TO DIE IS TO GAIN: RIP Nipsey Hussle
It has been a week since the news about Nipsey Hussle’s death hit the airwaves shocking a population that is not so new to murders taking place in the hip hop community. I personally have felt as though I have been mourning my own brother. Nipsey wasn’t new to the streets however there was something vastly different about him compared to other brothers that chose the gang lifestyle over a more peaceful role. I have had to search deep to find peace about Nipsey’s “untimely” death and spent time with God for him to reveal the spiritual mystery behind this tragedy.
TO DIE IS GAIN
As I meditated by the lake, which is a common practice of mine to feel connected to the most high and share a dialogue without distraction, I quickly opened my bible to pick up where I stopped in 1 Corinthians. (A book written by Paul, one of the most famous of Jesus’s twelve disciples who encountered God unexpectedly as he was on his way to kill all who proclaimed that they followed Jesus. Ironically, Paul ended up writing nearly ¾ of the New Testament in the Holy Bible, mostly letters passionately instructing the correct fellowship of the gospel, testimonies, and venting about his hardships as a disciple. His loyalty to Jesus was without question.) Anyway, as I questioned God continually about Nipsey, the way that he died, and demanding a why to the what, God started to reveal through scripture the parallels of Nipsey’s life to the life of a disciple and the life of Jesus.
For all who follow Jesus, it is a known fact that to follow Jesus requires dying to your old life, being willing to give up everything, and even opening yourself up to persecution. Jesus was a radical often going against strict religious laws that served as pillars of oppression, excuses for misogyny, and hatred disguised as morals. He repeatedly did things that were outside of the norm of society to prove that he was the son of God and had come to save the world with salvation by sacrificing his own life. I am bringing all of this information up for context. If you would like more context, please read the New Testament in the Bible. (A Bible with explanations of each book would be extremely helpful! My personal choice is the Good News bible.)
My number one question to God was: Why Death? He led me to 1 Corinthians 15:22-28 which states that, “ The last enemy that God will defeat is death. My heart dropped instantly. The scripture really spoke volume because Nipsey’s last tweet was, “ Having strong enemies is a blessing.” Wow! The last enemy that God will defeat is death. God also showed another parallel to scripture: If death is the last enemy that God defeats, then that means it’s the last weapon that the enemy can use on us while we’re here on earth, but as the Gangsta Apostle Paul said in Philippians 1:20-23: TO DIE IS TO GAIN.
Philippians 2:8-11 says:
“8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
I wanted to quote the whole verse so that the parallel can be seen about death being exalted and looked as as gain. This scripture is referencing Jesus Christ the savior of the world, so shouldn’t death be exalted by every follower of Jesus? God surely changed my perspective of Nipsey’s death especially as a fellow disciple.
Ermias Asghedom the Gangster
I want to dive deeper into Nipsey’s identity and his spiritual impact with gang culture in mind. Nipsey’s birth name is: Ermias Asghedom. “Ermias,” an Ethiopian name literally means: sent by God or God will rise. He also had the infamous “Prolific” tattoo on the right side of his face which means producing much fruit or productive/creative/ inventive.
During an interview with Hot 97 with Ebro and Rosenberg Nipsey breaks down gang culture and the motivation to join a gang from a psycho-spiritual level. He states, “One thing about gangs is that they embrace you for who you are and your heart. You could come from a broken home with drug addict parents, busted clothes, and pretty much rejected by the world, however the gang will accept you and judge you for how much heart you have.” This was very deep and profound to me for two reasons: 1) I believe that God put the desire in every human being to be accepted for who they are unconditionally and base his judgement on their heart. 2) God is the only one that can fully fulfill this desire of acceptance because he can not only see the heart fully, but can also heal the places that have been wounded. We are all wounded in some form and this especially does not exclude the little brown and black kids that seek acceptance and healing for their brokenness through gang culture.
