Mario Tama/Getty ImagesThe life of Nipsey Hussle, born Ermias Joseph Asghedom, was celebrated on Thursday during a public memorial service in L.A. which brought out hip hop’s finest. Artists like Snoop Dogg, YG, Jhene Aiko and Stevie Wonder all took part in the jam-packed service at the Staples Center, which honored the critically acclaimed rapper and local activist.
The only previous time the 21,000-seat venue had been used to memorialize an entertainer was in 2009, when it was used for Michael Jackson‘s memorial service. The service started close to an hour late as people slowly trickled into the Staples Center, where Hussle’s casket sat onstage, surrounded by hundreds of purple, blue, and white flowers.
The ceremony opened with the processional song “Victory Lap,” from Nipsey’s 2018 album of the same name. It was followed by the reading of scripture by Minister Reid Rich and Pastor Shep Crawford and a montage of footage of Nipsey with Frank Sinatra‘s “My Way” playing in the background.
After a emotional performance by Marsha Ambrosius, who sang “Fly Like A Bird,” hip-hop brand manager Karen Civil took the stage to read a letter from President Barack Obama.
“I’d never met Nipsey Hussle, but I’d heard some of his music through my daughters, and after his passing, I had the chance to learn more about his transformation and his community work,” Obama’s letter read in part.
“While most folks look at the Crenshaw neighborhood where he grew up and see only gangs, bullets, and despair, Nipsey saw potential,” the letter continued. “He saw hope. He saw a community that, even through its flaws, taught him to always keep going.”
Obama ended his letter with the hope that Nipsey’s “memory inspires more good work in Crenshaw and communities like it.”
The Honorable Minister Farrakhan was next onstage, and shared some heartfelt words about the slain rapper.
“His life will go down in history as something that changed the world,” Farrakhan said. “He is what Bob Marley was to reggae. He lived the gang life, but he didn’t stay there.”
“When we celebrate Nipsey, we must celebrity unity,” he added to a crowd that stood to its feet.
Anthony Hamilton was next to pay tribute, singing the ballad “Do You Feel Me.” That was followed by one of the most touching moments of ceremony: Nipsey Hussle’s girlfriend Lauren London and his sister Samantha Smith came onstage with Nipsey’s children, Emani and Kross Asghedom, and London’s son with Lil Wayne, Kameron Carter.
Although all the children were scheduled to say a few words, it was only Kameron who was brave enough to take the mic, recalling a recent dream he had of Nipsey talking about paradise — which he said was really “heaven.”
Directly after, Jhene Aiko sang her song “Eternal Sunshine,” followed by more tributes from Hussle’s family, including his mother Angelique Smith, his father Dawit Asgedom and his brother Samuel Asghedom, as well as London and Samantha.
“I have perfect peace, I am happy, I am complete, I am strong, and if I can feel this way, so can you,” said Nip’s mother, who asked Nipsey’s father Dawit Asgedom to stand by her side.
During her speech, Angelique also recollected on her life with her son and how she was able to stay strong through the tough times, including domestic abuse from her second husband.
Meanwhile, Nipsey’s brother Samuel remembered how “intelligent” and “charismatic” his brother was as a kid. Nip’s sister echoed his sentiment, thanking her brother for “loving me unconditionally.”
Lauren London, accompanied by a few supporters, spoke about her partner’s passing.
“I had to write something because I never felt this type of pain before,” she said. “My pain is for my two-year-old that probably won’t remember how much his dad loved him.”
She ended her message by saying, “Until we meet again, the marathon continues.”
Soon after, Snoop Dogg and YG took the stage to pay their respects. “It’s a tough one right here,” Snoop said when he took the mic.
Acknowledging Nip’s mother and father, Snoop touched on how prolific Nipsey was, adding “for God so loved the world he gave us a great Crip, the late great neighborhood Nip.”
The service concluded with a performance by legendary singer Stevie Wonder, who called Nipsey’s death “a heartbreak.”
“In his short life he was able to motivate people,” Wonder said, adding, “I hope that we just don’t talk about about it, we be about it and make a difference.”
Wonder then performed “Rocket Love,” which he said he’d heard was Nipsey’s favorite song of his. He then segued into an impromptu performance of Eric Clapton‘s heartbreaking ballad “Tears in Heaven.”
The eulogy was delivered by Pastor Shep Crawford, who talked about Hustle’s time on earth as being divinely ordered.
After the memorial, Hussle’s casket took a “victory lap” with a procession scheduled to run some 25 miles though his native South Central L.A., passing his Marathon Clothing store, the location where Hussle was shot and killed on March 31. He will be laid to rest at Forest Lawn Cemetery.
As previously reported, after Hussle’s death, the acclaimed lyricist and father of two has been hailed as a pillar of his community.
His accused killer, 29-year-old Eric Holder, has been charged with one count of murder, two counts of attempted murder and one count of possession of a firearm by a felon. He’s pleaded not guilty; bail has been set at $5 million.
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