Moving forward in life without the physical presence of Nipsey Hussle was not the marathon many of us imagined we’d have to run, but it was wrongfully forced upon us. On March 31, 2019, Nipsey was fatally shot outside of his Marathon Clothing store in LA. Just like that, one of hip-hop’s most celebrated artists had been ripped from the throne he spent over a decade building. As the news reports began to flood Twitter feeds, unwavering disbelief and a refusal to accept the tragic news reigned as the initial reactions from the hip-hop community. Questions flew into the air with each update, “Who would kill Nipsey?” “Why would they kill Nipsey?” Long after his life was honored at the beautiful memorial at the Staples Center and long after the previous questions were answered, one still remained without a certain answer, “How do we go on without Nipsey?”
In short, the answer to the question is that we shouldn’t have to. While Nipsey’s physical presence is no longer on Earth, his art, mind, and influence are everywhere. To say we’re continuing without him equates to irresponsibly forgetting all that he left us as well. Weeks after his death, DJ Khaled shared Nipsey’s first posthumous musical effort, a feature on “Higher” off his Father Of Ashad album. Released with a video that was completed prior to his untimely death, Nipsey’s verses focused on overcoming the odds and roadblocks presented to him both before his time on Earth and during his rise to fame.
Standing on top of a parking garage that placed him as close to the heavens as physically possible, he stood there in an angelic blue satin suit, one that gleamed effortlessly in the California sun. As it did repeatedly throughout his music, Nipsey’s wisdom came in like a brick through a window, “I was thinkin’ chess moves but it was God’s grace,” he rapped. It’s an acknowledgment of a high power in his life that served as a guiding light for his decisions every day. Unfortunately for us who greatly enjoyed his presence, the guiding light suddenly changed its endpoint, one that brought Nipsey to the heavens far above that parking garage.
The posthumous releases continued, his voice was heard once again on Rick Ross’ “Rich N***a Lifestyle” off Port Of Miami 2 and The Game’s “Welcome Home” off Born 2 Rap. The former reinforced the gatekeeper title to both hip-hop and the streets that he so rightfully earned throughout his career, while the latter was an account of his rise to fame in Crenshaw with a prophetic twist. “Probably die up in these streets but I survive through my name” Nipsey said, a line that would have served as an emphasis towards his legacy, but his untimely death altered its meaning with the satisfaction of a life well-lived, both in and outside of music.
Of all the posthumous releases, Nipsey’s feature on the title track of Mustard’s Perfect Ten reminded listeners about the Crenshaw legend the most. Placed over warm, feel-good production, Mustard interpolates two separate conversations Nipsey engaged in from an early-2018 interview on Big Boy In The Morning. Originally an enlightening discussion, Nipsey’s words now echo as poignant tellings of an authentically ran marathon, one that was far from perfect, but rather ugly as one could imagine. With minimal amounts of actual rapping on “Perfect Ten,” the track’s dynamic allowed listeners to hear Nipsey speak to us with such eloquence once again, reminding us that the continuation of the marathon he preached about would eventually lead to greatness in the areas desired.
Pieces of his philosophies and wisdom can be found all throughout hip-hop. The patience to climb to hip-hop’s peak without conforming or overzealous clout-chasing can be found in Roddy Ricch. The attentiveness to life outside of music and the confidence to speak out in favor of the culture and against its vultures can be found in Meek Mill. An unrelenting passion for one’s environment and a lifelong commitment to protecting it from harm as best as possible can be found in YG. While his entrance into the music world arrived years prior to Nipsey’s, the creation of an empire and tending to its constant growth can be found in Rick Ross. The ability to be unapologetically one’s self without a care for the competition and other outside forces can be found in Buddy.
During the 2020 Grammys, Meek Mill and Roddy Ricch debuted a new song in memory of Nipsey Hussle, “Letter To Nipsey.” The song highlighted the pain both artists felt following his death, the pain they chose to put to good use in pushing forth his marathon ideologies. At those very Grammy awards, Meek and Roddy’s tribute to Nipsey would be followed by another from DJ Khaled, John Legend, Kirk Franklin, and YG, who all took the stage for a moving performance of the Grammy award-winning song, “Higher.” Draped in that same gleaming angelic blue satin suit, Nipsey’s voice echoed once again from a screen above the Staples Center crowd. Together with the heavenly choir that passionately sung and danced on stage, the reminder that Nipsey’s presence will forever inhabit our planet could not have been any clearer.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned in the year since Nip’s death, it’s that he’s very much with us. He’s in the Roddys, he’s in the Meeks, he’s in the YGs, the Rosses, and the Buddys who have made it their lifelong goal to plaster Nipsey’s message from the smallest walls to the biggest billboards and to keep going until the checkered flag waves in the air or until the finish line ribbon falls beneath your feet. So, how do we go on with Nip looking down at us? We continue the marathon he preached about and continue to put into practice the philosophies and wisdom he taught us during his time here.
Today’s anniversary of Nipsey’s passing marks the first of many miles without his physical presence. But, unlike most marathons, the finish line differs for us all. The true distance of this marathon is left to be determined by us as individuals following a true understanding of the marathon itself. Nipsey was a living embodiment of trusting the process long before Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers coined the term. A process that granted him a platinum-certified album in Victory Lap and two Grammy award wins. His slogan, “The Marathon Continues,” wasn’t just an inspirational phrase for his fans to follow him by forever and always. Instead, it was one to grant them the necessary tools to be able to venture off on their own marathon. Continuing without Nipsey Hussle begins with the understanding that he is in fact still with us, cheering us on from the skies in an All Money In tee or in that angelic blue satin suit.
Some artists covered here are Warner Music artists. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.