By Staff Writer Seth Tamarkin.
April’s 1st of this year began on a somber note upon news that rapper and community legend Nipsey Hussle had been shot to death the night before.
What made this death particularly shocking was that Nipsey was shot right in front of his The Marathon clothing store in southern L.A., the same area the L.A. rapper vowed to transform into a booming and safe neighborhood.
Hussle began as a Rolling 60’s Crips member who made critically acclaimed mixtapes.
After a trip to his father’s home country in Eritrea, Nipsey returned to L.A. as intent on helping his community as he was on making music.
Through the years, Nipsey has made himself a household name in L.A. thanks to many initiatives meant to prevent violence and help his community.
The day after the shooting, for example, Nipsey was supposed to meet with Los Angeles Police and discuss curbing gang violence and “talk about ways he could help stop gang violence and help us help kids” according to the police chief.
But, as surprising as his death was, the reaction afterwards from the rap community was less so. Like previous rappers’ deaths, including XXXTentacion and Mac Miller, the three major attitudes are looking for answers, controversy, and conspiracy theories.
Looking for answers includes seeing how the culture influences the actions of the killer.
After XXXTentacion was shot to death last summer, Jay Z vented his frustration on a song, declaring that the “streets is done” since Travyon Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman, still walked the streets alive yet young black rappers were being gunned down.
Similarly, many older rappers who have witnessed far too many of these killings urged rappers to adopt Nipsey Hussle’s message of promoting peace instead of violence in their songs.
While more sporadic, controversial statements are all-too common after these deaths as well.
Just a few days ago Florida rapper Kodak Black took to Instagram Live to say that he gives Nipsey’s widow “a year of grieving and crying” before he promises to make a move on her.
Within minutes, backlash poured in from OGs like T.I. to Los Angeles hip-hop station Power 106, who vowed to never play Kodak’s music again.
After the replies, Kodak backed off and apologized saying, “If I disrespected you, Lauren London, in any shape or form, I’m sorry, even though I didn’t.” Unsurprisingly, his apology was not taken too seriously.
Speaking of things that should not be taken seriously is the last pillar of grief that people experience when someone high-profile dies; conspiracy theories. Given his background, everyone was reasonably in disbelief that someone would have murdered Nipsey over a personal slight, which prosecutors believe was the reason his killer Eric Holder shot him.
This, combined with a general distrust of the police and government, had many people immediately proclaiming that Nipsey Hussle was murdered by the government because of the good he was doing for the community.
Even more troubling though was the conspiracy theory that pharmaceutical companies killed Nipsey Hussle because the rapper was producing a documentary on Dr. Sebi, a doctor who supposedly had the cure to cancer and AIDS before he was killed by pharmaceutical companies too.
Looking past the obvious inconsistencies, like the fact that producers aren’t the sole gatekeepers to a film being made, the theories are alarming by how frequently they were shared and believed.
Within a day after his death, twitter was aflame with theories on Dr. Sebi, despite pleas from Hussle’s friends to stop the nonsense.
What it comes down to is that coping mechanisms vary with many people, and with an important figure like Nipsey Hussle those different mechanisms are going to show themselves in potentially ugly ways. Watchmen author Alan Moore summed it up eloquently, saying,
“The main thing that I learned about conspiracy theory is that conspiracy theorists actually believe in a conspiracy because that is more comforting. The truth of the world is that it is chaotic. The truth is more frightening, nobody is in control. The world is rudderless.”
It may be easier to accept that a larger-than-life artist like Nipsey could only have been killed by a larger-than-life force, but that ignores the crux of what Nipsey preached.
Like Prodigy in Mobb Deep, Nipsey acknowledged that the streets were akin to a “war going on outside, that no one’s safe from”, but used his platform to vigorously make that statement no longer the truth.
He helped his community in enormous ways while also making incredible music, and that is what he should be remembered for.