Let’s be honest, the enemy is deceptive and especially loves to prey on us in our weakness. He honestly knows them better than we do and when I say we, I mean the community. Who’s really in the community speaking to the kids that have nowhere to turn for help? Scripture says that it is the responsibility of all followers of Jesus to help the poor, orphans, and widows, but how many times do we see the “faith” look right over these groups within the community to do something more glamorous like an international mission trip when there is a kid down the street lost and doesn’t know Jesus. All of us have been sent by God to save our communities, but how many of us are actually answering the call? How unfortunate it is that death shows a people how important their roles are in the community. “To Die is Gain” is not some religious term to cushion the fall of death. It is a mantra that reaffirms the notion that people are prompted to a call to action the most when death the closest.
RIDE OR DIE
I have been having conversations with my peers about the tragedy and beyond the sadness that we all feel about the murder, some of my friends express how Nipsey shouldn't have been in his hood in the first place. Although I agree that if Nipsey hadn’t have been in the hood he would have been safe from the shooter. However, Nipsey has proven even with his life that he was ride or die for his community. Even during interviews, Nipsey told stories of the times that he would dodge danger being in his neighborhood, however he chose to remain a member of his hood despite his celebrity. Yes I have my opinion about community leaders and their safety because of what we have witnessed throughout history. (Deaths of Civil leaders: MLK, Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, the list goes on) Being a native of Mississippi, I instantly thought about Medgar Evers who was killed in his home driveway as his wife witnessed from the window after hearing shots fired. Hebrews 12:2 says: “Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. He did not give up because of the cross! On the contrary, because of the joy that was waiting for him, he thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross, and he is now seated at the right side of God's throne.” Some have expressed the shame that they feel for Nipsey for the way that he died and I get it. Nipsey did not deserve death at all, however there is a spiritual parallel with the quoted verse from Hebrews when it refers to Jesus thinking nothing of the disgrace of death only to eventually be seated at the right side of God's throne forever. Although our emotions are all in knots about the death of Nipsey, we must not ignore the sacrifice and loyalty of Nipsey as he really stayed true to “ride or die” for his community. An honor attached to every leader that has ever fought for liberating a people from poverty, injustice, and inequality.
The fact that Nipsey’s last body of work was entitled: “Victory Lap” really speaks volume to his whole life really symbolizing a “Marathon” which he referenced consistently and is also the name of him and his brother's infamous clothing line. Nipsey accomplished a lot within his community, but made an even bigger impact on the world as he began to share his own personal spiritual journey with the world through his music and conversation. My sister reminded me during a phone conversation recently that I explained to her that submitting to God is not about heaven or hell. That’s just a byproduct of your decisions while here on earth. Your relationship with God is at the forefront and drives your purpose and your assignment here on earth. It’s about YOUR ASSIGNMENT. Nipsey states in the first song of the album ironically entitled “Victory Lap,”
I'm finna take it there, this time around I'ma make it clear
Spoke some things into the universe and they appeared
I say it's worth it, I won't say it's fair
Find your purpose or you wastin' air, fuck it though, ya'll niggas scared”
The enemy isn’t scared of you going to heaven. He knows he’s already lost. He’s afraid of you realizing your purpose and focusing on it. In Philippians 3:12-14 Paul talks about running this race here on earth which is a marathon. “I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.” I know that Apostle Paul would dap up Nispey Hussle and say these words: Good job for running the race here on earth. Marathon well run. You have set a loud example for generations to run your race like a marathon and run it well. In John 16:32-33 Jesus says: “32 Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. 33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
It’s time for us as disciples to embody the fact that Jesus has overcome the world and died for our freedom to freely walk out our purposes. It starts right in our own communities. Let that thing that frustrates you the most consume your thoughts then bring it to God. He’ll tell you where to start. For some of us the marathon continues. For others the marathon starts. ON YOUR MARK, SET,,,, GO!
Rest in Peace
Ermias “Nipsey Hussle” Asghedom