Tens of thousands of people packed Los Angeles’ 21,000-capacity Staples Center Thursday while many others stood outside and gathered throughout the city as fans, friends and family bid farewell to Nipsey Hussle at a public memorial.
Billed as a “Celebration of Life,” the memorial brought people together from throughout Los Angeles and beyond. Scripture was read in Tigrinya, the language of Eritrea, the nation where Hussle’s father was born and in whose heritage Hussle took great pride.
Tributes came from close friends and family, including Hussle’s mother, Angelique Smith, who, dressed in white and standing onstage with his father, Dawit Asghedom, called their 33-year-old son, born Ermias Asghedom, “a legacy.”
“He had such beautiful energy,” she said, the Associated Press reports.
Kameron Carter, the 9-year-old son of Hussle’s longtime life partner, Lauren London, and Lil Wayne, shared details of a dream he had about Hussle following his death, saying, according to the Los Angeles Times, “I realized Ermias told me what heaven was like; he told me it was paradise.”
Various hip-hop luminaries were in attendance, including Snoop Dogg, Puff Daddy, Meek Mill, Pusha T, Big Sean and 2 Chainz. Tributes were also heard or shared from dignitaries including Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who spoke at the service, and President Barack Obama, who sent a message that was read aloud at the memorial.
The former commander-in-chief said that while he’d never met Hussle, he had learned of him through his daughters, Sasha and Malia. Obama, the Los Angeles Times reports, praised Hussle’s vision, calling his “legacy worthy of celebration”:
While most folks look at the Crenshaw neighborhood where he grew up and see only 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.
His choice to invest in that community rather than ignore it — to build a skills training center, and a co-working space in Crenshaw; to lift up the Eritrean-American community; to set an example for young people to follow — is a legacy worthy of celebration.
Farrakhan called Hussle a “prophetic voice” of the community where he grew up and, later, grew businesses—businesses like the Marathon Clothing store in front of which a gunman took Hussle’s life March 31.
“He lived the life of the hood, but he rose above the pull of gravity,” Farrakhan told those gathered. “Ermias was more than a hip-hop artist: He was a voice; he was a brilliant mind, and the spirit of God was in his life.”
In a book of remembrances handed out to attendees, the AP reports, there were numerous photos of Hussle with London, his children, and friends like Russell Westbrook and Snoop Dogg. It also had heartfelt messages from people like the Game, LeBron James and Issa Rae.
“I’ve never cried myself to sleep over any public figure before, but Nipsey’s presence meant so much for our community,” Rae said in her message, the Associated Press reports.
And then there were the fans, some of whom traveled for hours to get to the service.
“We had to be here,” said Montana Corbett, 30, who drove for hours from Sacramento, Calif., to Los Angeles to be at the service. “We had to pay our respects. We all cried when we heard. We were devastated.”
“I used my sick hours today,” said Andrea Wash, who drove down from Oakland, Calif. “I’ve been following Nip for almost 10 years now. I’m here for my brother. I hate that this is the reason I’m here. I just saw him perform in June at the Warfield in San Francisco and he lit it up.”
“This is the Nipsey Hussle show today. This is his show,” rapper Master P said as he surveyed the crowd outside Staples. “If he were here he would be trying to figure out how to help someone. He’s up there smiling right now, looking down on us, and saying, ‘Please keep up the work.’”