[The Marathon Clothing Store Opening Archival
Crowd: How you feeling today, Nip?]
JUSTIN TINSLEY: June 17, 2017, was a monumental day in South LA’s history. The corner of Crenshaw and Slauson was packed. Seniors, adults, kids, babies spilled out on the streets in anticipation.
[The Marathon Clothing Store Opening Archival
DEMARCUS COUSINS: The entire community was out there. The love in the building that day was like through the roof. It was was just dope to see that.
JUSTIN TINSLEY: It wasn’t just the neighborhood that turned out to support Nipsey. Some of his friends in the NBA pulled up, too. Like DeMarcus Cousins.
DEMARCUS COUSINS: I feel like the entire community was proud of, you know, Nip. Like, this was a huge stepping stone. Not only was it benefitting him, but it benefited the same exact area that he grew up in — which was everybody that was there.
[The Marathon Clothing Store Opening Archival
Event MC: It’s hot as hell — they say we act crazy when it’s hot, but we ain’t acting crazy.]
JUSTIN TINSLEY: They were all there for the grand opening of the Marathon Store — a project more than a decade in the making. A store that bore the name of Nipsey’s personal philosophy and that exemplified his belief in the power of never giving up.
MARQUEECE HARRIS-DAWSON: It just felt hopeful and victorious.
JUSTIN TINSLEY: Marqueece Harris-Dawson is the council member for the district that includes Crenshaw.
MARQUEECE HARRIS-DAWSON: The ‘hood came out. The elected officials came out. Everybody was there to celebrate. It’s the only time I’ve closed a major street in my district. We closed Slauson and nobody complained.
[The Marathon Clothing Store Opening Archival
Marqueece Harris-Dawson: Ladies and gentleman, the one and only Nipsey Hussle!]
JUSTIN TINSLEY: As Nipsey prepared to cut the ribbon and open the doors to the Marathon for the first time, he was visibly excited, beaming ear to ear.
DEMARCUS COUSINS: It’s not about just the reception or the love. It’s about the impact that you’re putting on that community. It inspired me to do the same for mine. I want to be able to bring back to my stomping grounds and have people receive me in that same way. I would be lying to say I wasn’t inspired and influenced by Nip.
[The Marathon Clothing Store Opening Archival
Crowd: Five, four, three, two, one! Marathon is now open, ladies and gentlemen!]
JUSTIN TINSLEY: From 30 or 30 podcasts and The Undefeated, this is the King of Crenshaw – I’m Justin Tinsley. Episode four: Neighborhood Nip
[Hard Knock TV
Davey D: Standing right here is a guy that looks like Snoop Dogg, but he ain’t Snoop Dogg. Well, you do. You do look…
Nipsey Hussle: I get that all the time
Davey D: What’s your name, man? You new and upcoming, but you’re at this summit. What’s your name? Where are you from?
Nipsey Hussle: My name, Nipsey Hussle. I’m from LA Slauson and Crenshaw area.]
JUSTIN TINSLEY: This is Nipsey Hussle being interviewed back in 2006 outside a hip hop summit in LA. It’s widely believed to be his first on-camera interview. He’s 21 years old, just a little facial hair, rocking a Seattle Mariners fitted cap, an oversized white tee, and a single gold chain around his neck.
[Hard Knock TV
Davey D: So, talk a little bit about yourself, man. What brings you up here up and coming — and you know, how come you’re not blinging and having all kinds of crazy diamonds and all that? I guess you’re here to get your money right, huh?]
JUSTIN TINSLEY: As the interviewer, legendary hip hop journalist Davey D asks the question, Nipsey grins knowingly. You can see he’s thinking something like, “I’m glad you peeped that. Now let me put you on game and show you where my head’s at.”
[Hard Knock TV
Nipsey Hussle: All that is cool for the image and all that, but all of them is liabilities, you feel me? I’d rather invest in some real estate. You know what I’m saying?
Davey D: Oh, wait, wait, can you repeat that again, man? You’re an up and coming artist — what did you say you want to do?
Nipsey Hussle: I said invest in some assets as opposed to trick off my money on some liabilities like diamonds, you know what I’m saying? Cars that lose value as soon as you drive them off the lot.
Davey D: So, you’re trying to, you’re trying to get land?
Nipsey Hussle: Exactly, homie. A real asset to take care of my people’s.]
