Thousands of people are gathering at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles for the funeral of Nipsey Hussle, the Grammy-nominated rapper who was shot and killed in South Los Angeles, the same neighborhood where he grew up and was seen as a hero.
The memorial is billed as “celebration of life” and was scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. The free tickets for the event were claimed online within minutes of being made available earlier this week. The arena holds 21,000 people and was also the venue for Michael Jackson’s public memorial in 2009.
A procession will follow the two-hour memorial, snaking through Watts, Inglewood and South Los Angeles, passing by the Marathon Clothing store that Mr. Hussle owned and where he was killed last month.
Mourners from across the city are expected to honor the local hero.
LOS ANGELES — Thousands of fans are gathered in downtown Los Angeles on Thursday to mourn the shooting death of Nipsey Hussle, the Grammy-nominated rapper whose success and commitment to redeveloping South Los Angeles made him a local hero.
The majority of mourners at the event are African-American and Latino, largely in their 20s and 30s. Many are wearing Nipsey Hussle memorial T-shirts or the famous “Crenshaw” shirts that were sold in Hussle’s clothing store. Members of the Eritrean community are wearing traditional clothing with national flags on some of their clothes.
The funeral, billed as a “celebration of life,” is being held at the Staples Center. More than 20,000 tickets for the event, which were free, were claimed within minutes of being made available online earlier this week.
The outpouring reflects the depth of admiration for Hussle, who incorporated his upbringing and experience as a gang member into his music, which spoke powerfully to many who live in Los Angeles’ poorest neighborhood and well beyond. As his musical success propelled him in recent years, Hussle funneled investments and attention to the South Los Angeles streets he had grown up on, earning devotion from fans, neighbors and local leaders.
The Marathon Clothing store that Hussle opened on Slauson Avenue in South Los Angeles was a potent symbol of black entrepreneurship. The store transformed into a makeshift memorial last month after Hussle was gunned down there over a “personal dispute,” according to the Los Angeles Police Department. — JENNIFER MEDINA
Stevie Wonder and Snoop Dogg are among those paying tribute.
Stevie Wonder and Louis Farrakhan, the 85-year-old leader of the Nation of Islam, are among the big names expected to pay tribute to Hussle on Thursday, according to an order of service program distributed at the Staples Center. The service will begin with Hussle’s own song “Victory Lap,” the title track from his most recent album and major-label debut, as the processional, followed by scripture readings and a selection from Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.”
The R&B singer Marsha Ambrosius, who sings on “Real Big,” the reflective closing song from “Victory Lap,” is scheduled to perform, as are the singers Anthony Hamilton and Jhene Aiko, a Los Angeles native. Family tributes from Hussle’s girlfriend, the actress Lauren London, and others, including Snoop Dogg and the Los Angeles radio host Big Boy, are scheduled to follow.
Mr. Wonder is slated to perform his song “Rocket Love,” from the 1980 album “Hotter Than July.”
Also expected to participate in the ceremony: Hussle’s brother, Samiel; the hip-hop media personality Karen Civil; and the Los Angeles hip-hop fixtures YG and Mustard, who are serving as honorary pallbearers.
N.B.A. all-star James Harden of the Houston Rockets and DeMar DeRozan of the San Antonio Spurs also came to mourn Hussle. They wore white to honor their friend and fellow South Los Angeles native and entered with somber faces, not speaking to anyone. — JOE COSCARELLI
Crowds began lining up at the Staples Center hours before the service.
As mourners entered the Staples Center on Thursday morning, piano music played through the softly lit arena, a stark change for a venue that usually hosts sports games and concerts.
Alexis Short, 30, said she came out of respect for what Hussle represented in black culture.
“His music is motivational. And his interviews, his interviews, he would talk about eating well, taking care of yourself, giving back,” she said. “He was so inspirational. It just breaks my heart.”
