Nipsey Hussle and I Never Had The Conversation I Wanted to Have

Jermaine Hall
LEVEL
Published in
3 min readMar 30, 2020

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Photo Credit: Kevin Spence

Dear Level Readers,

Another Monday in quarantine. How are you feeling this week? I hope you’re settling into an effective routine, and that you’ve got some distractions when needed. This week is heavy on my end because it’s a reminder of how unpredictable life is. New York hospitals are overflowing with Coronavirus patients and the first responders aren’t sufficiently armed with the protection they need to safely save lives. Then there’s past lives lost. Tomorrow marks the first anniversary of Nipsey Hussle’s passing.

Some people have a standup pedigree. Nipsey, from what I understand, was one of those fine men. He believed in his product the way you’re supposed to. Why wouldn’t you think your album is worthy of a $100 price tag? Seems like simple mathematics with a built-in marketing strategy to me. Shawn Carter was so impressed with the move he purchased 100 copies of Crenshaw. To say that $10,000 is inconsequential for a billionaire is a short-sighted take — that’s just good business recognizing good business.

And that’s where I went wrong. I always felt there was a business transaction that I fell short on in regards to Nipsey. He came by the BET offices in early 2018, when I was an executive there, to knock out several editorial projects with us. He sat for a Rate the Bars episode, a franchise that featured MCs rating other rappers’ bars blindly. He then conducted an interview for a feature story, followed by a photo shoot. The entire time, no complaints from the notorious hustler.

A friend of mine had set this up as part of Nip’s torrid press run around Victory Lap. I wanted to personally thank him for the time, dedication to pouring money back into his neighborhood, and congratulate him on the album. Meetings ran into more meetings and I never made it down for that handshake. I also missed the shot.

I called Meron Menghistab, the young photographer who snapped that iconic photo, this weekend. Like Nip, he is also Eritrean. You know his shot well. It’s a profile picture of Nipsey on an electric blue seamless. Highlighted is his “PROLIFIC” face tattoo. We talked about how quickly a year had passed, and both agreed that the culture would find a way to detach from the constant COVID-19 news churn long enough to remember Nipsey the Great.

But what did he remember? How does he feel about the iconic photo he captured in minutes? “I felt honored to represent an Eritrean man, a black man, as an icon for our people,” he answered proudly. “A lot of images of people who we look up to aren’t made by our community, and when the world decided to triumph my images of Nipsey I felt a sense of pride — like ok, we see ourselves in this because I, a member of our global community, made it, and thought about making this image in a way that I thought would resonate with a true fan.”

We’re paying tribute to this mensch on Tuesday with three thoughtful stories. We’ll be digging into his philanthropic legacy, dissecting how the NBA memorialized his death, and remembering the music that introduced us to Neighborhood Nip.

Hope you have the time to give those pieces a read.

Jermaine Hall

Editor in Chief

On Second Thought

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Jermaine Hall
LEVEL

Jermaine Hall is a digital publishing executive. When he’s not running his two sons and wife from place to place he’s watching Lakers games.