For the last eight years, you have been integral to my hustle, and the reason I am who I am today.
You are the reason I wanted to start my own brand, the reason I hold the idea of ownership so tightly, the reason I bust my ass everyday. You mapped out the blueprint for us, and now I feel the need to follow it more than ever.
Your music has gotten me through every situation. Whether it was giving me the motivation to make it through another day of school, a sporting event, or all the late nights scrubbing toilets in high school; whether it was the days where I did not know what was next, what step to take, or if this was even worth it anymore… you gave me an answer. You filled me with hope — you filled me with a sense of power, a sense of worth.
I was introduced to your music at 11 years old, thanks to my older brother. Most of my peers were listening to Nicki Minaj and Chris Brown, or even Justin Bieber, at the time. However, something about you stuck to me like glue, and I became an instant fan.
My first time meeting you came a few years later, at Slauson Donuts when I was 13. I could never forget it — I was wearing a red Stanford hoodie, and you walked in to get some juice. You took the time to speak with my peers and I, and just having that conversation with you spoke volumes to me. Whether it was watching you perform on stage or speaking with you personally, your presence filled people with a refreshing sense of amazement every time, and this moment was no exception.
Fast forward to college. Two of the best presentations that I’ve ever given at Howard University were based off you and your teachings, preaching your wisdom to students from around the world. Wisdom from a king, a king in my own community.
The funny thing is, I’ve learned more from studying you than from studying at Howard. Your music can be described as an audio textbook on life, from how to hustle & make a business, to how to endure the towering roadblocks along the journey. You made music for the future leaders in the community, to motivate and steer mindsets in a new direction.
My smile stretched from ear to ear when I learned you were launching your flagship Marathon Clothing Store, the world’s first “smart store,” right on the same block you sold T-shirts from. Instead of opening it in the Fairfax District like many rappers choose to do, you placed it in our own community. Once again, you were laying out the blueprint right before our eyes, showing us that we can be owners, too.
It’s no secret that you were ahead of your time, both in music and in business. Whether it was the “Proud 2 Pay” marketing technique that highlighted the value of a creator, the revolutionary design behind the Marathon Clothing store, or promoting STEM programs in the Crenshaw District, you were the definition of a self-educated genius.
You touched a lot of souls. When I asked people from around LA about your influence, I heard it all — How you got their family members off the street, how you were the first to invest in their business, or how your music was the sole bright spot that picked them up out of their deepest, darkest moments.
From the Bullets Aint Got No Name projects, to Slauson Boy, to TMC, to Mailbox Money, to Crenshaw, all the way to Victory Lap, you were one of a kind. Nobody will ever be able to live up to you, but we’ll be sure to keep your memory alive.
Thank you for influence, for your legacy, for your gifts that you chose to share with the world. You took your victory lap, and now, it’s our mission to continue the marathon.