• Shades of Color

The Heroic Hustle of Ermias Asghedom

Updated: Jun 21, 2019

I had heard the name before. “Nipsey Hussle.” I don’t think I could tell you who he was or what he did though. But it was a catchy name that stuck. On March 31st I was in Starbucks and overheard two barristas say that Nipsey Hussle was shot. My initial thought was I’m sorry for his loss; other than that I did not think much of it. It’s unfortunate that during these times someone getting shot is not something I usually pause at anymore. Seems to happen every day, if not on the news then at least I assume someone somewhere is losing their life for some senseless reason. In general I cast a daily prayer for us all. I pray that our world will have respect for life again. So on March 31st, I left Starbucks not thinking back about Nipsey Hussle. He was just someone else apparently gone too soon.

As time wore on, hours, this Nipsey Hussle started to wallpaper my Facebook feed. Several of my friends were paying their respects. Some of them were people that I wouldn’t have expected to post about a slain rapper. Some wrote, “I didn’t know his music, but...” I began to wonder more, "Who was this guy?" The “but...” would be a caveat that linked us all together. It connected those of us who never knew him to those who had followed his light for years. The ones that truly understood this loss.

I started to open articles and read about what happened. I read more about his life. I read more about who he was, what he did, what he accomplished, and what he strived for. The articles and interviews started to become addictive. His charismatic drive was fascinating to me. He was a rapper; I learned that his labels went far beyond that. His ambition and intellect were staggering. One friend posted that he was Eritrean. This intrigued me even more as we have close friends that are from Eritrea, it's the only country I have been to in Africa, and it is a place I generally do not hear much about in the media. He had a store. He bought up the real estate around the store and was building additional businesses. He had created STEM classes for the youth. He created a co-working space in the inner city. He created jobs. He was giving people second chances. More was coming. In a nearby neighborhood he renovated a playground, and on that playground there was art surrounded by and inspirational words. He was adamant about staying in the community he grew in and bringing it up with him as he rose in his success.

The more I peeled back the onion of this Nipsey Hussle, the more and more impressed I was with all that he had done already at the age of 33 for his family and community. He released his own music under his own terms, and held off producing an official album until he had a record deal to get the best negotiation possible. Brilliant! He caught the industry’s attention by selling an underground cd at $100 bucks. Not only did people pay it, he sold 100’s including to already established artists that further propelled his notoriety. He listened and learned from those around him. The way he spoke, his ora, he was full of his own personality and you could see that he was not trying to be anyone that he wasn’t.  He gave props where they were due.---- It was that personality that unexpectedly drew me in to read and watch and absorb this Nipsey Hussle. I had no idea who he was before March 31st, but in the weeks that passed I realized just how influential Nipsey Hussle was, and what a true gift he was. He was a gift not only to his friends and family, but to the greater Los Angeles community (even those of us that weren’t aware of his influence yet), to the Crenshaw and Eritrean communities, and brothers and sisters around the country that needed to know that you can hold true to your beliefs and your upbringing without losing yourself in the fame. Without being blinded. He had monetary goals but at the forefront was providing for his community. His extended family. Not just by signing a check either. He showed the world he had no intention of going anywhere. He was prepared to do the work. 

The more I learned about Nipsey Hussle, the sadder I became that he was no longer here to carry out this amazing journey he had started. The more I learned the more I came to respect him and hurt for all that could have been. I hurt for his mother, his father, brother, grandmother, sister, and Lauren. I hurt for his children, the ones that would be able to read about him and hold onto all of the pictures and video coverage but likely would have very little memory of their own. I found myself having regret that I did not know Nipsey Hussle before he was taken so carelessly from his mission. I found myself feeling guilty because had I just seen him on TV or on the street even, I would never have thought he was someone that I could relate to or admire the way that I did. He taught me, just by being true to himself, the terrible mistake of judging a book by its cover.  I never would have seen him in such an entrepreneurial light, I never would’ve seen his genius, I never would’ve seen his pride for his roots. In one interview he responded to the question “I am...” with “...African.” Of all the “am’s” he could have come back with his connection to his own history spoke volumes to me.   It goes to show how much depth each one of us has, and how much more connected we are than we ever would imagine. This young brother far surpassed many people that will ever come into my circle as far as success and intelligence and passion. I felt remorse that I would have overlooked that in many circumstances simply because of an assumption of what he was all about. I would have missed out on someone that could uplift your soul just by speaking his truth. He taught me that my open mindedness still has room to grow.

The more I learned, the more I wished that I could have been present as he built his story.  Tragically by the time I learned about Nipsey Hussle, and his plans to inspire those around him, it was too late. His dreams had already been silenced, his family, friends and fans would already never be the same. I hope that the greater plan for Nipsey Hussle is that his death will create continued awareness. I pray that all he already accomplished will never be in vain, and that all of the lives that he exponentially touched will carry his goals forward. I hope that we will be able to witness his hustle turn into reality. I hope every time we pass by a mural, or Crenshaw and Slauson, we will remember to put in the work and pull one another up in the process. Own your own. Create your own. Help your own. Be your own. Just do it? Nah. Just OWN it! 




A person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.

hus·tle /ˈhəsəl/ verb

Force (someone) to move hurriedly or unceremoniously in a specified direction.

Ermias Asghedom. He indeed had a heroic hustle. Is “hero” an overstatement? I don’t think so. I could easily equate him to Cha’lla, for example, someone that acknowledged and learned from his own mistakes, and strived to have a powerful impact. An impact that craved for the betterment of his people. Was he a saint? I doubt it. But to the Crenshaw and Eritrean communities especially he surely fit the title of a hero. He generated a wealth that translated into power and he was using that power for good. Isn’t that what heroes do?---- He was admired and was a whirlwind of courage, nobility and achievement. He moved quickly yet thoughtfully and forced his surroundings to seek upward mobility. I tip my hat in his honor, to his heroic hustle, and pray that his marathon of progression will indeed continue. You served us well. Thank you. Rest In Eternal Peace.

- Written by Janine Kai Robinson

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