searchsearch
Nipsey Hussle's Entrepreneurial Legacy: How The Rapper Supported His Community & Inspired Rap's Next Generation
Nipsey Hussle performing at the Power 106 Powerhouse festival in California in 2018.

Photo: Scott Dudelson/Getty Images

feature

Nipsey Hussle's Entrepreneurial Legacy: How The Rapper Supported His Community & Inspired Rap's Next Generation

On June 18, Nipsey Hussle's The Marathon Collective opened in his hometown of Los Angeles. GRAMMY.com looks back on the late rapper's multifaceted career that continues years after his untimely 2019 passing.

GRAMMYs/Jun 24, 2022 - 03:51 pm

Nipsey Hussle was an embodiment of his stage name. Born Ermias Joesph Asghedom, the rapper's hustle led to his rise through the music business ranks, from artist to mogul. His remarkable transformation — from selling mixtapes out of the trunk of his car to owning and operating multiple storefronts on Crenshaw and Slauson in Los Angeles' South Central neighborhood — was cut short after his untimely death on March 31, 2019.

Though Hussle is gone now, his legacy endures in both his neighborhood and within the rap community. In L.A., Hussle intentionally planted businesses to provide the impoverished area with an opportunity to grow economically. His ambition to succeed has greatly impacted the upcoming generation of rappers, like Roddy Ricch, whose Nipsey collaboration "Racks In The Middle" won the GRAMMY for Best Rap Performance in 2020. 

Despite his absence, the rapper's business deals continue to prosper at the hands of his family and team who are dedicated to his vision and legacy. On May 17, his estate hosted a special screening of The Marathon (Cultivation), a documentary on the late rapper's life and journey through the cannabis industry. 

Hussle first started growing and selling marijuana to fund his recording career, which led to running into troubles with the law. Once it became legal in California, he and his brother, Samiel Asgehdom — Hussle's main business partner — wanted to get ahead of the fast-growing industry; the two developed their cannabis strain Marathon OG with The Cure Company.

On June 18, another milestone was added to Hussle's legacy: the grand opening of The Marathon Collective, a THC and CBD retail store in Canoga Park, Los Angeles. This was a huge victory given that Nipsey, his brother Samiel Asgehdom, Adam Andebrhan, and the late Stephen Donelson had been attempting to get their cannabis license since 2017.

Nipsey Hussle Marathon Collective Store photo

Photo: Edgar Medina & Hugo Aguilar

"Through the ups and downs, whatever we were doing, the key was not about money but trying to make our business work,'' Asghedom told GRAMMY.com at the store opening. "So, whether [the Marathon Collective] becomes a billion-dollar or a thousand-dollar company, what Nipsey thrived on, and what we also do, is to ensure that everyone has a job and a legitimate opportunity."

Hussle's father, Dawit Asghedom, joined Samiel in helping to uphold the late rapper's ambitions and also attended the grand opening. "I hope this is an example to our community that when you start, there will be bumps in the road," Dawit told GRAMMY.com, "but if you continue, you'll achieve in any pursuits you have in your life."

The Marathon Collective is the second brick and mortar store of Hussle's. In 2017, he opened the Marathon Clothing store (co-owned by Samiel and his friend Stephen Donelson), which was an innovative "smart store" where customers used an app to gain access to exclusive content while making purchases. The building now serves as a memorial site for Nipsey, as he was fatally shot outside of the store in 2019. According to Samiel, the retail store has a new location on Melrose that the team is renovating, and it is expected to open in the next six or seven months. 

Long before he pivoted to a successful businessman, Hussle's knack for entrepreneurial ventures began with his career as a rapper. He got his first shot at a musical career in 2008 when he signed with Epic Records. However, after Epic experienced financial difficulties in 2010, Nipsey chose not to renew his contract and left the label — but instead of being discouraged, Hussle seized the opportunity to build his name and brand his way. He established his own label, All Money In, in 2010, rather than looking for one to help him launch his career. Soon after, he released his mixtape The Marathon.

