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A tragic end to a remarkable life

Biography of rapper Nipsey Hussle, who had early ties to Churches of Christ, raises the question: What potential world changers could we be reaching with the Gospel?

On March 31, 2019, Nipsey Hussle passed away from gunshot wounds, bringing a tragic end to a remarkable life. Sadly, he was shot in the front of his business, The Marathon Clothing.

I first noticed Nipsey in a photo shoot he had completed with his girlfriend, Lauren London. If you haven’t seen it, you should. It captures Nipsey’s undeniable star power. Even beside a beautiful woman and white stallions in Los Angeles, Nipsey is the one who captivates.


As word spread of Nipsey’s passing, I discovered that his family once attended the Normandie Church of Christ in Los Angeles. In 1983, my father served as the associate minister at Normandie. Nipsey and his siblings were a part of the youth group. He, his brother Samiel Asghedom and sister Samantha Smith were all baptized at Normandie in the 1990s. Even though I never met Nipsey in person, I feel as if I knew him because of our connection with the Normandie congregation.

Michael Smith, a longtime Normandie member and owner of the Bayou Grille in Inglewood, Calif., is Nipsey’s former stepfather. Michael once ran a summer youth camp at Normandie. Michael is one of the nicest Christian men I have had the privilege of knowing. Though there weren’t a ton of details in Nipsey’s biography about their relationship, I know Nipsey was in good hands as a teenager with Michael.

Nipsey was a rapper from the streets of Los Angeles. His vocabulary reflected his life and the struggles of growing up in the inner city. You can hear his music “profanity-free” only with an edited clean version. Setting the language and lifestyle aside, Nipsey’s story is one of remarkable achievement and missed opportunity.

The newly published The Marathon Don’t Stop: The Life and Times of Nipsey Hussle is an unauthorized biography by Rob Kenner.

Kenner relates the humble beginnings of Ermias Joseph Asghedom, later to be called Concept and then Nipsey Hussle. Ermias’ story is one heard quite frequently. His father wasn’t at home with him, but his mom was devoted and committed to his well-being. He grew up around the Rollin’ 60’s Neighborhood Crips and drug dealing. Though Nipsey was extremely gifted academically and seemed to have a knack for business, he eventually made two choices that turned out to be tragic in his life.

Nipsey had a drive toward success. His first job was working at the Bayou Grille and repairing shoes. Nipsey was so successful that he was able to buy his own school clothes and shoes. He later moved into clothing and other goods. 

Eventually, the temptation to earn substantial sums of money tempted Nipsey into drug dealing. Drug dealing seemed to be more of a means to an end than a lifelong pursuit. By the final years of Nipsey’s life, he had become a successful entrepreneur, buying up prime real estate in Los Angeles and opening commercial space for artists and others to gather. 

Had he lived longer, Nipsey undoubtedly would have created a model to reimagine the inner city with real opportunity for all.

Nipsey had a passion for family and friends. His Eritrean heritage had planted deep familial roots, and Nipsey fiercely loved and protected his family and friends. 

The greatest tragedy of Nipsey’s life is trying to envision what the church missed out on by not capturing the heart and imagination of this young man.

Growing up in certain L.A. neighborhoods, it is difficult not to choose certain detrimental lifestyles. Though Nipsey was surrounded by several who tried to steer him away from the streets, he chose to become a Rollin’ 60’s Crip. The authorities have not fully released their thinking behind why Nipsey was murdered.

The greatest tragedy of Nipsey’s life is trying to envision what the church missed out on by not capturing the heart and imagination of this young man. 

After reading his biography, I am wondering how many more young men and women we have missed. 

With a few more of the right relationships and some different decisions, Nipsey easily could have been a life-changing minister for a generation. 

Hopefully, we will rethink our approach so that when the next Nipsey comes along, we will be ready to empower and inspire him or her to be of service to Christ and Christ alone.

JOHN EDMERSON is a member of The Christian Chronicle’s Editorial Board. An elder and the senior minister for the Church of Christ at the Vineyard in Phoenix, he also is a song writer. In the 1980s he served as a youth leader for the Normandie church followed by work as a youth minister for the Avalon Church of Christ, another Los Angeles congregation, in the 1990s.

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Filed under: biography Christian Church of Christ Nipsey Hussle Opinion The Marathon Don't Stop

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