Hundreds mourn slain rapper Nipsey Hussle in Detroit

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

When Chi Johnson learned rapper Nipsey Hussle had been slain in California last weekend, the Detroiter was dismayed.

She sought solace in the Grammy-nominated artist's work and inspiration from his work in the community. That's why she joined more than 200 other fans Wednesday for a candlelight vigil downtown.

"He did what he needed to do in his time being here," the 26-year-old said as her favorite Hussle song, "Double Up," blared nearby. "We never realize how much a voice means until it's gone." 

Three days after the 33-year-old entertainer named Ermias Asghedom was fatally shot Sunday afternoon outside his South Los Angeles clothing store, admirers packed Cadillac Square Park to pay their respects.

This March 29, 2018 file photo shows rapper Nipsey Hussle at an NBA basketball game between the Golden State Warriors and the Milwaukee Bucks in Oakland, Calif. Hussle was shot and killed Sunday, March 31, 2019 outside of his clothing store in Los Angeles.

As the sun set, they laid flowers and lit candles on the steps of the granite Bagley Memorial Fountain while listening to Hussle's music on twin speakers.

The event, largely fueled by social media less than 24 hours earlier, was a chance to honor a man long respected in hip-hop inner circles but who broke out with his Grammy-nominated major label debut last year.

"We wanted to bring people together for a hip-hop legend," said Justin Floyd, a Detroit promoter who spoke during the vigil. "Nipsey had a lot of love in the city. He did a lot of things for his community. ... The senseless killing has to stop."

Police have said the suspect repeatedly came up to Hussle and spoke with him, then returned with a gun and opened fire before fleeing in a car driven by an unidentified woman.

That suspect, identified as 29-year-old Eric Holder, was captured Tuesday in Bellflower, a Los Angeles-area city about 20 miles southeast of where Hussle was gunned down.

Hussle and Holder knew each other, and the two had some kind of personal dispute in the hours before the rapper was killed, police Chief Michel Moore said Tuesday.

Holder is likely to be charged with killing Hussle and to make his first appearance in front of a judge by Thursday.

Hussle died a day before he was scheduled to meet with the L.A. police chief about the relationship between officers and the inner city.

The rapper had recently bought the strip mall and planned to redevelop it into a mixed-use commercial and residential complex. The plan was part of Hussle’s broader ambitions to remake the neighborhood where he grew up and attempt to break the cycle of gang life that lured him in when he was younger.

Fans light candles at a vigil for Nipsey Hussle in Detroit. "We wanted to bring people together for a hip-hop legend," said promoter Justin Floyd.

Those efforts were an inspiration for Michigan fans such as Detroit Chè, a 25-year-old entertainer who wore a white sweatshirt emblazoned with the artist's image and rapped along to his beat-driven songs at the memorial.

"I like his independence. I like his courage to go against the grain," she said. "He really cared. That's why it hurts."

Sales and streams of Hussle’s music have surged since his death, with thousands of copies of his albums bought this week, according to Nielsen Music.

Meanwhile, Metro Detroit fans have shared tributes on social media, and those who attended the vigil Wednesday night brought blue and silver balloons or snapped pictures in front of his picture.

"He was an important guy," said Tyrell McCurdy, who attended with his 3-year-old son.

The Detroit event came two days after a disturbance at a memorial for Hussle in his city left at least 19 people injured, including two people taken to local hospitals in critical condition.

Dozens of police officers cleared the memorial site after a fight apparently broke out and a stampede ensued.

At Wednesday's gathering, Detroit police were on hand throughout the downtown event, said Officer Holly Lowe, a spokeswoman for the department.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.