DEMARCUS COUSINS: First off, you’ll never hear a rapper speak in that way. Let alone a young Black man. That right there just separated him from any other artist, any other leader. He was…I don’t even know what age, but from the looks of it, he looked like he was a baby. But to hear him speaking in that way, his knowledge is way beyond his years. People usually don’t get that mindset ‘til they’re 45 years old.
JUSTIN TINSLEY: That interview left a lasting impression on DeMarcus Cousins.
DEMARCUS COUSINS: And let’s just be honest, like, when it comes to our people, we get a little money and it’s about showing off. It’s about the jewelry. It’s about the cars. It’s about a lavish lifestyle instead of putting yourself in a position to where you’re not successful just in the moment, but on a long-term scale. For some reason, our people just, we can’t register that. It’s always about the moment instead of the long-term plan.
JUSTIN TINSLEY: The stories are familiar: young rappers and athletes blowing their millions on diamonds and cars. Burning through paychecks as soon as it hits their bank account. And understandably — if you come from nothing, watching the whole world flaunt its privilege in your face — when you finally get paid you want everyone to see it.
But Nipsey understood something: Money is a form of power — and poverty is a form of control. He also understood that Black people with financial independence scared America to its core. And that Black ownership brings freedom. Or as Nipsey and his close friends and business partners Cobby Supreme and Pacman da Gunman put it — you’ve gotta get inside the building.
COBBY SUPREME: We never owned none of them buildings.
PAC MAN: Right.
COBBY SUPREME: And we were seeing this neighborhood and we never owned nothing. So, we was big on like getting some money and going back in and try to buy the neighborhood back. And, uh, that also will enlighten the younger kids that’s growing up.
PAC MAN: Straight up. You ain’t got to work for nobody. It’s cool to be a boss. You ain’t got to be a follower.
JUSTIN TINSLEY: It was a dream that was blood, sweat, and years in the making. But eventually, Nipsey did exactly what he said he would. He got inside them buildings.
JUSTIN TINSLEY: But first he had to start in the parking lot. A parking lot on the corner of Crenshaw and Slauson, to be precise. A lot of life happened there. Some might say TOO much life. Here’s Nipsey’s brother, Sam:
SAM: He used to hustle in the lot and get kicked out from everybody in the lot on Crenshaw and Slauson. The lot ended up closing down because niggas used to be in the lot 20, 30 thick. Nobody will pull in. The tenants would leave, it was abandoned. So, that whole area was just boarded up and was just a hangout. You know, the homies used to pull in there and sell dope and used to get beat up. It was just like super gang activity.
JUSTIN TINSLEY: It wasn’t an easy place to do business. First, Nipsey and Sam sold t-shirts, socks, sweats and other apparel from the trunk of a car. They were young men out selling for 15 hours a day, making good money. But, that’s not legal. So the police, let’s just say, “intervened.”
Here’s Cobby Supreme:
COBBY SUPREME: He’ll set a table out and put the t-shirts on the table. We would watch the police snatch they shit up, harass him, and you know what he’d do? Go get another table and go get more t-shirts. And they’ll come snatch it again and he’ll get another t-shirt and another table and they’ll come snatch it again.
SAM: I remember they took everything and was like, “If you want to sell anything on the street, you know, lease a building out like everybody else and pay taxes.” And so we sitting there depressed like, “Fuck, man. We just done spent our last three thousand dollars on all this product. And they just took everything.” And then we just look across the street and in the same lot it’s a “for lease” sign. And so it just hit me like, “Okay, you know what? That’s a sign.” So we ended up calling and doing whatever wiggle we could do and we ended up getting the lease and got in there.
JUSTIN TINSLEY: A street hustle became a legal operation called Slauson Tees in the strip mall that sat in the parking lot at Crenshaw and Slauson.
SAM: And we had everything that we get. T-shirts, socks, wife beaters, boxers. Um, we ended up having eight or nine different colors of t-shirts, jeans, shoes. We just ended up loading it up. At that point it was booming. You know, we would look at each other and just be smiling and laughing, like, “Damn, this shit is really rolling.”
JUSTIN TINSLEY: The trajectory from Slauson Tees to the Marathon Store ran parallel to Nipsey’s rise as a rapper. Both were part of a grand plan for himself and the community. Buying his music was more than just buying a CD, and spending money at the store was more than just picking up a t-shirt. Which is why, as the business grew, customers saw they had a role to play in supporting Nipsey, Sam, and the whole team.