The Marathon is a mantra that essentially became Hussle's brand, and serves as a metaphor for the journey of life. A marathon takes time; ultimately, it's about striding with patience and perseverance. Hussle never glamorized entrepreneurship; he always depicted it truthfully in his music: "I'll say it's worth it, I won't say it's fair," he raps on the title track of his 2018 album Victory Lap. "Find your purpose, or you're wasting air."

While Victory Lap proved to be a commercial win — it peaked at No. 2 on the all-genre Billboard 200 albums chart and earned a GRAMMY nomination for Best Rap Album in 2019 —  Hussle prioritized ownership and authenticity as opposed to focusing on mainstream success. He used music to explain who he was and how he grew up, meanwhile maintaining control over his masters. 

"There were many opportunities for Nipsey's career to take off commercially and be more mainstream, but he followed a mantra that we still practice daily, brand before business,'' Jorge Peniche, longtime friend and business partner of Nipsey Hussle, told GRAMMY.com. "He wanted success on his terms — not only for himself, but for people who were with him from the beginning." 

Hussle proved that a loyal, core following was valuable through his Proud 2 Pay campaign — a marketing strategy for his mixtape, Crenshaw. Hussle sold 1,000 physical copies of his highly anticipated mixtape for $100. He believed that because he had such a strong connection with his fans and community, people would be proud to pay for this body of work, and he was right. 

Read More: Remembering Nipsey Hussle On The Anniversary Of His Death: "I Just Wanted To Be Really Intentional"

The marketing strategy went viral, and with only three days of promotion, the albums sold out in 24 hours. Hussle's hustle went viral in the hip-hop community and gained notice from billionaire rap mogul JAY-Z, who bought a hundred copies.

"The whole thing is, we're going to make all these young n<em></em> say f<em></em><em> these labels, "said Hussle in a statement he released via YouTube. "Once the culture changes with these artists' expectations, what will the labels do? They're going to do one of two things — give n</em>* better deals, or they will crumble and turn into Blockbuster."

Hussle had previously introduced himself to the West Coast rap scene  with mixtapes like 2005's Slauson Boy and Bullets Ain't Got No Name (which became a trilogy of mixtapes, released from 2008-2009), but this campaign delivered a message. He was not only focused on producing hits, but also on building an empire.  Nipsey found a balance–– investing himself into music while also seeing the value in branching out into other endeavors.  

As his notoriety grew, he envisioned releasing his first studio album  with a bigger promotional push. This led to him signing a strategic partnership with Atlantic Records in 2017. (Although specific terms were not disclosed, it was revealed that it was a multi-album deal.) Hussle received major backing for Victory Lap, while maintaining complete control of his All Money In record label and its roster of artists — a rare deal for artists at the time.

But he didn't stop there. Hussle shared his success with his community again by partnering with entrepreneur David Gross to open Vector90, a professional co-working space in Crenshaw, in February 2018. The space aims to "anchor cultural and intellectual hubs for entrepreneurs and creatives."

Nipsey had 14 different businesses in total, spanning industries from restaurant to beauty. His work with inner-city youth was among his most notable efforts;  one of his final initiatives was building what is now the Neighborhood Nip Foundation, an organization dedicated to providing opportunities for young creatives in music. 

Months before his death, Hussle joined an investment group that planned to use a tax break provided by a recent federal law to rebuild his neighborhood and other forgotten low-income areas. He realized the gentrification that was taking over Los Angeles neglected South Central, and saw it as an opportunity to expand it himself. Hussle saw the beauty in his community and knew South Central also deserved to grow, but the hands that planted the seed would be from other musicians and politicians from L.A., not developers. 

What was important to Nipsey was evident throughout his life — especially in the final years, which he spent investing in and improving his community. Even though his life was cut short, he accomplished what many people strive for: a legacy that will live on after we are gone.  

