Lessons to be learnt from Nipsey Hussle
Rapper Nipsey Hussle was killed recently in Los Angeles. His death reverberated through the hip hop and gang cultures and the worlds of many throughout the United States and indeed the world. After growing up as a gang member of the Crips in L.A., Hussle made it out of the “hood” and became a renowned rapper. He made it a point not to forget his roots and reached back to the community he grew up in and gave back through a number of efforts including establishing businesses in the community. He could have left the neighborhood and never looked back, but he tried to uplift his community. Just days before he died, he had even met with the police department to discuss ways of reducing gang violence. Nipsey died a noble and notable death trying to do good.
We should all strive to do the same whenever there is an opportunity. Every death is an opportunity to learn and grow and I would like to offer some lessons from his death.
The culture is still a problem
It is great to be positive and noble to help your community, but it is difficult to truly experience the type of change needed in a very negative culture. Gang culture is not positive. Rappers continue to flout gang affiliation and advocate violence. Gangs sell drugs to the people in their own community. Numerous gang members have pointed out the dead-end nature of gangs and have noted that most of their friends are either dead or in jail. Even Nipsey Hussle himself noted this, so the culture is a problem. Can the culture become positive? Anything is possible, but if it is to change a greater effort must be wrought in achieving this change. Nipsey Hussle did well for his community but I have to ask you to objectively look at some of his lyrics and you tell me if this is a good base for positive community development:
“I aint nothing like you (fxxxxx) rap niggas
Hussle man a shooter, that’s a fact, nigga
Thirty-two, extendos in my MAC, nigga
Spend a thousand on some t-shirts up at Saks, nigga …
Murder rate increasin’ if I snap, nigga
Ain’t no hangin’ out, we tape y’all off and double back, nigga …
Chopper to his face, now that’s a wrap, nigga
Streets talk and that’s a rat nigga …
Servin’ fiends off the steps, nigga
Murder sprees for the set, nigga
All facts, ain’t no (mothafin’) threat, nigga
In these lyrics he is reminding the rap world that he is not a fake gangster (like some rappers who claim gang affiliation), he was a shooter (someone who shoots others for the gang when needed). He also talks about how many bullets are in his MAC (automatic weapon), says the murder rate could increase if he snaps, then says if the wrong people step to his crew or is a snitch they could get a Chopper (AK 47) to the face and that means a ‘wrap” (it’s over for him). I could go on, but you get the point.
Life and death are in the power of the tongue and if we want better, we have to say better. Words are the most powerful force in the world and lyrics should be used to do more building than killing. Cure the culture or cease the culture. If the culture wants to be viewed in a more positive light we need more positive lyrics to come out of the hip hop world.
More is needed
Nipsey Hussle tried to help build his community – and more rappers, athletes, entertainers and black people of influence need to step up to build communities. LeBron James formed a school called “I Promise” targeting inner city youth with a path to success through free education. Perhaps some of these men and women should look at establishing some type of business program for inner city youth, life skills classes, and gang prevention exercises. I have worked with gang members for many years and have friends in Los Angeles from the Bloods and the Crips and they all say the same thing, most of their friends are either dead or in jail. Someone has to realize that gang culture is a culture of death, and at some point, this issue must be addressed or we will waste energy talking about being positive.
You cannot sanitize a toxic culture without major changes to the culture. Hopefully the death of Nipsey Hussle will result in a re-examination of the culture and an agreement for change. The people who are mourning his loss, especially those who have the means to do so should step in and establish programs and ventures that uplift the young men and women who are under this negative cloud. I have personally done this and have seen many former gang members start a new life and become positive. I do not have the means to make a massive difference but there are many out there who do have the means and social influence to do something. We need strategic planning and implementation of programs targeting these communities. I say step up or shut up.
All things are possible if you believe
I was a part of producing change in the gang culture in The Bahamas. Through a series of programs including “Youth Alive”, “Holy Hip Hop”, “Peace on the Streets” and “Second Chance”, I along with others helped gang members change their lifestyles and created opportunities for them to move beyond the negative culture. Many of those young men today are pillars in the community and some are reaching back to help others. It’s possible if you believe. It’s possible if you are willing to work. It’s possible if we focus on doing what the master told us – go into all the world and make disciples. A disciple is simply a student. We have to be willing to teach young men and women and tell them the truth about life. Let them know that there is a better way and do what we can to show them the path to a better life. It has been done and can be done if we believe.
• Pastor Dave Burrows is senior pastor at Bahamas Faith Ministries International. Feel free to email comments, whether you agree or disagree, to firstname.lastname@example.org. I appreciate your input and dialogue. We become better when we discuss, examine and exchange.