The life of the iconic rapper Nipsey Hussle was remembered during a public memorial service Thursday at the Staples Center, with thousands paying their respects to the late rapper during a 41-kilometre procession through the city.
The Nipsey Hussle’s Celebration of Life ceremony was held at the 21,000-seat downtown arena, with services scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. ET.
WATCH BELOW: Thousands of fans attend Nipsey Hussle’s memorial
The memorial service for the slain rapper started with DJ Battlecat and a live band in a musical tribute to Hussle including his hit Victory Lap.
“It’s a victory baby,” DJ Battlecat yelled to those gathered. “The marathon continues!”
Following DJ Battlecat’s introduction was a reading from scripture and a slideshow of photos set to Frank Sinatra’s My Way.
WATCH BELOW: Nipsey Hussle honoured to Sinatra tribute
Pastor Reid Rich linked the rapper to the biblical figure Joseph before the photo montage started.
Marsha Ambrosius then took the stage sing a rendition of Mariah Carey’s Fly Like a Bird and mixed in her song with Hussle, Real Big.
Former U.S. president Barack Obama sent a heartfelt letter, handwritten on Thursday morning.
Karen Civil read the personal letter from Obama to the crowd at the Staples Center.
WATCH BELOW: Barack Obama’s letter of condolence
“I’ve never meet Nipsey, but I’ve heard his music through my daughters, and after his passing I had the chance to learn more about his transformation and his community work. While most folks look at the Crenshaw neighbourhood where he grew up and only see gangs, bullets and despair, Nipsey saw potential. He saw hope. He saw a community that even through its flaws taught him to always keep going. He choice to invest in that community rather than to ignore it,”the Obama letter read. “He set an example for young people to follow and is a legacy worth of celebration. I hope his memory inspires more good work in Crenshaw and communities like it. Michelle and I send our sympathies to Lauren, Emani, Kross and his while family and to all those who love Nipsey.”
The letter stated Hussle’s legacy is worth celebrating and Obama said he hopes Hussle’s efforts inspire “more good work in Crenshaw and communities like it.”
The Honorable Mister Louis Farrakhan spoke next. He called Hussle a “prophetic soul” and said that he will “become more famous in death than in life.”
“Our brother never left the hood. He loved the Rolling 60s,” Farrakhan added on Hussle’s gang ties.
“We will fly away with him to a brighter tomorrow,” Farrakhan said.
Grammy award-winning singer Anthony Hamilton took the stage next to perform, Do You Feel Me.
“We are here to celebrate a life that stood for love and unity. From this day forward, we will love again,” Hamilton said.
Hussle’s fiancée Lauren London took the stage with their 2-year-old son Kross who took the mic to talk to the crowd a couple times.
They were joined by Emani, Hussle’s 7-year-old daughter from a previous relationship, along with Cameron Carter, London’s 9-year-old son.
Carter gave a speech about a dream he had on April 2.
Jhene Aiko performed her 2014 song, Eternal Sunshine before Hussle’s mother Angelique Smith and his father Dawit Asghedom spoke to the crowd.
A video played featuring old footage of Hussle as a kid and a teenager.
Hussle’s mother asked the family’s ancestors to keep him safe on his journey to the afterlife. “We ask them to be there and ask that they guide and protect the family,” she said.
“I know that we are all divine creatures. We are all divinity within. We don’t need to look to the sky for God; God is within us,” Smith said to the crowd. “I have perfect peace. I’m happy. I am complete. I am strong. And if I can feel this way, so can you.”
“We call on the creator of everything and on Mother Earth who sustains us,” she added. “We call on the energies who guide and protect us as we make our way in life. We call on our ancestors to join us at this service.”
She recalled a moment when Hussle helped her as a child. They were driving and her car’s engine caught on fire.
Smith said that the engine on fire is similar to what is happening in the community right now.
“Our engine is on fire,” she said. “We are burning, but we are not destroyed.”
“I have perfect peace,” she said. “I am happy, I’m complete, I’m strong. And if I can feel this way so can you.”
“We have to be the light of change that we want in the world,” Smith said.
Hussle’s older brother, Samuel Asghedom took the stage next to share memories of the rapper.
“We are all proud of him,” Samuel said. “He loved everybody and he loved who he grew up with, where he grew up. He just wanted to inspire and always bring something back.”
He continued: “You made the world proud. Look at this sh*t, bro. … The whole family appreciates everything. I hope he knows how much I loved him. I know he loved me.”
London read a text message that she sent to Hussle while they were laying in bed together on Jan. 21.
“I’m in bed while you’re sleeping and I wanted to tell you something,” the text starts out. “I want you to know I feel real joy in my heart when I’m around you. I feel safe around you. Protected. Like a shield over me when you’re around. I am totally myself with you (which is probably why I’m annoying because I don’t wear a cool mask anymore lol). You’ve made me into more of a woman You’ve given me an opportunity to really love a man. You’ve been with me while I’ve been sick. Through my fears. You have encouraged me and inspired me to reach higher,” London continued.
“I’ve learned so much more about myself with you. You’ve been my turn up and my church. I wouldn’t want to go thru this journey with anyone but you. I look up to you in a lot of ways and stive to educate myself more like you have. And when we’re at odds… I feel defeated and sad, knowing we are so much better than that. I just want you to know that you’ve been the greatest boyfriend to me. You aren’t perfect but I would never ask for you to be. You and I work. We fit,” London read to the crowd.