Charting Drake's Unforgettable Path To 'Honestly, Nevermind'

DJ Khaled, Nipsey Hussle And John Legend Win Best Rap/Sung Performance For "Higher" | 2020 GRAMMYs

DJ Khaled, Samantha Smith and John Legend

Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

news

DJ Khaled, Nipsey Hussle And John Legend Win Best Rap/Sung Performance For "Higher" | 2020 GRAMMYs

DJ Khaled, Nipsey Hussle and John Legend take home Best Rap/Sung Performance at the 62nd GRAMMY Awards

GRAMMYs/Jan 27, 2020 - 09:05 am

DJ Khaled, featuring Nipsey Hussle and John Legend, has won Best Rap/Sung Performance for "Higher" at the 62nd GRAMMY Awards. The single was featured on DJ Khaled's 2019 album Father of Asahd and featured Hussle's vocals and Legend on the piano. DJ Khaled predicted the track would win a GRAMMY.

"I even told him, 'We're going to win a GRAMMY.' Because that's how I feel about my album," DJ Khaled told Billboard. "I really feel like not only is this my biggest, this is very special."

After the release of the song and music video -- which was filmed before Hussle's death in March -- DJ Khaled announced all proceeds from "Higher" will go to Hussle's children.

DJ Khaled and co. beat out fellow category nominees Lil Baby & Gunna ("Drip Too Hard"), Lil Nas X ("Panini"), Mustard featuring Roddy Ricch ("Ballin") and Young Thug featuring J. Cole & Travis Scott ("The London"). Hussle earned a second posthumous award at the 62nd GRAMMYs for Best Rap Performance for "Racks In The Middle." 

Along with Legend and DJ Khaled, Meek Mill, Kirk Franklin, Roddy Ricch and YG paid tribute to Hussle during the telecast, which concluded with "Higher."

Check out the complete 62nd GRAMMY Awards nominees and winners list here.

Remembering Nipsey Hussle On The Anniversary Of His Death: "I Just Wanted To Be Really Intentional"

Nipsey Hussle

news

Remembering Nipsey Hussle On The Anniversary Of His Death: "I Just Wanted To Be Really Intentional"

The Recording Academy celebrates the life of Nipsey Hussle, the late Los Angeles rapper, who earned two posthumous GRAMMY Awards this year

GRAMMYs/Mar 31, 2020 - 11:49 pm

Since the tragic loss of Los Angeles rapper, entrepreneur and activist Nipsey Hussle on March 31, 2019, his motivational music and inspiring message of investing in your community are continued by the many lives he touched. Here in L.A, you see countless murals painted in his likeness, his inspirational words reminding us greatness and kindness are not mutually exclusive.

Nipsey Hussle, Beloved L.A. Rapper And Activist, Lived As A Patron To His Community

In 2018, after a decade of perfecting his storytelling and flow with hard-hitting mixtapes, Hussle released his victorious debut album Victory Lap. It earned him his first GRAMMY nomination, for Best Rap Album, at the 2019 GRAMMYs. The week following the show, he released his final single during his lifetime, "Racks in the Middle," featuring rising L.A. rapper Roddy Ricch and powerhouse producer Hit-Boy.

At the 62nd GRAMMY Awards this year, he posthumously earned three more nominations and took home two wins. "Racks in the Middle" won Best Rap Performance and "Higher," a track he was working on with DJ Khaled before he died, won Best Rap/Sung Performance for "Higher." Khaled released the uplifting track, which also features John Legend, in Hussle's memory on May 17, 2019.

How Nipsey Hussle Transcended Hip-Hop, Starting In The Los Angeles Streets

Hussle's family, including his grandmother and his partner Lauren London, took the GRAMMY stage to accept his awards in two tearful yet celebratory moments. Khaled, Legend, Ricch, Meek MillKirk Franklin and YG also celebrated the rap hero with a moving tribute performance during the show.

"The biggest thing that he left behind in his legacy is to go the extra mile for other people and be aware of your community," singer Tinashe said in a recent interview. "That spirit is really important. It's important to bring people together. I think that's part of his message. It's looking out for one another."

