On Monday morning, a plane circled above Hollywood Boulevard trailing a banner that wished a happy birthday to Nipsey Hussle.
Below, a huge crowd of fans, artists and family members took over the fabled Los Angeles street to celebrate the late rapper receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on what would have been his 37th birthday.
Tributes to Hussle, who died in 2019, were scattered across Hollywood Boulevard, from custom blue Lakers jerseys sporting the number 60 and "Hussle" to larger-than-life paintings available for sale. Even the refreshments were reflective of Hussle's brand and motto, as a man weaved his way through the crowd selling "Marathon waters" — a.k.a. your standard bottles of Aquafina.
Plenty of big names came out for Hussle's ceremony, including rappers Roddy Ricch, Saweetie and YG, along with Big Boy, the L.A. radio legend (who has his own star on the Walk of Fame).
"Nip would have been honored by this moment," his longtime partner Lauren London said at the ceremony. "I think he would want everyone to remember that you can't get to what's possible unless you commit to moving forward. That doesn't mean forgetting where you come from, but it requires acknowledging the reality you were born into and the power you have to change that reality for the better.
"So whenever you're in the City of Angels and you see this star, I hope it encourages you to break away from whatever might be holding you back, and for you to run your marathon until God says that it's finished," London added.
Near the end of the ceremony, Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson proclaimed Aug. 15 to be Nipsey Hussle Day in Los Angeles. Harris-Dawson handed the framed proclamation to Hussle's grandmother, Margaret Boutte, who posed with it alongside Hussle's sister, Samantha Smith, and his father, Dawit Asghedom.
"Nipsey was the love of my life," Boutte said. "Always very respectful. I miss him, but I look at his picture and remember all the wonderful times we had together. I thank my daughter for blessing me with Nipsey."
The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, which presents the Walk of Fame ceremonies, had initially announced that Monday's event would take place at 11:30 a.m., but the time was quietly changed to 10 a.m. to keep the crowd from growing too large. James Davis was one of the people who didn't catch the update, arriving after the five speakers had left the stage.
Davis, who said he had come to the event to honor Hussle's birthday, still stuck around to take in the celebratory scene. About six months ago, he bought a T-shirt emblazoned with a painting of Hussle's face but hadn't worn it until Monday, thinking it was finally the perfect occasion.
"I was trying to find the appropriate reason to wear it, and here we are," he said. "This is the first day. I don't know if I'll wear it again, but I finally popped the tag on this one."
Hussle's star was unveiled right outside the new home of Amoeba Music at 6212 Hollywood Blvd. Much of the crowd lingered long after the star was revealed, craning their necks over a metal fence to see it or taking pictures with the most die-hard supporters, who went all out for the ceremony.
Chris Campbell, who came to the event from his home right around the corner, reflected on when he had met Hussle in the same area when he was still just trying to make his name.
"I met him in 2005, on Hollywood and La Brea — it was an internet cafe back then — and he impressed me even there," Campbell said. "He seemed focused. I followed his career and always knew he was going to be big, I'm just sad he never lived long enough to fulfill his career completely."
Others traveled far to make it to Hussle's big day. MassV, an artist and producer, made the trek from San Diego. It wasn't his first Walk of Fame ceremony — he had come once before when 50 Cent got his star — but all the love in the air for Hussle made this one feel special.
"It's amazing, you really feel the energy, the spirit. You feel what he's left out here and that he's left an impact on people," he said. "You really don't know what impact you leave until you're gone, and when something like this happens, you can really feel the love."
The Walk of Fame honor is the latest posthumous achievement for Hussle, who was shot and killed in 2019. (His killer, Eric Holder Jr., was convicted in July and will be sentenced on Sept. 15.) Last week, the new Hyde Park Station on the K Line in South Los Angeles was dedicated in his honor. The station is at the Crenshaw and Slauson intersection, where the rapper first sold his early mixtapes and T-shirts and later established the Marathon Clothing store.
“After [Nipsey] caught the vision and he understood what the train would mean to this community and his neighborhood and businesses like his, he got very involved in making sure that this train worked on behalf of our people and helped us express and live out our possibilities and our hopes and our dreams,” Harris-Dawson said at last week's station ceremony.
The Crenshaw and Slauson intersection was renamed Ermias "Nipsey Hussle" Asghedom Square in 2019. Since then, his flagship store, the Marathon Clothing, announced plans for a second location on Melrose Avenue. The Marathon Collective, the brand's first cannabis dispensary, opened in June.
Born Aug. 15, 1985, Hussle became one of the most important rappers in L.A. — not only because of how beloved his music was, but because he made a blueprint for how to make it out of South Los Angeles with his integrity and independence intact. From an early age, it was clear he didn't just want to rap, he also wanted to have his hands on everything associated with the process — building his first computer at age 12, later teaching himself to record on it.
Hussle founded his All Money In record label in 2010 after an unsatisfying stint with Epic Records. Assembling a roster that included J. Stone, Pacman da Gunman and Cobby Supreme, Hussle set out to take over L.A. without major-label backing, creating innovative ways to sell his music (he sold 1,000 mixtapes for $100 each in less than 24 hours during the Proud 2 Pay campaign for his Crenshaw mixtape).
Techniec, a rapper who made up one-third of the LBC Crew in the mid- to late 1990s, drove up from Long Beach to celebrate Hussle's latest victory. For him, the Walk of Fame ceremony was bigger than the people who were there — it would motivate others to see how far Hussle had come and how they could follow his path.
"He really set the precedent for the inner-city youth to believe they could take it to another level," Techniec said. "A man of respect, it's only right that he got his star right here. I believe it's the most deserved; his life is to be an impact on future generations. They got to check in and see what it is."
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.