BY LAURA NEWBERRY
LOS ANGELES TIMES/TNS
LOS ANGELES – As police investigated the fatal shooting of rapper Nipsey Hussle in South Los Angeles, hundreds converged on the site to pay their respects.
Fans and friends stood behind the yellow police tape at Victoria Avenue and Crenshaw Boulevard, waiting to hear official updates on his condition as police and news helicopters circled overhead.
Those who knew Hussle described him as a pillar of the community.
The rapper owned several businesses on the block, said 54-year-old Hyde Park resident Glenn Taylor, including a burger restaurant, a barbershop and a fish market.
He was known to give jobs to residents who were struggling to get by, some of them homeless. He once gave a pair of shoes to every student at 59th Street Elementary School. He also donated money to renovate the school’s playground and basketball courts.
Taylor, whose daughter was a childhood friend of Hussle’s, said he was stunned.
“He did so much for our neighborhood,” Taylor said at the scene. “That’s why I’m here today. This has to stop.”
Malik Spellman, a community activist, remembers when a teenage Hussle would staple fliers advertising his new music onto telephone poles.
When his career took off, Hussle never forgot where he came from, Spellman said. He put most of the money he made back into the neighborhood. When a local family lost a loved one to gun violence, he would sometimes give them money to help pay for funeral arrangements.
“The man was instrumental in a lot of stuff. Fighting gentrification, trying to stop gang violence,” said Spellman, who lighted a blue candle in Hussle’s honor and placed it on a sidewalk near the crime scene.
“The facts are,” Spellman said, “he was a good person.”
Anita Hardine, a family friend of Hussle’s, said the rapper was a role model for countless kids in the community, especially young Black men.
He “poured positivity into the streets,” she said.
“Black kids don’t get love, or they’re trying to get love from the wrong places,” said Hardine, an educator who’s lived in Hyde Park for 24 years. “He was trying to give them the right love at the right time.”
Ruben Martinez Jr. is just a year older than Hussle and also from the neighborhood. He remembers Hussle selling incense and CDs out of the trunk of his car as a teen. Witnessing Hussle’s success over the years was an inspiration to him.
Hussle could’ve opened his businesses in Beverly Hills, Martinez said, but he chose Hyde Park.
“We shouldn’t be here right now,” Martinez said. “It’s a sad day in L.A.”
Christian Nuñez drove from Santa Monica to Hyde Park on Sunday night to pay his respects. Slung across his chest was a cylindrical speaker thumping Hussle’s music.
“I wanted people to listen to his voice one more time,” the 23-year-old said.
Nuñez said that he was homeless on the streets of Hyde Park as a teen and that he instantly connected with Hussle’s lyrics.
“It’s like a war zone out here,” Nuñez said, “and he was trying to make it better.”
Hussle, who was known as much for his work in the community as for his music, was shot multiple times about 3:20 p.m. in front of his Marathon Clothing store at 3420 W. Slauson Ave., police said. He was rushed to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. He was 33.