can't be f-ckin' off your lucci, gotta save up/See you gon' probably fail tryna play us/Streets ain't for everybody, get your grades up/Ain't 'bout your money, you just lookin' for a stage, huh?

Different times, different method, same message. A message that will likely muddle amongst the fallout of this violent crime. An unraveling a rage that can send the City of Lost Angels into weeks of war and our best and brightest into years of hiding. 

We cannot make sense of this, and many are unexplainably sorrowed over the loss of the Slauson boy they met through their speakers. If you were rooting for his come up and championing his victory lap, it’s time to do your work. This moment is more significant than music; deeper than rap. It’s about us, the survival of us, the advancement of us. Take this time of mourning to learn, educate, invest in ours, and protect yours. There is a Slauson and Crenshaw in every city by a different name, find it in your city and address a need. You don’t need money; we have limitless human capita in our communities. Mentor a kid, coach a basketball team, paint a wall, do something! It’s time that our actions match the strength of our voices. Nipsey always said it’s a marathon trying to better yourself and improve your neighborhood; it’s a long game plan. In this marathon, our gold medalist runner has fallen and dropped the baton. We must pick it up and gun it towards the finish line. 

Too many times we’re faced with digesting unspeakable tragedy, sometimes all we can mutter is, “not the homie.” We will celebrate his life and ponder his infinite potential for our lifetimes. Don’t let his journey end with a punctuation after “rapper slain.” We cannot afford to turn back now; ownership, education, and community investment is the mission. Whether it's W.E.B. Dubois or Nipsey giving you free game, now is the time to listen. LA natives know, there is no higher ranking of a friend than being called, “the homie.” It’s a term of endearment bestowed upon someone who’s solidified their friendship, proven their loyalty, and is always down to ride. Nipsey was the true definition of a homie to the culture. He mastered his craft, gave back to his people, stood firm on his word and loved his family. 

The marathon continues… Ready. Set. Go