Nipsey Hussle, born Ermias Davidon Asghedom, was an artist, entrepreneur, and community leader taken from the world too soon. Today his family and community are honoring “Neighborhood Nip” with a Celebration of Life memorial service in downtown Los Angeles, to reflect on an individual who, as so many in the media have noted, was more than a rapper. As a hip-hop head from LA myself, I had been following Hussle’s journey with excitement as he increasingly showed up as an activist — while I don’t believe you can say f*ck Donald Trumpin Forbes, Nipsey and YG proved you could on the radio — and investor — with a keen interest in supporting his South LA community.
It’s all too easy for people to speak for others posthumously and “claim” them for a particular social cause or action — we’ll never really know, for instance, if Martin Luther King would’ve organized on Twitter, or if Tupac would support gun control today. It’s incredibly tempting to claim Hussle as an impact investor, given the way he spoke so clearly about the critical importance of recycling money into communities for systemic change. “At the core, one of my original goals is to redefine what the streets expect,” he said in regards to his investments and dedication to uplifting his neighborhood.
Whether or not Hussle would’ve wanted to adopt the impact investor label, I do believe he wanted us to learn from his positive example. “I’m more focused on giving solutions and inspiration more than anything,” he shared in a 2010 interview. Here’s a few lessons I see from his work that can hopefully, positively influence the way we all approach investing in community:
1. Invest in ecosystems.
Hussle was deeply concerned with South LA communities, and in both Crenshaw and Hyde Park made investments and philanthropic contributions that spoke to the diverse needs of residents — he not only had affordable housing plans in the works, but was coupling that development with affordable, healthy food access. He made sure basketball courts were paved for children to play, and then through Vector 90 — a technology co-working center and incubator also offering STEM education — made sure those youth would be able to find jobs and thrive in their local community.