Los Angeles is reeling from the unexpected death today of Kobe Bryant. But the Grammys’ tribute to Nipsey Hussle lauded another local hero whose death brought the whole city together to mourn, and reminded fans how resilient his legacy still is today.
Hussle, the L.A. rapper and entrepreneur, was murdered last year outside his Marathon Clothing store in South L.A. But the impact of his music and activism on Los Angeles has only deepened in death, drawing thousands to public memorials and a generation of artists to laud his insight as a lyricist.
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Sunday’s Grammys were dominated by three L.A. artists — Billie Eilish, Tyler, the Creator and Nipsey Hussle — and its greatest athlete, Kobe Bryant.
Hussle already earned Grammy acclaim today, pulling down a trophy for rap performance for “Racks in the Middle.” His family accepted the award on his behalf, with Hussle’s grandmother Margaret Boutte saying, “I want to thank all of you for showing the kind of love that I have shown him all his life and will always live in my heart. So thank you, thank you, thank you.”
At the Grammy tribute performance, collaborators and direct inheritors of Hussle’s L.A. rap legacy, including YG and Roddy Ricch (who appeared on “Racks”), joined peers Kirk Franklin, DJ Khaled and John Legend.
Using DJ Khaled’s “Higher” as the backdrop (Hussle rapped on the single), Legend led the chorus on piano, with Meek Mill taking a first pass before Compton rappers Roddy Ricch and YG and gospel crossover star Franklin joined in on verses. The range of performers — from tent-revival gospel to hard-edged rap to pop-aspiring soul — showed just how wide Nipsey’s influence stretched across black music in L.A. and beyond.
All-star sets can get messy at the Grammys, and this one had yet another close call after YG was arrested on Jan. 24 in connection to a robbery investigation (he was released on bond two days later). But this performance was as exultant and reverent as any Nipsey fan could have hoped for. Just after the performance, Hussle again took home a posthumous Grammy for rap/sung performance for “Higher,” which Khaled dedicated to the late MC’s family and children.
Staples Center may once again be surrounded by mourners, and the Grammys projected images of Kobe and Nipsey side by side at the end of their set. But in this performance, the city came together one more time to remember an artist whose impact and legacy is still unfolding across hip-hop and South L.A. today.