Tens of thousands of people took part in an emotional memorial Thursday in Los Angeles for the slain rapper Nipsey Hussle, praising his efforts to end violence and improve troubled neighborhoods.
The Staples Center arena was packed to the rafters for the ceremony, while many others watched on television and online as the city bid farewell to the Grammy-nominated artist, shot dead in broad daylight outside his own clothing store on March 31.
Police have said the killing, which triggered an outpouring of grief in Los Angeles and among Hussle’s music industry peers, was gang related and personal in nature.
Crowds of mostly young black and Latino people wearing T-shirts with pictures of the 33-year-old bearded rapper started early Thursday to flow toward the Staples Center, the sports arena which hosted a memorial service for Michael Jackson in 2009.
A giant portrait of Hussle, who had Eritrean roots and was born Ermias Asghedom, adorned the stadium’s facade.
About 21,000 seats offered for free on the internet were snapped up in a matter of minutes.
The crowd was so big the commemoration started an hour late -- with a DJ playing Hussle’s 2018 debut album ‘Victory Lap,’ which earned him a Grammy nomination.
Some mourners, like Atlanta resident Ron Solomon, had travelled far.
‘Everything he lived is what I believe in, too,’ he told The New York Times. ‘Uplifting his people. Not letting the system beat us.’
Tanika Johnson, who works in a hair salon close to the clothing store which Hussle owned, said the rapper grew up in a gang environment, ‘where people don’t get out alive.
‘But he came from a loving, caring family and he gave back to the community. He gave jobs to people in the community. What more could you want?’
One after another, speakers took to the podium to remember the singer as pictures of his life were shown on a screen to the sound of ‘My Way’ by Frank Sinatra.
Numerous celebrities were present including fellow rapper Snoop Dogg as well as singers Anthony Hamilton and Stevie Wonder.
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