SAM: They liked spending money with us and with Hussle, you know, young entrepreneurs. So, they saw that they spend turn into something bigger and watched it grow. So everybody that came, from every different ‘hood knew that, you know, number one, they was going to be good when they came in a lot, they was going to get shown love. And also, they felt a part of the growth because they knew that they money and they support built this shit up bigger.
JUSTIN TINSLEY: Buying that building and opening the Marathon Store was a boss move by Nipsey and Sam. But even they knew it was bigger than them. They actually did something to keep more money in the neighborhood. Here’s Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson:
MARQUEECE HARRIS-DAWSON: There’s this economic theory called “leakage” that almost every Black community in the country has where Black people in that neighborhood make money and they leave their neighborhood to spend money, which is not a bad thing, except the neighborhoods that they go spend money in? Those people don’t come back to their neighborhood and spend money. And what the Marathon Store did was turn that on its head. So it said, “Okay, we’re going to create the value, but we’re going to make you come here to buy it. So, that business, that sales tax and all that gets credited to my space and we get to do improvements and we get to trim trees and pave streets and, you know, pay our young people to do work because of that investment. And so we…Black community has done this from the beginning of time, we’ve been creating value. This is one of the first models where we got to realize the value in our own area.
JUSTIN TINSLEY: Cobby Supreme and Pac Man saw firsthand Nipsey and Sam’s personal investment in the community and its people.
COBBY SUPREME: I seen, a lot of guys come home from, from prison and they come home straight to the store — to the Marathon Store and they get a whole packet. You know what I’m saying? I mean, it was something that, that Nip or Blacc, they didn’t have to do it, but it was something that they was big on. Like, if it was a young boy walking down Slauson and he probably was from a group home and had on some raggedy shoes, Blacc Sam would go to the trunk or Nip would go inside the store and they’ll go find a pair of Jordans and give it to the little boy, you know what I’m saying? Or give him some clothes. We was big on that kind of thing.
PAC MAN:] Yeah, they heart pure from the jump, man. It didn’t just happen when the cameras turned on and all that. You know, the love was there from the beginning — way before the millions and all that.
JUSTIN TINSLEY: But it wasn’t just the neighborhood that benefited. Nipsey was laying out a blueprint that extended far beyond his corner of Crenshaw and Slauson.
AMIRA ROSE DAVIS: One of the things that Nipsey modeled was doing it out loud, right? Like very publicly saying, “This is where I’m opening a storefront and this is why.” Very publicly talking about the responsibility to community, very publicly calling for a re-investment in the areas that you came from and not just to escape from them.
JUSTIN TINSLEY: Amira Rose Davis is a professor of History and African American studies at Penn State and co-host of the Burn It All Down podcast.
AMIRA ROSE DAVIS: For many NBA players, it was also an invitation, and a blueprint for being louder and visible with that work and the importance of that. It’s important to do this work and important to talk about doing it. And I think that that touches a vein in Black laborers who are entertainers, especially, because that has been historically one space of upward mobility that Black people have had across the 19th and 20th century, which is if you’re entertaining people, particularly white people, you’re going to have a pathway of upward mobility as an individual. Black entertainers have always had a road unfold before them that was an individual path. And the importance of saying, “I’m walking this road, but it’s a two-way street and that this is not just an exit, but it’s a return.”
JUSTIN TINSLEY: Nipsey and his friends in the NBA wanted to amass Black wealth. Because they knew the roads that had unfolded before them — even their very lives — could vanish in an instant.
AMIRA ROSE DAVIS: They understand their acceptance is conditional: that because they can rap or because they can shoot that they’ve been granted a certain, you know, “hall pass” to white America.
JUSTIN TINSLEY: Nothing brought that home quite like the case of Trayvon Martin.
News anchor: It’s the story that’s ignited fierce passions across the nation as allegations of racism and miscarriage of justice tear apart a small Florida town. Three weeks ago, Trayvon Martin — an unarmed Black teenager — was shot down by a white neighborhood watchman who claimed self defense. And it’s caused a public outcry that’s spread like wildfire.]
JUSTIN TINSLEY: In 2012, 17 year-old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed after making a run to the store for some Skittles and a can of ice tea. George Zimmerman — a former neighborhood watch captain in Sanford, Florida — saw a Black boy in a hoodie. He claimed self defence and was later acquitted. Trayvon was just trying to get home to watch the NBA All Star game. The case and its verdict evoked rage nationwide. But you know what made it scary for black men? The familiarity of it all. We’re all Trayvon.
