LOS ANGELES -- "How long should I stay dedicated? How long 'til opportunity meet preparation?" Nipsey Hussle wonders on "Dedication," a single from his 2018 album featuring Kendrick Lamar.
Those lyrics weren't expressing moments of doubt but, rather, an earnest reminder of the sacrifices and hard work necessary in pursuing one's ambitions. And they represent a rapper who, at his core, was about motivating the streets.
Hussle, born Ermias Asghedom, looked at life and his career as a marathon -- and he was in it for the long haul. It's what has made his death, at 33, amid a mainstream ascent and a widening footprint as a community ambassador and investor equally tragic and enraging.
He had only just hit full stride in the race when he was taken out of the game.
It was, after all, just a few months ago when he arrived at the Staples Center in his finest attire, his daughter and partner by his side. He was up for a Grammy -- his first nomination -- and was humbled by the recognition he was getting for "Victory Lap," his breakout debut that was more than six years in the making.
You could see it all over his face on Grammy weekend -- that glow of having hit a benchmark in an industry he'd been navigating for over a dozen years, to varying degrees of success, before "Victory Lap" put him on wider radars and showed the world someone who, in his own words, "came from nothing to having it all."
Trophy or not, he'd won.
On Thursday, that same space where Hussle and so many artists had been recognized for their work accommodated an hours-long service that captured the magnitude of the rapper's life and career and attracted thousands of mourners.
It was a home-going, where rejoicing in the music he made and the unparalleled impact he had on his community -- where he was known as "Neighborhood Nip" -- was at the forefront.
"This is a celebration," DJ Battlecat shouted from the dais, before he implored the crowd to rise to its feet as the 1500 or Nothin' band played a rousing take of the title track from "Victory Lap."