I, first want to start this article off by saying Rest in Peace to Nipsey Hussle. And send my sincerest condolences to his family, friends, and all of those (including myself) whom he touched with his music, wisdom, and his unparalleled grace. Nipsey will surely be missed.

In hip-hop, death is pretty standard. To me, it seems like there are a few rappers that die every year. And an overwhelming amount of those deaths are shootings—in the very neighborhoods that they were raised in. Rapping may be one of the most dangerous professions that I can think of.

I say that to say this: murder and death, in general, isn’t uncommon in hip-hop. But something about Nipsey’s death hit differently. I think it hit differently because we saw what Nipsey was and could have been to a community (and world)- that is so desperately in need of authentic grass-roots type leadership. What we saw in Nip, we saw in Malcolm, we saw in Martin, Fred Hampton, and even Pac. We saw a charismatic, down to earth, influencer that was committed to making a change.

When we lost Nipsey, that hope for change that seemed near got pushed a little bit further, all over something that probably wasn’t important anyway. This was a senseless killing. We all were robbed of a great man that was doing so much to make a difference.

But as much of a one of a kind person Nipsey Hustle was, we must realize that there are other “Nipseys” being taken away from their families every day. But people don’t seem to care as much when it isn’t a person of the same social stature and relevance as Nipsey Hussle.

In hip-hop, as well as the broader inner-city or “hood” culture we tend to glorify “shooters,” the same people who are killing black men, thus depriving our community of potential leaders and game changers.

The hypocrisy is real! And until we look that hypocrisy squarely in the eyes and call it what it is. Tlphe Nipsey situation is bound to happen again–-it already happens every day. The victim may not impact as many people as Nipsey, but they may have been just as great as Nipsey to his family, to his friends, and his community.

We must shift the culture, and start condemning killing, drug dealing and disrespecting our women and community. Every time we support people who glorify the street life, we are supporting the genocide of our own people.

Our community has endured so much trauma, that we have begun to perceive trauma as normal, and we have even gone as far as embracing it. And it seems like people gravitate towards the street nigga mentality more than being a pillar in their community. It’s as if being street nigga or a real nigga is worthy of praise–maybe our communities have been traumatized so deeply that we can’t see ourselves as anything more than a “street-nigga,” thus many of us don’t aspire to be more than that.

Years ago, such a term would have probably been seen as the worst thing you could call a black man. Now people–especially rappers–treat it like a term of endearment and are proud of their criminal “achievements.” Being called a street nigga or a real nigga is somewhat of a badge of honor instead of the most disrespectful thing that someone could say to a black king.

One thing I’ve learned from working as a trauma therapist is that one of the first steps to resolving trauma is to separate yourself from the traumatic experience.

Someone that has been raped must change their perception of themselves. They must cease to see themselves as a “rape victim” and view themselves from a more empowered perspective rather than merely from the context of their trauma.

So, if black folks in the Crenshaw and Slauson’s of America want to remove themselves from the trauma experienced as a result of decades—if not centuries—of oppression, we must no longer see ourselves as street niggas, thugs, shooters, goons and so on. And start empowering each other, and referring to ourselves in ways that help remove the chains of oppression–once and for all.

Rest In Power King Nipsey,

Although your body is no longer with us, your spirit, vision, and legacy will be immortalized. And will spark the minds of the leaders of tomorrow.

The Marathon Continues!

Comments (4)

  1. Nathan Stephens


    I agree with a lot of what you said. I feel that you’ve misinterpreted or don’t quite fully understood the notion of being a street nigga. While it is a badge of honor and definitely not acceptable years ago. However, in these contemporary times, referring to oneself as a street nigga is a self proclamation of being antiestablishment and more importantly, not one that has become educated/middle class and have forgotten about the community where I come from. Yes there are other aspects associated with this identity as well that are less palatable. But let’s not throw the proverbial baby out with the bath water. Because if we are going to do that, we’d have to not only denounce Nipsey, but also Tupac, Malcolm and Martin as not being perfect.

  2. Reply

    First and foremost let me say, I appreciate your input, and please subscribe to our newsletter if you haven’t already.

    I think that some aspects of what you’re saying are correct, but I don’t think the street nigga mentality is about being antiestablishment, it may have started out that way (to some extent) but what it is now is a bunch of misguided people. Being a street nigga is a cultural identity that is rooted in oppression and segregation. The main people street niggas are harming are black people, the main people being thrown in jail are street niggas. If you ask me that’s pro establishment as it gets.

    It’s time we start discouraging that behavior instead of supporting, ignoring, and excusing it.

    I spent most of my life referring to myself as a “street nigga” and it wasn’t until I knew better that I decided to do better. And that started with me seeing positive people from the same environment.

  3. Nathan Stephens


    That’s your opinion and you’re entitled to it. I still stand on what I said. I still believe that there are those that interpret that title as one that is not a sell out, Uncle Tom, etc. And you’re not the only one that has referred to themselves in that manner.

    • Justin Johnson


      Nigga, this went over your head. You totally missed the point. A little too deep for you.

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