Alexia Holloway, Contributing Writer
Rapper and community activist Nipsey Hussle was gunned down March 31 in Los Angeles outside his clothing store. The moment he passed, the world stopped for a second. Hussle was a man who used his time and resources to better his community. His death felt wrong and evil.
Shortly after his death, people started comparing Hussle to Tupac. Both rappers emphasized the betterment of the black community in their music and interviews.
Tupac displayed his militant, community-minded side when he said, “We asked 10 years ago. We was asking with the [Black] Panthers. We was asking with the civil rights movement. We was asking. Those people that asked are dead and in jail. So now what do you think we’re gonna do? Ask?”
Hussle reflected the same sentiment.
“We got enough resource. We got enough influence to make our own Gucci — we can make our own products,” he said earlier this year at the Roc Nation Brunch.
He expressed that black people didn’t need to ask or beg to be let into white spaces — we have the resources and ingenuity to do it ourselves.
Some people consider Hussle and Tupac victims of government assassinations. Tupac was the son of Black Panther party member Afeni Shakur. Rumors that he and his mother were under FBI surveillance have circulated for years. Hussle was making a documentary that followed the life of deceased herbalist Alfredo Bowman, better known as Dr. Sebi. Up until Sebi’s death in 2016, he claimed to have cures for cancer, AIDS and diabetes through his use of herbs.
Many assumed this information angered the pharmaceutical industry and made Sebi a target. Hussle’s documentary on Sebi would disperse this information widely and has caused some to speculate whether Hussle’s death was intended to cover up information.
Whether these conspiracies are true, the parallels between the two have caused their juxtaposition. On social media, some say Hussle was the Tupac of his generation — while others say Tupac was all talk, and Hussle actually took action.
Deff wasn’t cause Tupac was all talk nipsey actually did shit https://t.co/CAMsT3fUkN
— Hennessy G. (@Poursomehenny) April 11, 2019
This “one or the other” mentality is damaging. The black community has a tendency to compare icons, rather than just accepting their impacts for what they were. We seem to not be able to accept that Michael Jackson and Prince were both iconic musicians. Instead, we feel the need to pick between the two.
It is important to recognize that people pave the way for those that come in the future. Long before there was Malcolm X or Martin Luther King Jr., there was W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington. Without the work of the latter, the former wouldn’t have had any sort of impact. That does not mean one did more or was more influential than the other. Everyone serves their purpose.
Comparing Hussle and Tupac diminishes their individual legacies. Tupac recognized he would not change the world. Instead he guaranteed he would, “Spark the brain that would change the world.”
Tupac inspired and sparked the brains of the people who grew up listening to him — Hussle was one of those people Tupac inspired to be an activist.
Hussle was a great and humble man, and his work for the black community should not be reduced or compared to that of another black icon. Hussle’s work was rooted in his honest love for his people — not to be the “big man.” Hussle’s ultimate goal was for those coming after him to continue the marathon. Tupac and Hussle were both legendary, and it is disrespectful and unfair to pit these men against each other.