Nearly two weeks after he lost his life, Nipsey Hussle was remembered Thursday with musical tributes, touching words and a letter from former President Barack Obama, during a poignant memorial service in downtown Los Angeles.
Thousands of the late rapper’s fans, friends and family members gathered inside the Staples Center to say their goodbyes. Among the celebrities attending were Beyoncé and Jay-Z, Lena Waithe, Master P and several NBA stars.
A montage of photos from the slain rapper’s life was shown on-screen while Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” played in the background. R&B singers Marsha Ambrosius, Anthony Hamilton and Jhené Aiko performed musical tributes.
“I’ve never met Nipsey, but I’ve heard his music with my daughters and after his passing, I had the chance to learn more about his transformation and his community work,” Obama wrote in his letter.
“While most folks look at the Crenshaw neighborhood where he grew up and only see gangs, bullets and despair, Nipsey saw potential. He saw hope. He saw a community that even through its flaws taught him to always keep going,” Obama added.
Later in the service, Hussle’s loved ones spoke, including his close friend Snoop Dogg, his parents and longtime girlfriend Lauren London.
“I’ve never felt this type of pain before,” the actress said through tears.
“I am happy, I’m complete, I’m strong. And if I can feel this way so can you,” added the rapper’s mother, Angelique Smith. “We have to be the light of change that we want in the world.”
“At 33 years old, he had accomplished more than anyone else could have accomplished,” said Hussle’s father, Dawit Asghedom.
Stevie Wonder was the last performer to take the stage, and sang his single “Rocket Love.”
The music legend shared a story about meeting Hussle, and called for increased gun control.
“It is a heartbreak because it is so unnecessary. It is so painful to know that we don’t have enough people taking a position that says, ‘Listen we must have stronger gun laws,’” he said.
After the three-hour service, Hussle’s funeral procession traveled more than 25 miles around Los Angeles on its way to a funeral home in the Crenshaw District.
Thousands of fans lined the streets as the procession slowly passed by Hussle’s Marathon Clothing store in South L.A. At one point, the hearse carrying the rapper’s body was surrounded by fans and the crowd fell silent.
Hussle, real name Ermias Asghedom, was fatally shot on March 31 outside the Marathon store. Two other men were wounded by the gunman, who police say was earlier involved in a personal dispute with the rapper.
The hip-hop star leaves behind two children and extended family.
Hussle — a former gang member — was committed to the South L.A. community and spearheaded a number of efforts to combat gang violence, and bring jobs to the area.
The city of Los Angeles plans to honor him by renaming the intersection of Crenshaw Boulevard and West Slauson Avenue — near where the rapper was killed — “Nipsey Hussle Square.”