#LongRead: The Duality of Hip-Hop's DNA As Seen Thru Death

From its inception, Hip-Hop was seen as an honest caricature of the culture of Black and Brown
Americans living under the systems of oppression and racism that are the backbone of The American
Dream. It’s ironic the the idiom “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” is a prevalent mantra within the processes of
building the culture, because it doesn’t leave time for REM and dream manifestation. Another line that is
often chanted under the guise of tenacity, ambition and the hustle mentality is “Sleep is the cousin of
death,” but all kinfolk aren’t skinfolk and the cousin that you avoid at family reunions might be the one
that shows up unexpectedly at your door.

The past couple months have been a whirlwind of shock, pain and reflection for those that are and have
invested into the soul of Hip-Hop. Policing and limiting the empathetic response of casual fans or those
less affiliated with the tragedies has run amuck on social media and it begs the question “Who is allowed
to mourn?”

Death creates ripples that expand without interference, reaching shores that may not have had a port
for the ship that created the waves. The outstretched hands of an absence of life may not raise to
Jesus, but fingertips stroke cheeks and hearts of unassuming bystanders and communities are forever
changed by it. The communications conduit of Hip-Hop is entrenched within the foundations that
support and amplify the connectivity from artist to fan. These connections branch out and like feeder
wires, create bridges of communal ownership and pride in what has been built.

This organic growth of proprietorship has the unintended consequence of imprinting the persona of
each owner into the DNA of the music. The music is not a monolith because the artists are distinct,
their products are varied and their fans run the identity gauntlet. The beauty of Hip-Hop is that the
components are in constant flux, and can be depicted as complementary forces, the yin and yang of
what it means to be of the culture, not just a witness to it.

Losing a life always hits different and for as massive as Hip-Hop can be, loss is felt as a tight knit
family. The passing of Tech 9 came as a shock to the battle rap family and as families do, the collective
grieved in unison. Without question, those who were not familiar sent good intentions to those who
were a breath away. But as quickly as flowers were laid, they were stripped once details emerged. The
innocence of the shared grief was swiftly replaced by a shared shock and the energy of the landscape

The community was once again rocked to its core with the news of Nipsey Hussle’s passing.
Immediately conspiracy theories were born, crawled, grew legs and ran through social media platforms,
unhindered. It was more plausible to believe that Nipsey was assassinated over a documentary that Big
Pharma did not what made than to believe a member of the community he poured his heart into stopped
that same beating. Fans across the world grieved over the senseless loss of life, and the void created
by his absence has everyone asking, “Now what?”.   The energy shifted again, and those well beyond
six degrees of separation were hit with aftershocks.

To say that Nipsey Hussle personified the tangible impact of living for the culture seems an inadequate
observation of the man and how he chose to live. The dictionary defines “legacy” as a thing handed down
by a predecessor or an amount of money or property left to someone in a will. When speaking on the
impression that Nipsey exuded over his sphere of influence, legacy echos with every footprint. The
things that he created were meant to be passed on; he did not invest in buying back his block just to be
the sole stakeholder. Community means taking ownership and while being in a monetary position to assume
the benefactor role, Nipsey was not the beneficiary.

Any saved thoughts in a Notes app, late night scribbles, or doodles on cocktail napkins are now the
blueprints to ensuring that his legacy stands against everything he was protecting it from. Those that
assume the reins of his enterprises know the soul of Nipsey and will ensure the road stays straight and

Some say it’s bigger than Hip-Hop, but it can only be Hip-Hop. The beauty is in the refracted colors of
so many visions, dancing through sunbeams and casting colored shapes against the wall. The living
mosaic that is the soul of the genre is composed of the lyricism of the conscious, the hope of the
survivor, and even the darkness of the damned. When a piece goes missing, the picture gets a little
less complete, but is nonetheless whole. Death may be the cousin of sleep, but the Dreams that manifest
in Hip-Hop cannot be stopped by either.


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