[The Obama White House
President Barack Obama: This could have been my son. Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.]
JUSTIN TINSLEY: We’ve all been that young Black kid deemed a threat because of how we looked, what we wore, how we spoke. We learned early on what it meant to be a target — and for the justice system to do anything but live up to its own name.
The loss of Trayon’s life hit a nerve and birthed action from the NBA’s biggest stars.
AMIRA ROSE DAVIS: Because sports and Black entertainment spaces have been some of the most visible places that Black people have existed in this country, They’ve also been some of the biggest platforms on which to speak out on which to agitate for change on which to register dissatisfaction with the status quo. And so because of that, we have a long history of athletic activism — of sports being a site where it feels like societal tensions are being played out.
Show Host: The death of Martin has grabbed national attention. It has spread into the sports world. In fact, LeBron James tweeted a team photo of the Miami heat wearing hoodies to pay tribute to Martin who was wearing a hoodie when he was killed.]
JUSTIN TINSLEY: It’s easy to think sports are just about a game — what happens on the field or on the court. But there was a shift around this time — to something even bigger than the box score. There was value in seeing Black men with platforms — like Nipsey, like athletes, even President Obama — acknowledge their fear. Our fear. We idolize these men as superheroes, but no one goes through life without scars. America is a scary place for a Black man. Showing them publicly makes us all feel less alone. And that’s the real superpower.
News anchor: Trayvon Martin’s parents were in LA today to lead a peace march more than one year after the Florida man accused of killing him was found not guilty.]
JUSTIN TINSLEY: In July 2014, on the anniversary of Zimmerman’s not guilty verdict, Trayvon’s parents organized a peace march in LA to raise awareness about gun violence.
[Justice for Murdered Children
Organizer What do we want?
Organizer When do we want it?
JUSTIN TINSLEY: Nipsey Hussle attended the event at Crenshaw High School and talked about why it was so important to change the game. Why everyone needed to be talking about politics and social justice.
[Justice for Murdered Children
Nipsey Hussle: So, I think it’s a two-sided monster. Institutions like the police, like schools, need to try to finesse a little better and figure out, you know, how to work with the community that they police or that they teach in. And in our own people, we gotta lace our youngsters and tell them about, you know, “Think. It’s chess, it’s not checkers.”]
JUSTIN TINSLEY: Here’s Amira Rose Davis:
AMIRA ROSE DAVIS: This, to me, is the Trayvon Generation. Very similar to the way Emmett Till’s death galvanized an entire generation of activists that would form the core of the classical Civil Rights Movement. Trayvon Martin’s murder had a very similar effect across the board. On activists, on politicians, on teachers, on students on, on athletes.
DEMAR DEROZAN: It’s like, “Yo, we’ve been on this, but it’s just been home.” But since it’s everywhere, let’s use our voices to speak out on it even more.
JUSTIN TINSLEY: For players like DeMar DeRozan, something had been unleashed.
DEMAR DEROZAN: It’s our right to be able to speak on things when it happen. And you see so many guys do it because it’s our right to be able to protect our communities, people that look like us, people who don’t have a voice, people who suffer and going through so much. Who will we be to not be able to do that?
Protestors: Black Lives Matter! Black Lives Matter!]
AMIRA ROSE DAVIS: This next chapter of collective athletic activism that we’ve been seeing, it manifested in different ways. Whether it was on the stage of the ESPYS.
Dwayne Wade: The racial profiling has to stop. The shoot to kill mentality has to stop. Not seeing the value of Black and brown bodies has to stop.]
AMIRA ROSE DAVIS: WNBA players shutting down press conferences in the spring of 2016 saying they weren’t going to take comment unless it was about police brutality.
Reporter: So Tamika, I know we’re not talking about basketball tonight, so
do you have any other comments?
Tamika Catchings: No comment.]
AMIRA ROSE DAVIS: Whether it was NBA players, WNBA players, college basketball players wearing “I can’t breathe shirts” after Alton Sterling was murdered. And of course, Colin Kaepernick taking a knee, which then made that a symbol of disruption and resistance that spread throughout the country to youth leagues, to college leagues, to pro leagues and beyond. That rise in activism is absolutely part of this generation that has been called to action by seemingly never ending images of Black death. Like athletes, Black musicians are part of this Trayvon generation. You saw a rise in songs and lyrics that waded into politics.
