PEOPLE | Sam Gillette
Like Tupac Shakur, the late and greatly mourned Nipsey Hussle was a bibliophile. Since his death last March, the rapper’s fans created a reading list based off of the books he cited in songs and interviews — one that went viral and led 76 men of color to create The Marathon Book Club.
The collective, which involves four chapters that meet in four major cities in the U.S., was profiled in a Los Angeles Times article published on Sunday, Jan. 5. The 74 black men and two Latinos, who range from entrepreneurs and academics to corporate executives, meet monthly to discuss the book they’ve read, their goals, and the struggles they face while trying to achieve them, according to the paper.
The books themselves are just as wide-ranging. The list includes books like Blood in My Eye by George Jackson, a memoir by an inmate-turned-activist who spent more than a decade in prison after stealing $70; Contagious by Jonah Berger, a guide that explains how to make ideas and content popular; and The Spook Who Sat by the Door by Sam Greenlee, a fictional novel about a former gang member who transitions from the CIA to training young black men in Chicago as “Freedom Fighters.” According to the Times, the book’s title was the inspiration behind an album that Hussle never got to produce.
Rashad Drakeford, the 32-year-old who founded the book club, has a high-powered job at a tech company, but he worries he won’t be able to help the younger people in his community like he’s envisioned, according to the Times.
“I’m not being heard in the way that I want to,” he told the other men, per the paper. “Now I’m at a place where, do I take all the skills, experiences and avenues and apply it to doing good for us? That’s a hard point to get to.”
These same issues—striving for success and supporting the community while living as a black man in America—propelled Hussle in his music and his activism. And a great deal of his inspiration came from the books he read.
Hussle, who was born Ermias Joseph Asghedom, was a Grammy-nominated artist and loved for both his music and his good works. A former member of the Rollin 60’s Crips gang, Hussle used his platform to work with the police to stop gang violence and heavily invested in his neighborhood in South L.A., according to the New York Times. On March 31, 2019, the rapper was shot and killed outside of his Hyde Park clothing store in Los Angeles. He was 33.
Immediately after his death, there was an outpouring of grief from friends and fans alike. Shortly after, one fan put up a book list that went viral.
Other lists were generated all over the internet by those who wished to honor him, including a list of 25 books compiled by The Game.
“It’s been 4 weeks since we lost nip & it all still feels unreal to me. I look at pictures & still can’t seem to make reality out of the hashtags attached to them,” the rapper wrote last April on Instagram. “But before I go into a story or choice of words that may sadden anyone’s day, I’m going to keep it short today & leave you guys with a list of 25 books nip read in hopes they may comfort, enlighten or educate you in areas needed.”
In an interview before his death, Hussle spoke about the importance of reading.
“I didn’t really graduate high school. I left early when I was like 14, but I always had books around me,” he said. “I just read things that I was interested in. I started off reading magazines, that’s how I learned about hip-hop culture outside of L.A.”
He added: “A lot of my best ideas, a lot of my business savvy… came from books. I read books about the industry, I read books about the deals that was done in the industry, and [how] these dudes held out and made certain decisions that empowered them for the rest of their careers.”
Hussle’s longtime girlfriend Lauren London, who is raising their toddler son Kross, spoke about Hussle’s craving for knowledge during the rapper’s memorial last April.
“My pain is from a 2-year-old that probably won’t remember how much his dad loved him,” she said. “His soul was majestic. He was the strongest man that I ever knew. A gentle father, a patient leader, a divine light. He was brilliant. He researched everything, completely self-taught, constantly seeking knowledge.”