Gangsters come in all shapes, sizes, colors and dispositions. They don’t all wear colored scarves with a black and white paisley print, or three piece suits with a matching pistol.
There’s an Angela Davis to every Griselda Blanco, a Che Guevara to every Malcolm X., and a Nelson Mandela to every El Chapo.
Gangsters disrupt “law and order”, with either the best or worst intentions, and only have a fist full of fucks to give about how it makes society feel.
Nipsey Hussle’s funeral is today and most of the culture is still in disbelief that his death is actually a thing, the rest of the culture doesn’t understand why everybody’s so up in arms about a rapper getting shot like it’s somehow “Business as usual.”
Some people are confused as to why there was so much chaos at his vigil those first few days, and where all his new “fans” came from. But the outpouring of love for Nipsey after his demise should be a clear indicator that this is bigger than music.
To Live and Die in LA
People born and raised in Los Angeles, particularly South and East LA, are familiar with gangs and gang mentality like we’re familiar with the 110 freeway. Ain’t but about two degrees of separation between people who bang and people who don’t.
We go to school and party with people who bang. We have family from some hood or other. We’ve lost people we know to gang violence through either the prison or a coffin. Gang culture is historically embedded into LA culture.
To call their deaths tragedies would be slightly understating things because these men were hood anomalies, the likes of which we don’t always see in Hip Hop. And you don’t have to be a fan of either of their music to see why
Nipsey and Pac were identical in their desire to free their people mentally, emotionally and economically. But the impact these two men could’ve made were they able to live full lives didn’t mean anything to their killers.
It didn’t matter that they were robbing the culture of the opportunity to watch men who look like us rise above their circumstances, and at the same time, do everything they could to liberate their people. Because we all know Nipsey and Tupac weren’t going to half ass their contributions or sell out. Their love and support for their was and would’ve been authentic, all or nothing.
That’s the kind of power that terrifies some and exhilarates others. The kind of power that sparks revolutions and inspires gangs to come together in peace, gangs that couldn’t even be at the same gas station at the same time.
It’s the power of Huey P, Malcom X and every other black revolutionary who put their life and freedom on the line for their people, because what’s the point of living if you can’t live free. And what’s the point of being free if no one else is?
Rooting for the Bad Guy
Everybody loves a gangster but everybody doesn’t love every gangster. On a scale of Tommy to Sincere, we can all relate to a thug with the good intentions and some small sense of decency.
It balances out those instances where racism successfully created what those in power tried to convince society that we are - wild, violent and worthless. Once drugs , lack of adequate education resources and decent role models became the norm in inner city neighborhoods, we seemed destined to suffer.
These are the gangsters who run the world we live in. We’ll talk big shit about how trash those in power are, but when it comes to it we still respect their power more than our own.
But people like Nipsey show us that it’s 100% possible to be just as much a saint as a sinner, to give a fuck and, at the same time, not give a fuck - it’s makes us all the more human.
Those are the gangsters that truly make the world go round, who keep us moving forward are part of our evolution as people, they’re the disruptors who come in and shake shit up just to keep the world on its toes.
RIP to Nipsey and every other revolutionary gangster who was slain before their full potential could be realized.
Their existence, no matter how short lived, revitalizes those of us who’ve started to lose steam on our ambitions to be something in this crazy ass world.
May that renewed vigor give birth to a new generation and last a lifetime.