GO FIGURE: Nipsey Hussle’s Distribution of Wealth
Nipsey Hussle’s memorial service is this morning and I am still at a loss for words. So instead of trying to craft the perfect prose, I decided to create a data visualization. I wanted to better understand Nipsey as an investor and entrepreneur.
Born Ermias Joseph Asghedom, the diagram above reveals how Nipsey’s hustle has impacted the economy on both a local and national level. Using a combination of government and business data sources, I estimated Nipsey’s distribution of wealth across six sectors: Entertainment, Tech, Real Estate, Philanthropy, Food and Lifestyle. My analysis led me to calculating two main figures: The number of people Nipsey has either hired or impacted (41, 369) and the projected value of investments made between 2013 and 2019 ($210, 413, 500).
Nipsey had big dreams and even bigger plans. The Grammy-nominated artist and his business partners were set to launch a range of ventures including a network of franchises with retail headquarters in L.A., which is partly why he purchased a commercial strip earlier this year in Crenshaw. The plaza is known for housing several businesses owned by Nipsey like The Marathon Clothing Store and a restaurant. However, Nipsey was planning to do much more.
Alongside David Gross, the 33-year-old entrepreneur co-founded Our Opportunity, an investment coalition. The organization aims to develop high-quality, affordable mixed-use properties across multiple cities, pairing local stars with investors. The first property to kick off their venture was supposed to be a six-story residential unit built above the very same plaza he purchased and was subsequently killed in front of. The partnership with David Gross (also a black man), reflects Nipsey’s dedication to creating and sustaining black wealth in industries where minorities have traditionally been excluded, like land ownership and technology.
The numbers I compiled paint a picture of a man who was utterly obsessed with giving back. Within a very short stretch of time, Nipsey opened a STEM academy and co-working space in south L.A. with goals to expand across three more cities including Atlanta and D.C.
The data visualization highlights all of Nipsey’s documented business ventures and donations, including those that are lesser known, like his partnership with Vezt, a music streaming app which allows users to directly purchase the rights to songs using blockchain technology. Nipsey also had cryptocurrency investments and an ownership stake in at least two other technology companies.
Ultimately, my projections are just that: projections. The numbers are estimations based on public records, industry white papers, U.S. census data, and business association statistics. They are meant to give us all a numerical idea of how much Nipsey cared for his community and our world.
Reported figures like his $10,000 donation (in partnership with Puma) to 59th Street School were used alongside estimations provided by several sources like the U.S. Bureau Labor of Statistics. For example, Nipsey played a huge role in the formation of Destination Crenshaw, a public art space opening in 2020. According to census data, the Crenshaw/Baldwin Hills area of L.A. has about 36, 753 residents. So as a projection, I included those residents to the total number of people impacted or hired by Nipsey.
Of course, the valuation of some partnerships like his recent, multi-album deal with Atlantic Records are private. In cases like that, where ventures exist but there are no clear financial details available for public viewing, no numerical data was entered or used. Estimations of investment bids or the amount of employees at some of Nipsey’s businesses are averages calculated with figures provided by several organizations including the World Tourism Board and the International Franchise Association.
In my lifetime, I have known three black men who have died violently. Two were really boys, shot under the age of 30. All were pure spirits, on the verge of a fresh start and in the middle of “getting shit together.” The news of Nipsey’s death has filled me with that exact same sense of baffling grief I felt when I first learned of their murders.
As a first-generation Eritrean of a particular age, I was raised with a heightened awareness of loss. Like Nipsey, I am technically older than my motherland. Your parents consider you their second chance at a life free from violence and war. Multiple wars to be exact. And so to lose your child to violence, in a different kind of war- the very thing you tried to escape; is not just a tragedy, but a reminder of how our potential and strength as a people keeps getting stunted when a young, black man like Nipsey dies. We needed him. And that’s why Eritreans across the diaspora have held vigils. Like this one in St. Paul, Minnesota, where roughly 2000 people gathered to mourn Nipsey’s death.
The City of Angels may have gained a saint, but fans around the world have lost a key source of hope. Although, this beautiful video message his mother shared yesterday certainly helps. “The Marathon” is a metaphor Nipsey chose to define his music and social mission. It reflects how when you strive for greatness, you can only do so through dedication and generosity. You should never aim to do your victory lap alone. However, if men like Nipsey keep having to disappear from the race, what’s the point in even having a finish line?