By John the CEO
By now, most of you have heard that West Coast Hip Hop entrepreneur and entertainer Nipsey Hussle (real name Ermias Asghedom, of Eritrean descent) was shot 6 times yesterday (3/31) at about 320 to 330pm PST in my hometown of Los Angeles at his Marathon retail store off Slauson and Crenshaw, eventually being pronounced dead at 33. LAPD reported there were 3 victims total. There are widespread speculations as to the circumstances surrounding his killing, from being gang related due to his past association with the long existing Rolling 60s crip gang (they were around when I was a kid back in the day), to his upcoming project under development to do a documentary on the late Dr. Sebi, a health and wellness revolutionary. Another interesting angle is that, in late Feb 2019, Nipsy told Forbes magazine that he had just inked an equitable partnership deal with Atlantic Records where they would be
…sharing everything: profit, masters,’ he says. ‘I was holding out for a long time for these terms. [emphasis ours]Forbes Magazine, Inside Nipsey Hussle’s Blueprint To Become A Real Estate Mogul
Some might argue this lucrative financial arrangement, announced just a little over a month before Hussle’s death and completed in late 2017, could provide a motive for wanting to silence an active partner. If the past is any indicator, this, too, will likely become an “unsolved” hip hop murder case in spite of finding the most obvious trigger man. Time will tell.
The timing is tragic, especially after I had just got through watching some videos about this young brotha’s business acumen just a week prior to his death. So instead of rehashing many of the discussions and theories bouncing around the internet about his death, I wanted to focus on the fact that I am glad a silver lining from his death is that a whole lot of brothas and sistas have rallied around what he stood for from a business and health/wellness standpoint.
Nipsey the Businessman
If you read my past article on another hip hop entrepreneur, Dame Dash, you will recall that Dame is a strong advocate of brothas and sistas being in business for themselves, and not relying on banks to “flip your money.” Dame raised his children to be entrepreneurs, not wage slaves, as he put it. Though he had a kinda arrogant, cocky way of putting this out there, I wholeheartedly agree. We have to teach our young to do for themselves. Nipsey Hussle is a perfect example of that ethic.
In my opinion, every brotha and sista who wants to avoid “working for the man” and not being limited to the 9-5 corporate grind should carefully study past hip hop entrepreneurs, including Nipsey Hussle. Nipsey gained respect in the music industry for being the first “fool” crazy enough to sell one of his early mixtapes, “Crenshaw,” for $100 each – and sold 1,000 of them, pocketing $100,000. Jay Z bought 100 of them. Where did he get this idea from? From the story of a restaurant owner who came up with the crazy idea of selling a Philly Cheesesteak for $100!
In other words, he thought outside the box, so Nipsey emulated that idea, and it worked. Why did it work? At first, Nipsey was going to do like 99% of hip hop artists do an upload his mixtape for free to a popular mixtape site. But after reading about that $100 Philly cheesesteak idea from the book Contagius, he realized that “free” is sometimes too accessible and not special, but when you charge an outrageous amount like $100, then a mystique surrounds your product, and people with the money and means get curious as to what sets you apart. And it worked! Music industry heavyweights like Jay Z took notice. Of course, your product has to be good once the big dogs get wind of it; otherwise, they will tell their friends not to buy it, and you will fail. Nipsey’s product was high quality enough to be ready when opportunity came knocking.
Another business lesson from Nipsey’s life is to always know your business before you do business. In the music industry, which I’ve been a part of for sometime in a few ways, the ability to make real money started dying once Napster killed the game back in 1999 (for those young whipper snappers who don’t know, Google it lol). And once streaming music sites took over, money really got tight as millions of artists have to compete for a slice of $9.99 a month of unlimited downloads. Being a smart brotha, Nipsey decided to monetize his music in smart ways. In a Forbes magazine article in 2013, here’s what he said about making money in the music business:
It’s time we acknowledge what we all know: the music is free,” Asghedom said. “We shouldn’t force people to buy it, what we should do is create different methods to monetize the connection.Nipsey Hussle in Forbes Magazine, 2013
I agree 100% and have been advising aspiring artists to forget about making direct money from record sales, especially with the majors. Learn the basics of marketing anything! Try to find something you can sell and use your music to draw people into your world of products. Even though major record labels monopolize music royalties, your fans are lifelong customers if you have great songs and a great image and lifestyle.