“And… you’re still the coolest guy in the world to me. Still! I love you so much. Unconditionally. My truth is this. I’m never going to give up on you. My loyalty and devotion is to you,” she concluded.
Samantha Smith, Hussle’s younger sister, said that he “changed the game and everyone is going to move different because of you.”
“You were 33 when you died and it’s not a coincidence that Jesus died at 33 too. You were our Jesus,” Samantha said.
Hussle’s father Dawit Asghedom remembered the rapper as the baby who was born with the umbilical cord around his neck. He said his son still fought to survive.
“I knew that he was very strong,” his father said. “He was a fighter at that time.”
He went on to say that he believe his son accomplished his mission on earth.
“At 33 years old he had accomplished more than anyone else could have accomplished,” he said.
Rapper Snoop Dogg took the stage after Hussle’s father.
Snoop Dogg had the audience laughing with the stories he shared about the late rapper.
He shared stories of how didn’t listen to Hussle’s mixtape at first and how the Hussle in the House rapper told him to open an amusement park and call it “Doggyland.”
Snoop Dogg praised Hussle’s parents for raising him.
“I just want to say you may have lost a son, but you picked up another son in me,” Snoop Dogg said.
Snoop Dogg went on to talk about how Hussle crossed boundaries by being a member of the Crips gang but working with other artists who were members of the rival gang Bloods like YG and The Game.
“For God so loved the world that he gave us a good Crip, the late great neighbourhood Nip,” Snoop Dogg said. “Rest in peace cuz.
Rapper YG and DJ Mustard spoke about their close friend.
YG explained that while he and Hussle were from rival gangs, they were still close friends.
“That’s my brother from the other colour,” YG said. “He was like a real big brother to me.”
He said that Hussle used to give him books to read and he knew that the rapper wasn’t like anyone else.
“I wanna congratulate bro for his legacy … the motha f**kin Marathon continues!” YG yelled before leaving the stage.
Stevie Wonder spoke about gun control and meeting Hussle and London before he performed Rocket Love and Tears in Heaven.
“It is a heartbreak to again lose a member of our family. It’s a heartbreak because it’s so unnecessary,” he said. “We, to be a civilized nation, civilized world, we are still living in a time where ego, anger, jealousy, is controlling our lives. It is so painful to know that we don’t have enough people taking a position that say, ‘Listen, we must have stronger gun laws.’ It’s unacceptable.”
“It’s almost like the world is becoming blind,” he continued. “I pray that we will grow. I pray that the leaders who have a responsibility to perpetuate life will do it by making sure that the laws will make it so very hard for people to have guns and to take their frustrations out to kill life.”
“We love you Nipsey. God bless you,” Wonder said at the end of his performance.
The hearse carrying Hussle’s coffin from the Staples Center will then travel deep into the neighbourhood where the deadly Rodney King race riot began in 1992, and on past the property where Hussle had planned to turn an aging strip mall into new businesses and affordable homes. Finally, it will arrive at a funeral home in the city’s hard-scrabble Crenshaw district, where the rapper was born on Aug. 15, 1985.
Many people gathered outside Hussle’s Marathon Clothing store on Thursday, leaving flowers and messages for the late rapper at the massive memorial in the parking lot.
WATCH BELOW: Nipsey Hussle funeral: Massive memorial forms outside late rapper’s store
Hussle was shot to death March 31 while standing outside The Marathon, his South Los Angeles clothing store, not far from where the rapper grew up. The store will be one of the places where Hussle’s casket passes during the procession through South Los Angeles.
WATCH BELOW: Rapper Nipsey Hussle killed following shooting: LAPD
Eric R. Holder Jr., who has been charged with killing Hussle, has pleaded not guilty. Police have said Holder and Hussle had several interactions the day of the shooting and have described it as being the result of a personal dispute.
The 33-year-old Grammy-nominated rapper, whose real name was Ermias Asghedom, was an Eritrean-American father of two.
Hussle was engaged to actress London. The actress and rapper were in a five-year relationship.
The couple share a young son named Kross, who was born in 2016, and they recently opened up about their relationship in GQ‘s March issue.
Hussle’s daughter Emani is from a previous relationship and London’s nine-year-old son, Cameron Carter, is from her previous relationship with rapper Lil Wayne.
Hussle and London participated in a couple’s quiz for GQ which has almost 10-million views on YouTube as of Thursday.
He was a beloved figure for his philanthropic work that went well beyond the usual celebrity “giving back” ethos. Following his death, political and community leaders were as quick and effusive in their praise as his fellow hip-hop artists.
The Eritrean-American said his first passion was music but getting resources was tough since he left his mother’s house at 14 to live with his grandmother. Hussle said he got involved in street life as he tried to support himself, and he joined the gang Rollin 60’s Neighborhood Crips as a teenager.
“The culture of my area is the gang culture … so by being outside, being involved with hustling, being in the hood, doing things to try to get money, being young, you know riding your bike through the hood, getting shot at, your loved ones and homies that’s your age getting killed, getting shot at … it’s like, we were just raised like if you with me and something goes now, I’m in it, whether I’m from the (expletive) or not,” he said in a 2014 interview with VladTV.
“So after a while, it just be like you always in the middle of some (expletive), you might as well, you know what I mean … be part of it. Or don’t be a part of it and get the (expletive) out the way.”
— With files from the Associated Press