Meek Mill And Justin Timberlake Deliver Uplifting Message, Honor Nipsey Hussle In Powerful "Believe" Music Video

That message of hope and community is echoed in so many others' words about Hussle; his positive impact is immense and immeasurable. It is reflected in a message from none other than former President Barack Obama. Hussle's longtime friend and marketing manager Karen Civil read Obama's powerful words about him during his moving memorial service:

"While most folks look at the Crenshaw neighborhood where he grew up and see only gangs, bullets and despair, Nipsey saw potential. He saw hope. He saw a community that, even through its flaws, taught him to always keep going. His choice to invest in that community rather than ignore it—to build a skills training center and coworking space in Crenshaw; to lift up the Eritrean-American community; to set an example for young people to follow—is a legacy worthy of celebration. I hope his memory inspires more good work in Crenshaw and communities like it."

The Marathon Continues.

GRAMMY Rewind: Watch Selena Win Best-Mexican American Album For 'Live' At The 1994 GRAMMYs

BET Experience 2018 Lineup: LL Cool J, Ne-Yo, Rae Sremmurd, SZA, More

SZA

Photo: Dan MacMedan/WireImage

news

BET Experience 2018 Lineup: LL Cool J, Ne-Yo, Rae Sremmurd, SZA, More

The BETX roster for June 21–23 also includes Chris Brown, DJ Z-Trip, Ferg, Nipsey Hussle, Kamaiyah, Ludacris, Ella Mai, Playboi Carti, and Wondagurl

GRAMMYs/Apr 12, 2018 - 01:09 am

The lineup announced so far for the three days of BET Experience 2018, leading up to the 2018 BET Awards on June 24, really does speak for itself. The first day, June 21, headlines LL Cool J featuring DJ Z-Trip, Ludacris and Ne-Yo. June 22 has SZA as well as Chris Brown and Ella Mai. Then a burst of emerging talent on June 23 lines up Ferg, Nipsey Hussle, Kamaiyah, Playboi Carti, Rae Sremmurd, and Wondagurl, some of today's most promising hitmakers.

SZA earned her first nominations as an artist at the 60th GRAMMY Awards earlier this year, going in with five including Best New Artist and Best R&B Song. A few days later on Feb. 6, Kendrick Lamar and SZA released "All The Stars" to YouTube, with now more than 97 million views. It peaked at No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart dated March 3, her highest charting hit so far.

This musically captivating list already raises a thirst to be there, and more details on BETX are yet to be released, including additional performers. The four days also include BET Fan Fest at L.A. Convention Center on June 22–23. BET Networks and AEG are the hosts and BET Experience is presented by Coca-Cola.

Tickets go on sale on April 18 and there are VIP packages available.

Catching Up On Music News Powered By The Recording Academy Just Got Easier. Have A Google Home Device? "Talk To GRAMMYs"

Nipsey Hussle, Roddy Ricch & Hit-Boy Win Best Rap Performance For "Racks In The Middle" | 2020 GRAMMYs

Hit-Boy

John Shearer/Getty Image

news

Nipsey Hussle, Roddy Ricch & Hit-Boy Win Best Rap Performance For "Racks In The Middle" | 2020 GRAMMYs

The late L.A. legend earns his first GRAMMY win for Best Rap Performance at the 62nd GRAMMY Awards

GRAMMYs/Jan 27, 2020 - 03:55 am

Nipsey Hussle, Roddy Ricch and Hit-Boy win Best Rap Performance for "Racks In The Middle" at the 62nd GRAMMY Awards. This marks both Hussle and Ricch's first GRAMMY wins, which Hussle earns posthumously. It is producer Hit-Boy's second career GRAMMY.

In a moving, tearful moment, Hussle's family accepted his gramophone.

"Racks In The Middle" bested fellow nominees J. Cole, DaBaby, Dreamville with J.I.D., Bas, EARTHGANGYoung Nudy and Offset with Cardi B.

Check out all the complete nominees and winners list here.

Behind The Board: Hit-Boy On Working With Beyoncé & How He Was Born Into Music

How Nipsey Hussle Transcended Hip-Hop, Starting In The Los Angeles Streets