Son. Brother. Partner. Father. Activist. Friend. Rapper. Songwriter. Entrepreneur. Visionary. Icon. King. Neighbourhood Nip was a man amongst men. Though I’ve used those terms to determine the late Ermias, he was much more. Here stood a man who was at the helm of his own destiny. He was a leader. It’s a powerful thing when a man is confident in who he is, what he is ‘n’ how he carries himself. But in his own, now prophetic words, so it has come to pass. He was a legend.
As I’m sat here typin’, I’ve gotta be honest, it still doesn’t seem real. Since the tragic news broke last week, I’ve been goin’ back ‘n’ forth with myself all week. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to speak on the topic. What I will say from the jump is, I’m not here to speak on the theories of what transpired. The sad reality of the situation is we may never get a clear and decisive reason behind why he’s no longer with us. Like the death of the late Pac, this will be debated forever more. But what I will say to those theories (you know which I’m referrin’ to), there’s no smoke without fire. ‘N’ you shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss things just because it may sound crazy to you. Its dismissive to regard something as ‘crazy’ simply because you don’t agree or you find it too far-fetched to believe. That’s what I believe anyhow.
I first got on to Nip back in ’10 when he graced the XXL cover as part of their ‘Freshmen’ line up ‘longside hittas such as J Cole; Wiz Khalifa; Freddie Gibbs; Jay Rock and Big Sean. Though I’ve always had an eclectic taste in music, I do have a penchant for listenin’ to the same music all the time. I don’t listen to the radio or music channels. I genuinely only hear or know of new music when someone introduces it to me. I’m that insulated from the outside world at times. What I love about this period was the person that introduced me to these artists had no idea how they would shape my life. By introducin’ me, they reignited my love for rap. By introducin’ me to these artists, they helped mould me into the man I am today.
Here’s the absolute truth. When I was given an array of music by these different artists, I did put Nip on the back burner. It was Cole that had my attention first. Then Gibbs. Then Kung Fu Kenny. Once I did a full rotation (it took me 3 attempts to get past K.Dot’s voice at first), I finally made my way to The Marathon. By these times, I think I was like a year into livin’ by myself for the first time. I remember the set up in my lounge. I hooked up my Yamaha 250’s to my Blackberry Bold on my glass table, the door to the balcony was open coaxin’ in a subtle evenin’ summer breeze, ‘n’ I just wrapped a likkle haze ting to burn. I was sat on the settee inhalin’ smoke takin’ in the tape and then I heard it: ‘Blue Laces’. That’s the moment Nip had my undivided attention.
Anytime I soulful instrumental that uses any kind of piano or melodic sample, I’m already halfway there. These are the riddims I loved zonin’ out to when I used to blaze. Though I don’t smoke anymore, you still can’t come to be with a better riddim. I remember it vividly. Soon as I heard: “I’m from west-side California, they run up on ya”, I had to run from the balcony and pull it up. It was the cadence in which he dropped that openin’ line that had me questionin’ why it took me that long to put him in rotation. One of my favourite Nipsey openers tbh. But do you know what’s eerie about that track? If we are to believe who the media are purportin’ to be Nipsey’s killer as facts, there’s section in the first verse that’s come full circle. Since he passed away, in honour, I scoured his discography on Spotify and selected my favourite tracks and made my own ‘Rest Easy’ playlist. Listenin’ back to that track en route home today, here’s what I picked out:
“I trust few people these days cause that’s gold
I seen niggas get killed for who they roll with
And chose ta keep a small circle Satan sittin on ya sofa
Same nigga that shot ya was the same nigga you used ta smoke with”
When I heard this, I had to rewind. On the second rewind, I could feel my eyes stingin’. As I’m typin’ now, the playlist is runnin’ ‘n’ ‘Blue Laces’ just come on rotation ‘n’ the same ting again. Though I’ve loosely followed his full discography (to keep it one hunna, I’ve only listened to ‘The Marathon’ n ‘Victory Lap’ top to bottom), I’ve always rated this guy highly. In the projects in between, I’ve dipped in ‘n’ out pickin’ out my favourites to keep him at the forefront. But like I said, that moment 8 years when I heard ‘Blue Laces’ for the first time, I was sold.
What’s sad is though he was a man that came up off the streets, it was evident to see he was more than a ‘typical road hitta’. He was a savvy entrepreneur who inspired people to do better. To be better. He cared about his community. It’s a downright shame he was taken out in that manner. But you know what’s even worse, this ‘crabs in a barrel’ mentality that some (operative word bein’ some) people seemingly have in particular areas. Why is it that some people have so much hate, envy and jealously in their heart they cannot be happy to see someone doin’ well? Why is it that they cannot see what that person has achieved as a benchmark to aim for rather than sit and stew and want what is not theirs?
I know I said I wouldn’t lean towards a particular theory per se but we’re here now. I come from a place back home (Jamaica) and grew up in a place here in England where I’ve witnessed this mentality be the reason for families to lose loved ones. But, life is not all negative. There is love in the world. There is hope. There is a future. What we must realise is people like Nipsey come along and show us the methods to a better way. In a world of sheep, he was a shepherd who educated us through his music, his generosity and his charismatic nature. Again, a man amongst men. Infinite condolences to those whom he left behind. It’s a shame you lost a young King this way. Though death is the ultimate enemy, we must fight each day.
In the words of the man himself:
“never let a hard time humble us.”
Rest easy brother.