Friends, family and fans are celebrating the inspiring life of rapper Nipsey Hussle.
Thousands of people are gathering at the Staples Center in Downtown Los Angeles to honor the life and legacy of the late artist, née Ermias Asghedom, who died on March 31. The streets of Los Angeles are filled with countless fans who are celebrating the star's achievements. The late 33-year-old's lyrics about the power of unity ring especially true on this day as celebrities like Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Russell Westbrook and Cassie gather to honor the memory of the artist.
The late star's longtime love, Lauren London, is among the crowd honoring the life of Nipsey today. In the program at the memorial service, a text message from Lauren to Nipsey, sent in January, was shared.
"I'm in bed with you while you're sleeping and I wanted to tell u something I want you to know I feel real Joy in my heart when I'm around you I feel safe around you," the message began. "Protected. Like a shield over me when you're around I am totally myself with you (which is prob why I'm annoying) because i don't wear a cool mask anymore lol."
"You've made me into more of a woman You've given me an opportunity to really love a man You've been with me while I've been sick," the message continued. "Through my fears U have encouraged me And inspired me to reach higher I've learned so much more about myself with you. You've been my turn up and my church."
"I wouldn't want to go thru this journey with anyone but you," Lauren told Nipsey. "I look up to you in a lot of ways and strive to educate myself more like you have. And when we're at odds….i feel defeated and sad, knowing we are so much better than that. I just want you to know that you've been the greatest boyfriend to me. You aren't perfect but I would never ask you to be. You and I work. We fit."
"And…you're still the coolest guy in the world to me. Still! I love you so much. Unconditionally. My truth is this. I'm never going to give up on you," she concluded her message. "My loyalty and devotion is to you."
The celebration began with a reading by Pastor Shep Crawford, followed by a video, showing pictures of Nipsey's life through the years. The video was set to Frank Sinatra's "My Way."
Singer Marsha Ambrosius then took the stage to perform "Fly Like A Bird" for the crowd. Following the performance, a letter was read, sent in by Barack Obama, sending love to Nipsey's family members.
"Friends and family of Nipsey Hussle, I've never met Nipsey but I've heard his music through my daughters," Obama's message began. "And after his passing I had the chance to learn about his transformation and community work. While most folks look at the Crenshaw neighborhood where he grew up and only see gangs, bullets and despair, Nipsey saw potential. He saw hope. He saw a community that even through its flaws taught him to always keep going. His choice to invest in that community rather than ignore it, to build a skills training center, a co-working space in Crenshaw to lift up the Eritrean American community. He set an example for young people to follow as a legacy worth of celebration. I hope his memory inspired more good work in Crenshaw and more communities like it. Michelle and I send our sympathies to Lauren, Emani and whole family to all those who love Nipsey. Sincerely, Barack Obama."
During his time at the service, Minister Louis Farrakhan spoke about Nipsey's life, accidentally referring to the late star as "Nipsey Russell" before correcting himself.
Ahead of the services, Nipsey Hussle's family spoke out about the profound effect the rapper had on his fans and community. "It was like he was sent by God to give some love to bring us together because that's what his lyrics were saying, always," his father said.
Many celebrities also took to social media to honor Nipsey on Thursday, with Jamie Foxx writing on Instagram, "@nipseyhussle RIP. god blessing. I know there is a silver lining to this. Just hard to see it right now. But good is coming. I can feel. God bless the family. #love #nohate."
Following the event at Staples Center, the procession will be making its way through the streets of South Los Angeles, including the neighborhood of Crenshaw, where the rapper was investing in numerous projects aimed at improving the community he grew up in. Fans are encouraged to pay their respects and take part in the celebration of life as the cars make their way to the funeral home.
During the service, there was a tribute by kids Emani Asghedom, Kameron Carter, Khalil Kimble and Kross Asgehdom. For the family tribute, Lauren joined the kids on the stage, helping them with the microphone.
"On the night of April 2, I had a dream," Kameron told the crowd. "I was in paradise, I was in paradise and I was playing in the ocean water when Ermias popped up right behind me. He said 'whatup killa,' 'cause that's my nickname to him. I turned around and I yelled his name and I gave him a hug. Shortly he was gone but it was still cool I guess. I told my mom about the dream and after I told her I was thinking about it and I realized that Ermias told me what heaven was like, he told me it was paradise. So in the morning Ermias would say respect at the window so on my count of three I want everybody to yell respect! 3, 2, 1...In memory of Ermias Asghedom, August 15, 1985 to March 31, 2019."
Lauren went on to tell the crowd, "Give the kids love, they're a little nervous."
Following the family tribute, Jhene Aiko performed "Eternal Sunshine."
Following Jhene's performance, Nipsey's mother Angelique Smith took the stage to honor her son, calling him a "great man." Her speech was followed by Nipsey's brother, Samuel Asghedom, who held back tears as he spoke.
Lauren then returned to the stage to pay tribute to the love of her life.
"Never will I prepare for anything like this so bare with me y'all," Lauren told the crowd before reading her text message to Nipsey. Lauren went on to tell memorial service attendees, "We lost an incredible soul, we lost someone very rare to us and we lost a real one."
She concluded by saying, "Grief is the final act of love, my heart hears you, I feel you everywhere. I'm so grateful that I had you. I love you beyond this earth, until we meet again, the marathon continues."
Later in the service, Snoop Dogg took to the stage to honor Nipsey, sending love to his family and offering them support.
Stevie Wonder also took the stage at the celebration of life, telling the crowd before his performance, "It is a heartbreak to again lose a member of our family. It is a heartbreak because it's so unnecessary...I'm so happy that in his short life, he was able to motivate people."
Our thoughts go out to his friends and family during this difficult time.