Chris Karnadi is an assistant editor at Duke Divinity’s Faith & Leadership and a columnist at Sojourners. Follow him on Twitter @chriskarnadi. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of BCNN1.
When hip-hop writer Yoh Phillips arrived at Dreamville Festival on April 6, 2019, he found a 10-foot mural of the late rapper Nipsey Hussle planted in the middle of Dorothea Dix Park.
Then he noticed Nipsey Hussle seemed to be everywhere.
He saw sweaters from the artist’s “Crenshaw” project and heard performer after performer mention the impact and legacy of Nipsey during the daylong festival. J. Cole, who is the founder of Dreamville Records and the mastermind behind the festival, performed a tributewith a montage from Nipsey’s life in the background.
But the mural painted by Paul Garson and Nik Soupé — and the timeline of its creation — stuck with Phillips.
“They had one week to paint that,” he said.
When artist Nipsey Hussle was shot at his clothing store in L.A. at the end of March, the shocked hip-hop community stopped and mourned. Musicians offered tributes on social media as his Grammy-nominated album “Victory Lap” rose back to number two on the Billboard 200 chart.
Whenever the hip-hop community loses an artist, it loses a member of the family.
The mourning binds people together as they reflect on the life and legacy of an artist taken too soon and reveals the foundation of hip-hop culture: beauty from brokenness.
That’s what Dreamville Festival and the last-minute mural were for Phillips and many others: a space to mourn, remember Nipsey Hussle and return to what the hip-hop community is all about.
“Usually festivals feel like everyone’s there for something different, but Dreamville was a place for everyone to remember, to reminisce, to acknowledge all that Nipsey meant,” said Phillips. “There was something very church-like about it.”
The hip-hop community is no stranger to loss.
Some of the most public deaths in music have been hip-hop legends, from Tupac and Biggie in the ’90s to Mac Miller and Nipsey Hussle most recently.
Jonathan Brooks, pastor of Canaan Community Church in Chicago and author of “Church Forsaken,” still mourns the death of Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest.
Phife died at the age of 45 in March 2016 from complications related to diabetes. Brooks said the artist’s death was like losing a friend.
“So many members of my family and my church have diabetes, so that made the loss even more personal,” Brooks said.
Nipsey’s death because of gun violence and gang activity is sadly also a common theme in hip-hop.
“The lifestyle that Nipsey lived related to his demise,” Brooks said of Nipsey’s known gang affiliation. “But it’s also the lifestyle that he was trying to eradicate.”
Nipsey tried to defuse gang violence in his community.
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Source: Religion News Service