JUSTIN TINSLEY: Nipsey waded into those political waters in 2016 alongside fellow LA rapper YG, with an anthem called “FDT.” The song provided a call to action against the then-Republican presidential candidate — a guy many believe uses race, class, and economic stature as dividers.
AMIRA ROSE DAVIS: When you hear them, you know, with a song called “Fuck Donald Trump,” right, that talks about the Rodney King riots, that talks about rallying folks together in LA, that talks about Reaganomics, and the war on drugs — these very public pronouncements, whether they’re in lyric where they’re in a verse, it’s all about the increasing vocalization of discontentment with the state of this country for Black Americans and using whatever platform you have, whether it’s the pen or a ball to do it and saying, unequivocally, we’re not going to shut up and dribble, right? We’re not going to shut up and tap dance for you. We’re not going to just entertain you. We’re fully realized people in pursuit of our humanity and the humanity of our people. And what that looks like is what Nipsey does. What that looks like is what NBA players have been doing. It’s that simple assertion that I’m fully human and I have a voice and the ability to do it.
JUSTIN TINSLEY: Once the election was over, one of the loudest voices criticizing this new generation of activist-athletes was now the man inside the White House. And like Nipsey and YG, star players in the NBA weren’t shy about sharing their opinion of Donald Trump.
[NBA Media Day Press Conference
Reporter: Is there any regret that you got into a name-calling situation with the President?
LeBron James: No. Name calling? What did I say? Let me hear you say it.
Reporter: You called him a bum.]
JUSTIN TINSELY: In 2017 when President Trump un-invited the Golden State Warriors to a traditional champions meet and greet at the White House after Stephen Curry said he wouldn’t attend, LeBron James very famously tweeted “u bum” at the President.
[NBA Media Day Press Conference
LeBron James: It’s not a name call. You bum. Me and my friends call each other that all the time. I’m not his friend though.]
JUSTIN TINSELY: It was funny. It went viral. It pissed some people off. Just like YG and Nipsey’s banger, it was short, sweet and directly to the point. And, like most successful forms of protest, it let LeBron speak his truth:
[NBA Media Day Press Conference
LeBron James: That’s what makes me more sick than anything. It’s the most powerful position in the world and we are at a time where the most powerful position in the world has an opportunity to bring us closer together as a people and inspire the youth and put the youth at ease on saying that it is okay for me to walk down the street and not be judged because the color of my skin or because of my race and he doesn’t even care — maybe he does, but he doesn’t care.]
JUSTIN TINSELY: After fear, after protest, comes the unsexy part: building the bridge for others to walk across. Not just calling the play, but running it to perfection. This is the part of the marathon that inspired NBA players. And guys like myself, whose last good crossover was probably on NBA 2k11.
[CBS 2 LA
News Anchor: A rap star and another man from the Crenshaw district have teamed up to give back to their community.
News anchor: The space offers something for the next generation of business leaders.]
JUSTIN TINSELY: In February 2018 — the same week Victory Lap dropped and All Star Weekend took over Los Angeles — Nipsey was involved in opening a new space, just around the corner from the Marathon Store. It was the idea of real estate developer David Gross — he brought the project to Nipsey because he saw how active he was in reshaping the community.
DAVID GROSS: If I have to give it a formal name and what it is. It was, it was a coworking space and kind of small business incubator
JUSTIN TINSELY: The building was split in two: a STEM program for kids called Too Big To Fail. And for entrepreneurs, there was Vector 90.
DAVID GROSS: Really, we just wanted to create a hub — this communal space — for young dynamic, old dynamic people in the neighborhood, a space that felt like it was designed intentionally for them.
JUSTIN TINSELY: It was built by Black people from the inner city for Black people from the inner city
Nipsey Hussle: One of the requirements is that you come from this part of LA in order to actually rent the space.]
JUSTIN TINSELY: The goal was both ambitious and simple: get Black people from the hood into the Silicon Valley game.
[Big Boy TV
Nipsey Hussle: All of the jobs in Silicon Valley require STEM knowledge. So, if you’re gonna go work at Google, Facebook, anyone of these billion dollar companies that have very, very little diversity and that will hire just based on there’s not a lot of qualified people that come from our ethnic backgrounds, it’s important because they saying that there’s no pipeline that these kids got to learn so early that public inner city schools are not training them to go be a part of Silicon Valley. So, the idea for Too Big to Fail is that we’ll be a bridge in between Silicon Valley and the inner city.]
