If you watch closely the mourning of Nipsey Hussle, you will notice that it feels a bit different than that of other rappers who departed too soon. He didn’t just connect with people through music, but through a business ethic and dedication to positive change that is a very different vibe from many of his peers. Nipsey not only sought to improve the challenging community in which he was raised, but he espoused the value of ownership and wealth-building instead of crowing, “Chains! Cars! More chains! More cars!”
1. He Sold his Mixtapes for a Mint
Nipsey understood the value of scarcity, an important tenet of capitalism: Make it rare and the masses will pay. His 2013 Crenshaw mixtape was free digitally but he charged $100 for physical copies. He sold 1,000, with Jay-Z copping 100 of them. For Mailbox Money in 2015, he pressed 100 copies and charged $1,000 apiece. The more than $60,000 he made from that served as seed money for other ventures.
2. He Co-Founded a STEM Hub
In 2018, Nipsey and his business partner Dave Gross cut the ribbon on Too Big To Fail, a center designed to bring science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) to his Crenshaw district neighborhood. The goal in opening the center was to bridge the gap between the underserved community and the profitable STEM companies thriving in Silicon Valley. The hub is part-workspace, part-center for children. “Growing up as a kid, I was looking for somebody — not to give me anything — but somebody that cared. Someone that was creating the potential for change and that had an agenda outside of their own self interests,” he told the LA Times.
3. He bought real estate and opened businesses
The flagship store for Nipsey’s clothing brand, The Marathon Clothing, lives in a strip mall in Crenshaw where he used to sell his mixtapes out of a trunk in the parking lot. He and Gross purchased the plaza and planned on opening a barbershop and restaurant, among other businesses. Nipsey was killed outside of his store in the plaza; it now serves as his own Graceland, with thousands of mourners visiting to celebrate his life.
4. The Marathon Clothing Location is a “Smart” Store
When his clothing store opened June 2017, it did so as a “smart store,” one that incorporates technology – notably web apps – in the customers’ shopping experience. The app allows users to purchase content not found in the brick-and-mortar store and also preview Hussle’s music in advance of its release. “So in order for me to keep the value of the retail brick and mortar, it has to be a unique experience,” he told Billboard. “The goal is to be an urban Sanrio — Sanrio is a five billion dollar company. These are content characters that exist in the screen first and real world products were created around it…We haven’t seen that in hip-hop. We haven’t seen someone create a real world place where the brand lives, and there’s products.”
5. He was about owning your own stuff
Everyone knows industry rule #4080. Nipsey promised he’d never go down that path if he could help it: He created his own record label, All Money In, in 2010, following terrible record deals. He was inspired by the paths of Jay-Z and other music moguls who have ownership of their content. He told The Fader, “It’s really following the rules you learn coming up playing with money and bringing that mentality into music…just spend it all on growing what you’re doing. I bought equipment, built studios, and bought infrastructure. It might have been time to buy cars and jewelry for the age I was and the mindset of that age but it’s about believing in what you’re doing to the point that you invest in it.”
Dustin J. Seibert is a native Detroiter living in Chicago. Miraculously, people have paid him to be aggressively light-skinned via a computer keyboard for nearly two decades. He loves his own mama slightly more than he loves music and exercises every day only so his French fry intake doesn’t catch up to him. Find him at his own site, wafflecolored.com.