Ms. Short, who is from Long Beach, said she first started following Hussle’s music in 2012 when she saw him at a small venue in Torrance, Calif. Wearing a jean jacket and sporting long colorful nails, Ms. Short, who was attending the service alone on Thursday, sat at a table inside the arena before the service started. She and others quietly flipped through a bound, glossy program featuring photos from Hussle’s life, from family beach trips to celebrations to red carpet events. — JOSE A. DEL REAL
Los Angeles is mourning Nipsey Hussle. So am I.
I keep coming back to Nipsey Hussle’s vigil — the thousands of candles, flowers and handwritten notes — left where the rapper and activist was shot and killed outside his clothing store in the city’s Hyde Park neighborhood on March 31. Every time I come back, I’m surrounded by a sea of black and brown faces and the sound of his music, which has now become the unofficial soundtrack of the city. The City of Los Angeles is in mourning.
Part of the reason his death was so shocking was that I believed that, in some ways, he was invincible. He often rapped about death, but I believed that Nipsey had figured out a way to overcome the often brutal realities of Los Angeles street life. That was not the case.
Nipsey and I never met, but we had mutual friends, and it always seemed as if I knew him. Maybe it was the sound of his voice — a blend of Southern drawl and laid-back West Coast popular here — or his style of clothing that felt like home. Maybe it was because we both grew up in the same era, both grew up going to the Fox Hills Mall on weekends, and both grew up shopping at the Slauson Swapmeet. Maybe it was because every time he spoke, I heard the city I grew up in: a community of black and brown people trying to combat daily bouts with hardship and loss with unyielding joy and love.
The City of Los Angeles appreciated Nipsey for so many reasons: He was an activist who supported his community and gave back — without boasting about it on social media — in ways that continue to be revealed as each day passes. Nipsey unapologetically believed in Los Angeles and represented it at a time when so many of the people and landmarks that we grew up with have changed or have closed down. Every time he rapped about Crenshaw or Slauson Boulevard in a song, he preserved our memory of it, even as the city’s landscape changes and leaves many of us wondering what’s next. — WALTER THOMPSON-HERNÁNDEZ
A student of 1990s gangster rap, Hussle once sold his own mixtapes.
Nipsey Hussle may have only released “Victory Lap,” his debut studio album with a major label, last year, but he was already a veteran West Coast rapper.
A student of 1990s Los Angeles gangster rap, from N.W.A. and Dr. Dre to Kurupt and Snoop Dogg, Hussle started in hip-hop as a teenager on the mixtape circuit, often selling CDs in his neighborhood from the trunk of a car. He first gained some national attention beginning in 2008, with the mixtape trilogy “Bullets Ain’t Got No Name,” and after an ill-fated deal with Epic Records, focused on releasing music independently through his own All Money In label.
Like many rappers at the time, Hussle mixed original songs, like the synth-driven G-funk anthem “Hussle in the House,” with verses over others’ popular beats of the moment. In a slight rasp and distinctly L.A. cadences, he told street-level stories of gang life and growing up in Crenshaw with a wisened edge.
Hussle was also an inspired marketer, and his entrepreneurial streak made headlines in 2013, when he sold limited-edition physical copies of his mixtape “Crenshaw” for $100, despite it being available as a free download online. “When I think of the psychology behind what makes me purchase an artists album, it’s always a form of reciprocation,” he said at the time. “Almost like a token of appreciation after I experience the product.” Jay-Z bought 100 copies, and his company Roc Nation would go on to manage Hussle as he attempted to reach new commercial heights.
Though he never scored a Billboard smash or national radio hit, Hussle steadily released music through the 2010s, drawing interest from Atlantic Records. “Victory Lap” was released by the label, in partnership with All Money In, on Feb. 16, 2018, and featured appearances by YG, Puff Daddy and Kendrick Lamar. The album debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard chart and received a nomination for best rap album at the Grammy Awards, where it lost to Cardi B’s “Invasion of Privacy.” (After his death, “Victory Lap” would return to the charts, reaching No. 2 this week thanks to a surge of interest on streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music.) — JOE COSCARELLI
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