JUSTIN TINSELY: Where so much of Nipsey’s entrepreneurial endeavors had been about today, everything about Vector90 and Too Big To Fail was about tomorrow.
This had been important to Nipsey for a long time — creating opportunities that would improve things in the long-run — create generational wealth. And it was just as important to his partner, David Gross.
Like Nipsey, David grew up in South LA. But his family left when he was 10 years old — because of the gang violence. As an adult he returned to Southern California and sought ways to change the hood for the better.
DAVID GROSS: And for me, you know, I spent my whole life learning the art and science of being an investor. So, it would not have been genuine or authentic, or kind of native to me to try to start a rec center or community center, or kind of be a preacher-activist type. So, for me, it had to be something in my world. So, it had to be something that was related to investment and education in our community.
JUSTIN TINSELY: Nipsey and Gross teamed up to do something tangible. To create the opportunities that would make a real difference for future generations.
DEMAR DEROZAN: That’s what it always was about for him, you know, it was always a constant conversation of, “How can we do this? How can we motivate? How can we inspire the next set of guys that didn’t have nobody?”
JUSTIN TINSELY: Weeks before Nipsey’s death in March 2019, DeMar DeRozan and Nipsey got together for dinner.
DEMAR DEROZAN: We was at a house. It was me, James Harden, a couple of close friends from the city, and we just having our normal eating, talking, just trying to figure out ways how we can do something special.
JUSTIN TINSELY: For the two friends from Crenshaw and Compton, their conversations often centered around these questions of how to make a difference.
DEMAR DEROZAN: For us it was never nothing about sports. It was all about how we could better our city.
JUSTIN TINSELY: They plotted together on what making a difference would actually look like.
DEMAR DEROZAN: Man, it was owning and us being the one that controlled the narrative when it came to the city, of us just being Black men being an inspiration, being the ones, people from the inner city look up to be motivated by. Putting the power in our own hands to dictate and show what it really takes to be one of us and not be held back because of something else or the system or whatever it may be.
JUSTIN TINSELY: DeMar had thoughts about starting a clothing line of his own, an idea that would eventually become Comp10 — a combination of his hometown and his jersey number. The business gives back to his community, in the same way Nipsey gave back through the Marathon.
DEMAR DEROZAN: Just me watching that and being kind of inspired from his movement and pushing part of his city, where he was from. And, you know, he had the Slauson hoodies. All that was dope. He was definitely an inspiration for me to want to carry it over for my section, for sure.
JUSTIN TINSELY: DeMar left dinner that night in 2019 excited and inspired to get started. Meanwhile, Nipsey was looking ahead to an April 1st meeting with the LAPD to discuss ways to curb gang violence and help kids.
And there’s the tragedy. So many ideas were in the air, so much potential for Crenshaw. For LA. Two weeks after that dinner with DeMar, and the day before meeting with the police, Nipsey was dead.
This sudden, violent end felt particularly unfair. It still does.
DEMARCUS COUSINS: You know, embracing home, embracing your roots and all of that is almost the same thing that killed him. I don’t know, the same thing that he loved the most is the same thing, you know, that basically killed him.
DEMARCUS COUSINS: For DeMarcus Cousins and so many who looked up to and loved Nipsey, it’s even harder that it happened on Nipsey’s own turf. But even in death, he’s still putting Crenshaw on his back. He’s still helping Black folks build wealth and the ability to shape their own destiny.
[LA This Week
Reporter: I’m here on historic Crenshaw Boulevard where the project Destination Crenshaw will start on 48th Street and span one-point-three miles to 60th street.]
JUSTIN TINSELY: In February 2020, a project close to his heart broke ground.
Event MC: Good evening, good afternoon! Are you out there? Hello, hello, hello! [cheers] there you are! This is a celebration, you are here…]
JUSTIN TINSELY: Destination Crenshaw was four years in the making. The 100 million dollar initiative is 1.3 miles of Blackness right through the Crenshaw Corridor. The stretch of new parks, community spaces and original art is designed to be a celebration of the area’s rich history in arts, Black history and Black culture.
