LOS ANGELES (AP) — Nipsey Hussle’s face was everywhere outside the Staples Center on Thursday, where a mood of festival and celebration stood in contrast to the somber memorial inside .
The late rapper’s image was on T-shirts, on buttons, on the side of passing vans, airbrushed on the back of jackets, etched on shoes, and printed on banners and flags along with his name and years of life, 1985-2019.
A painter, Gift Davis, created a portrait of Hussle surrounded by clouds in acrylics on a canvas on the sidewalk, as a crowd gathered and snapped photos. Many spoke of their admiration for the way he tried to lift his neighborhood as well as his music.
Those lucky enough to get one of about 21,000 tickets in the few minutes they were available earlier in the week formed a giant line around the side of the downtown Los Angeles arena, where Hussle never headlined in life.
“This is the Nipsey Hussle show today. This is his show,” said rapper Master P, a friend and occasional collaborator as he looked at the crowd outside Staples. “If he were here he would be trying to figure out how to help someone. He’s up there smiling right now, looking down on us, and saying, ‘Please keep up the work.'”
The ages of those outside ranged from small children to the elderly, with a few suits and formal dresses mixed with those in T-shirts and hoodies who created a sea of black, white and blue.
“We’re not just here to get off work, we’re not just here to take selfies outside Staples, we can do that anytime,” said Wutup Levy, 27, of Long Beach, California, as he looked for a friend who had a ticket for him. “We’re here for a great man. We’re all here for big Nip. It wasn’t his time.”
Many pleaded for any help they could get to enter. One man shouted “I have one ticket!” and grabbed the hand of a woman who cried, “Could I get it?” just as he walked in the door.
Hours later, after the memorial, a hearse with Hussle’s body slowly snaked along a 25-mile route through the city. The car was draped in multicolored flowers and followed by a parade of police motorcycles and private citizens on bikes and ATVs, some of them doing wheelies.
A huge crowd thronged the streets and sidewalks at Slauson Avenue and Crenshaw Boulevard where the procession paused at The Marathon, Hussle’s clothing store that he had hoped would become a community hub. He was gunned down as he stood outside the store March 31.
“Nip put his heart and his soul on Crenshaw and Slauson,” Hussle’s brother Samiel Asghedom said during the memorial. “He stayed and he died on Crenshaw and Slauson.”
Onlookers got inventive in their efforts to get a look, or a smartphone shot, of the hearse carrying Hussle’s body, with some climbing traffic lights or heading to rooftops to get a better view. Footage from local TV station KTLA shows at least a dozen people standing atop an empty Los Angeles police car with “NIPS IN PARADISE” spray-painted on its side.
Some Hussle fans traveled hundreds of miles to be at the memorial.
Montana Corbett, 30, and two friends drove from Sacramento Wednesday night and were joined by a fourth woman from Los Angeles. One of them had snared tickets after all four tried online.
Their day started at 5 a.m. at The Marathon, then made their way to Staples.
“We had to be here,” Corbett said. “We had to pay our respects. We all cried when we heard. We were devastated.”
Andrea Wash drove down from Oakland.
“I used my sick hours today,” she said. “I’ve been following Nip for almost 10 years now. I’m here for my brother. I hate that this is the reason I’m here. I just saw him perform in June at the Warfield in San Francisco and he lit it up.”
Hundreds who could not get tickets stood outside, there just to be part of the scene, where activists with microphones shouted about the systemic problems Hussle’s death represents and others just danced to his music as it blasted out of their phone.
Several news helicopters hovered over the arena to capture the scene, where for several blocks in every direction, vendors sold T-shirts and bandanas made for the occasion.
Associated Press Writer Amanda Lee Myers contributed to this report.
Follow AP Entertainment Writer Andrew Dalton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/MrLandrum31 .