When Nipsey Hussle’s passion for rapping became too serious to overlook, his mother discovered a program at Watts Towers that would give the then-teenager access to a recording studio for free.
Hussle spent four to five hours commuting from Crenshaw to Watts every day. He’d ride his bike to the bus stop that took him to the Metro Blue Line and he’d walk the rest of the way.
It was a long journey for only an hour of studio time, but this was the place where he first felt he could realize his rap ambitions.
“There were teachers, volunteers, who taught the kids how to make beats and how to record themselves. And it was free,” Hussle’s brother Samiel Asghedom, 37, recalled. “That’s something Nip and a lot of people successful in music now went to as children. He took that small opportunity and ran with it.”
In the wake of Hussle’s death in March, the late rapper’s family has launched the Neighborhood Nip Foundation to continue his mission to impact his community.
“[Nipsey] was very adamant about being purposeful and intentional and giving back and doing that right where he came from,” said music executive Steve “Steve-O” Carless, one of Hussle’s partners in the Marathon Agency marketing and management film. “For us, it’s an honor to know we are going to be able to carry that vision on in the future, and we want to make sure it has the fortitude that he had. We’re really excited about it, and this is just the first step.”
A priority for the foundation, Asghedom says, will be to bring opportunity and open doors for youths hoping to break into music. The family is still formulating the foundation’s programming and initiatives.
“We used to talk a lot about [what the Watts Towers program] meant to him. A push, a little help can go a long way, and that’s what this foundation will 100% be about,” Asghedom told The Times on Friday ahead of a gallery exhibition celebrating Hussle’s forthcoming capsule line with Puma. “The foundation will be aligned with everything Nip believed in and what helped him.”
Boosting the foundation’s efforts is a six-figure donation from Atlantic Records, which partnered with the rapper’s All Money In imprint to release his Grammy-nominated debut album “Victory Lap” last year.
“They wanted to be the first to donate,” Asghedom said. “It’s important we let people know that.”
In a statement to The Times on Friday, Atlantic Records chairman and CEO Craig Kallman and chairman and COO Julie Greenwald said, “Nipsey will be forever missed, but his courageous, generous spirit lives on in his incredible music and the impact he made on the community. Nip’s love for the generation coming up behind him is a big part of what’s inspiring this foundation, and we’re proud to celebrate his life by supporting his legacy.”
Puma will also contribute to the foundation, with 100% of the proceeds from sales going to the foundation’s efforts.
Before his death, Hussle was working with Puma on a collaborative collection with his Marathon Clothing brand. The line will be released Sept. 5.
“Nipsey always put his community first, and we know he wouldn’t want it any other way,” Puma said in a statement.