An extension of the LA Metro Rail from LAX airport to downtown — it would pass right through Crenshaw — a major disruption for business owners in the area. Many saw it as a problem. But Nipsey saw opportunity. LA councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson:
MARQUEECE HARRIS-DAWSON: Nipsey said, “We need Crenshaw to be the destination, not the pass through.” Not the way you get to where else you’re going. We hash-tagged Destination Crenshaw that day, or the next day. It blew up and then it got the name Destination Crenshaw.
JUSTIN TINSELY: Once complete, an estimated five million people a year are expected to use the line through Crenshaw. And that was Nipsey’s ultimate goal: to introduce people to the area, but also keep Crenshaw, Crenshaw. Here’s culture critic Gerrick Kennedy:
GERRICK KENNEDY: It’s going to be impossible to talk about the history of South LA and not at all mention Nip, especially that day when Destination Crenshaw opened and you see this gorgeous artwork up and down this corridor, you know, that this man was a part of bringing into fruition. Then you also see his image everywhere you go. And I love that. I love finding a new mural of him almost on a weekly basis now it seems. But just seeing him everywhere, I think is going to not only define him, it’s going to define South LA.
DEVI BROWN: I just mourn the fact that we couldn’t have seen more of who he was becoming. Look at what he did with his life in such a short amount of time. Look at the foundation he built.
JUSTIN TINSELY: For Devi Brown, Nipsey was always looking ahead.
DEVI BROWN: I think he left us, especially Black men, a blueprint for what worthiness looks like. What greatness looks like. What impact, what service, what visionary creativity can be. Also, what steady resilience looks like. You know, I’m just in awe of the way he carried himself for the over 10 years that I knew him. I’m in awe of it.
JUSTIN TINSELY: Nipsey’s Marathon continues. And for his brother, Sam, that’s the most important thing.
SAM: The Marathon continues, man. The legacy of Nipsey, the inspiration, kind of, the blueprint of hard work pays off. And there’s no shortcuts. Just the mentality that bro brought and demonstrated — it’s going to be like, you know, a fable or like a William Wallace, you know, Braveheart, or like, you know, Malcolm X type of inspirational figure. The things he put his energy towards, it wasn’t for himself. It was, you know, for the greater cause and for, for other people around, ‘cause when you look at that and you see Hussle’s journey, it’s just going to make you understand that you can do the same thing. And you can do it with pride, respect, morals. You don’t have to water down your integrity trying to gain something very quick. You don’t have to sell yourself short or sell your talents out. You can take the hard, long road, build it and reap the benefits and also teach others how to do the same thing.
JUSTIN TINSELY: There’s still work to be done. Here’s Amira Rose Davis again:
AMIRA ROSE DAVIS: I think Nipsey certainly planted seeds. I think his friends in the NBA continue to water them. I think activists continue to foster, uh, new visions for liberation and for Black freedom and for a just future. It’s really about the community. It’s bringing everybody along and in the process, it’s running to a new future that perhaps we can’t even see, ‘cause we haven’t imagined it yet, but giving ourselves the space to, in Nipsey’s model, perhaps, think about possibilities that aren’t there yet.
JUSTIN TINSELY: That idea of “Nipsey’s Marathon” continues to inspire and motivate his friends around the NBA. They’ve had to keep pushing forward, taking their wins and their losses, in a game where fortunes can change in an instant. That can be as heartbreaking as it is glorious.
Isaiah Thomas is the definition of a marathon runner. After injuries hampered his career following that legendary season in Boston, IT is still running his race. He’s bounced around the league, from Cleveland, to LA, Denver, Washington and New Orleans. He has a tattoo of one of Nipsey’s lyrics from “Racks In The Middle: ”I been climbing battles up a steep hill,” it reads. That ink is a reminder that quitting isn’t an option. And that life is bigger than the game that changed his life.
ISAIAH THOMAS: I got a production company called Slow Grind Media. I think piggy-backs what The Marathon is about. Also, with my media production company I own my own content. That relates to what he owned his own masters and his publishing and all that. When I was in Boston and I was in the MVP race and hitting the All Stars and I was healthy, I didn’t realize how much power I had. To be able to do things on my own and to be able to inspire so many people to what I was doing and to be able to get people to relate to my story and what, you know, what I been through and what my life is about and what my career is about. And I think I got most of that from him. I don’t even know if he realized how big he was, if he realized how many people related to what he was speaking on, how many people he inspired. And I just hope he was able to, you know, see how big and how influential he was to athletes, to the everyday person that’s working a nine-to-five. Like, bruh, you moved people that you probably didn’t realize you moved.