Young hip hop fans tend to forget how important it is to learn from the past. By ignoring the rich history of hip hop, you will repeat the same mistakes of recent failed artists about how to flip money using hip hop. Go back and read how Russell Simmons first got Adidas to sponsor Run DMC. That was the first major shoe endorsement outside of sports in history. (For more on the business life of Russell Simmons, click here). All because he created a lot of street buzz around the song “My Adidas.” But young artists who want to ignore this history are missing a valuable business lesson. P Diddy parlayed his music into a big clothing and other business empire. Jay Z and Dame Dash did likewise, as did many others from the past and present.
Fortunately, Nipsey was a smart hip hop entrepreneur who learned from the past. Part of that might have been his African heritage, where they learn from their ancestors. He learned from hip hop entrepreneurs like Master P before he himself got bigger in hip hop. He learned from the business of Jay Z as well. Before music, he used to sell shirts on a street corner. Police would shut his operation down. A tough black cop finally told him to rent out a store front like all other businesses, which he did. Slauson T Shirts was his first venture, followed by The Marathon Clothing. Dame Dash also came up by selling t shirts, and as you can see, t shirts are still popular, so perhaps you should start a Shopify online store and look at the various Shopify apps for selling t shirts online. Or sell whatever comes to mind.
An interesting story about Nipsey’s business motivation came by way of the LA Times which recounted a time when the rapper felt some type of way at how he and other neighborhood brothas and sistas were treated by the owner of Master Burger. The burger joint only had high top tables, but no chairs, presumably to discourage young people from loitering. Later, Nipsey would buy the whole building, resulting in the owner paying him rent. This pattern of buying out neighborhood buildings and complexes and turning them into economic revitalization zones was part of his plan to reproduce this blueprint in other major cities around the country.
Finally, Nipsey established a STEM program, 90 Vector in the Crenshaw District, to help Los Angeles youth in our community learn about Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics/Medical stuff. This is something that has been missing in many hoods around the country, so let’s be sure to work to close this gap. (For background on the STEM gap among black students, click here). There are many other business lessons to be learned from Nipsey, so I suggest researching him in your spare time.
Nipsey the Health and Wellness Advocate
As you probably know, Nipsey was actively developing a documentary on the life, trials, and death of Dr. Sebi. This is the same one who Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes of the famed girl group TLC followed, and there were mysterious circumstances surrounding her death as well. I won’t go into a lot of detail here as you can check out his videos yourself.
Nipsey learned a lot from the works of Dr. Sebi and wanted brothas and sistas to eat better. He was also definitely 420 friendly, and as many people know, there are actually healing qualities in natural marijuana if done properly. What a lot of people don’t know is that marijuana was not always illegal. Younger people take it for granted that weed is illegal, but go back and research the movement against it in the 1930s.
Why are the 1930s important?
Because this is when the massive pharmaceutical industry we know today started growing rapidly. Before then, natural remedies were common, even among black folk. I’ve done writings in the past on how before the Civil War, our ancestors know all the herbs and roots that heal everything. Among American slaves were all kinds of recipes for healing. If you read the slave journals, they describe this in detail. White people came to them for healing when conventional doctors couldn’t help.
But right after the Civil War, ex slaves described how white men in white lab coats (most likely from the north, since the South was devastated at this point) came house to house offering a white pill that is better than their herbs and roots. Of course, the brothas and sistas at the time rejected these strange white pills, but 70 years later, those white pills took over the medical industry, and we’ve been sick ever since.
Then a few decades later, brothas like Dick Gregory and Dr. Sebi came along to challenge that status quo. Both men disagreed with each other in certain areas, but both bucked the pharmaceutical system. Dr. Sebi proved on his own, in a case that went all the way to New York Supreme Court in 1988, that his methods can indeed cure cancer. Ever since then, he was a marked man, so that about 13 years later, Left Eye would die indirectly as a result. In 2016, Sebi himself would be caught up in an international intrigue of trumped up charges that landed him in jail, and not long afterwards, he died under mysterious circumstances.
This is a great story to tell that we all learn from, and Nipsey was determined to tell it in a compelling documentary. And now, he too, died mysteriously so far. Interestingly, a young lady who has been featured on CurveMonstersGlam on Instagram (based in Dallas) posted a warning back in late February, a month before Nipsey’s death, asking for people around him to protect him as she feared he might get killed for working on a documentary about Dr. Sebi. Was it prophetic? I’ll let you be the judge, but she “has receipts,” as they like to say in social media. Joe Budden, on his popular podcast, had also discussed in Feb. 2019 how risky it was to do this documentary.
I highly encourage you, young and old, to learn from Nipsey about business and health so that as a community, we can become better at helping each other.