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LEVEL
Higher Learning. A publication from Medium for the interested man.

Inspiration

In LEVEL. More on Medium.

Reflections on the rapper’s passing

Nipsey Hussle on a boat with his left hand raised. A still from his music video for “Victory Lap”
Nipsey Hussle on a boat with his left hand raised. A still from his music video for “Victory Lap”

“Don’t let the water in the boat,” Nipsey Hussle told me on February 22, 2018, six days after the release of his album Victory Lap. “The boat’ll never go down if you don’t let the water in the boat.” It was advice he shared with his daughter sometimes, wise words to hang onto when facing any kind of adversity.

“And that’s just water,” he said. “You know what I’m sayin’? That’s just rough seas. We got a destination. We tryin’ to get across the ocean to the other country, or to whatever land on the other side of this water…


What I first considered a failure became an asset

Photo: Naruemon Mondee/EyeEm/Getty Images

Everyone will fail at something at some point in their lives, but failure need not be a death sentence.

I was probably overly ambitious as a teen. I wanted fame, stardom, and, of course, money. And I believed I had the stamina and mental strength to succeed as an athlete.

In 1992, I signed up for a boxing development program meant to groom talent for the national boxing team. The national boxing board had planned to build a solid Olympic boxing team in four years — in time for the 1996 games in Atlanta. Clearly, they shared my ambition.

The…


Thrift stores — and nights in my Corolla — led me to the power of books

Photo: bantersnaps/Unsplash

When I was 19, I threw a mug of hot coffee at a framed wall tapestry my dad purchased when he was in Italy. The cost in damages was a few thousand for the tapestry, a couple of bucks for the mug and brew, and my ability to continue living there.

The mug exploded, the glass of the frame shattered, and the near-boiling roast spewed out over the elegant threads depicting some fanciful 18th-century scene no one in the heavy air of that living room would ever care about. My dad, ever theatrical, called the cops. They came and cuffed…


As a magician of six years, here’s everything I’ve hidden up my sleeves

A closeup of a Black person’s hand holding four playing cards with their backs to the viewer.
A closeup of a Black person’s hand holding four playing cards with their backs to the viewer.
Photo: Hudzilla/Getty Images

If you’re an aimless 16-year-old, don’t tell your parents you’re going to become a magician. Save yourself the embarrassment. Tell them you crashed the car, maxed out their credit card, got your girlfriend pregnant — seriously, anything else. Trust me on this.

Magic is changing its image, but many still see it as outdated, geeky, and downright strange. It’s exactly why it became my passion in high school.

I discovered magic as a mixed African American kid. I felt like I had no place in suburbia. Then I saw my future magic partner, Giancarlo Paone, blow the minds of our…


The thing about rock bottom is that it gives you the perfect view of where to go next

Photos: Arvia D. Walker

When I was about 15 years old, my mother bought me a suede shearling jacket from Burlington Coat Factory. It was two sizes too big but I didn’t mind; this was the early ’00s, when there was a direct positive correlation between flyness and the degree to which you were swallowed by your clothes. Eventually, the jacket went out of style and into the closet, and wouldn’t see light again until I rediscovered it in college. It was still comically large but I decided to give it a shot anyway.

I lived on dollar store hot links and TV dinners…

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