JUSTIN TINSELY: Nipsey not being here is something Demarcus Cousins still struggles with. He’ll carry the responsibility of his friend’s legacy for the rest of his life. In his eyes, he owes Nipsey that much.
DEMARCUS COUSINS: And I’m going to be honest, ‘til this day, it was never any closure for me. Like, I wasn’t able to be there and say my goodbye… whatever the case may be. So, for me, I stayed in that blank space when it came to that situation and I just kind of dealt with it like that. I still, to this day, haven’t accepted it. When I tell you, like, I’ll never accepted…I don’t even really talk about it. I don’t talk about. Like, I don’t talk about it. Nah. That’s not really, this is really my first time going into detail outside of my two of my best friends who also grew up with Nip. Like, outside of that, I don’t really speak on Nip. So I really don’t like to…
JUSTIN TINSELY: But what made you decide to want to speak for this? Like what, what was it that was like, “All right, I’ll do this?”
DEMARCUS COUSINS: Um It was more so for Nip’s legacy. I want to bring as much light and positivity and, like, he deserves this. He deserves his flowers. He deserved ‘em when he was alive and he damn sure deserves ‘em now. We need to celebrate this guy because he was one of our superheroes. He deserves this.
JUSTIN TINSELY: When Nipsey died a piece of me did, too. I haven’t really been the same since. It’s hard to explain, but I feel it as I say these words right now. So when DeMarcus said that Nipsey deserves this, I felt that.
What I lost will never compare to those who loved the man firsthand. But one thing I’ve come to understand is that grief is like a fingerprint — it looks different on everyone. Grief doesn’t have a time limit, and in a way grief never goes away. We just learn to live with a part of us not physically here anymore. That’s called resilience. The most powerful thing we can do with our lives is to make it speak for us in death. It says far more than my words ever could, the number of people around Nipsey who have vowed to continue his m arathon. And run their own.
ISAIAH THOMAS: I “at” his name every morning. I say “top of the top” on Twitter. Like, all of that, that’s something I try to keep alive. You know, life is really a marathon.
You know, you have your good laps, you got your bad laps. You got, you know, when you tired, when you’re feeling great, but it’s still the same race from, you know, start to finish. And that’s, that’s what he was, you know, pushing and I felt like I was on the same tip.
DEMARCUS COUSINS: This life is a marathon, man. Life is a marathon. That alone — how many people you know had that mindset? I know before a lot of this even came about, I mean, you would be in a bad situation, you would feel like you at your lowest or you’re at your worst and life is over. It’s like, “Nah, this is a bad day. You got a bunch of great days ahead of you. And you got a bunch of more bad days ahead of you.” That’s life, man. That is life. That was his everyday message. The Marathon continues. And it will.
Reporter and Host: Justin Tinsley
Senior Producer: Joanne Griffith
Production Team: Gus Navarro, Dave King, and Derwin Graham
The series was edited by: Julia Lowrie Henderson, Senior Editorial Producer for 30 for 30 Podcasts, and Steve Reiss, Deputy Editor for The Undefeated
Executive Producers: Erin Leyden, Brian Lockhart, Kevin Merida, and Raina Kelley
Additional Production Support: Meradith Hoddinott, Mitra Kaboli, and Eve Wulf
Original Music: 1500 or Nothin’
Mix Engineering: Ryan Ross Smith, Ben Tolliday and Garrett Lang
Project Manager and Licensing: Cath Sankey
Additional Licensing Support: Jennifer Thorpe
Development: Adam Neuhaus & Trevor Gil
Talent Producers: Chantre Camack and Sharee Stephens
Music Director: Kevin Wilson
Fact Checking: Roger Jackson
Legal Review: Alan Lau
Special thanks to the Estate of Nipsey Hussle
Audio provide courtesy of:
“Self Made” interview series hosted by Brett Berish, CEO of Luc Belaire, Bumbu Rum, McQueen and the Violet Fog and Villon
97.9 The Beat
97.9 The Box
ABC7/KABC-TV Los Angeles
Big Boy Radio Network
iHeartMedia’s The Breakfast Club
Genius Media Group, Inc.
Justice for Murdered Children
LA This Week
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