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Nipsey Hussle performs onstage at the STAPLES Center Concert Sponsored by SPRITE during the 2018 BET Experience on June 23, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ser Baffo/Getty Images for BET)

The Marathon Continues: Nipsey Hussle's 10 Best Songs

The late activist and rapper's lyrics charted his growth as a rapper and a person.

On March 31, the world mourned the loss of rapper, activist and community leader Nipsey Hussle (born Ermias Asghedom), who was gunned down by 29-year-old Eric Holder following a dispute in front of his Marathon Clothing store on Slauson Avenue. Hussle was born August 15, 1985, in Crenshaw, Calif. and was 33 at the time of his death. In the wake of his murder, fans, supporters and even his detractors reflected on the rapper’s complex legacy. As an artist, Hussle was an undeniable force whose at times divisive politics, proud first-generation identity, and desire to uplift black people globally was actively crystalizing - both through music and grassroots community efforts - into viable structures for positive change.

Not only was Hussle coming off of a well-deserved Grammy-nomination for 2018’s Victory Lap, but he was also in the process of revitalizing a country-wide vision of a black enterprise that had roots on his beloved Slauson Avenue. Working with private equity investor David Gross, Hussle was quietly buying back his neighborhood while simultaneously developing the blueprint for a self-sustained community that would not be ravaged by the typical outcomes of gentrification, which often results in the displacement of the socioeconomically disadvantaged. Instead, Hussle was creating the change he wanted to see, developing affordable housing and a STEM center for the neighborhood’s youth. He even had plans to open an inner-city coworking space where young creatives of color could connect.

From sobering reflections on his proximity to death and violence on his first mixtape, Slauson Boy Vol. 1, where he first introduced himself as “Neighborhood Nip,” to the era of Bullets Ain’t Got No Name mixtape trilogy, all the way through the release of Victory Lap - his first and only major commercial release - Hussle’s music is a testament to the arc of his life, as well as the personal awakenings that came with his journey. Here are some of his most resonant songs.

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1. “Blue Laces” (2010)

They think we on some kill another n***a s**t / We really on some stay down and diligent / The streets is cold, turn innocence to militance / Young n****s gangbangin' for the thrill of it / Pops was gone, moms was never home /The streets was right there so they took you as they own.

Although Nipsey’s music frequently reflects on inequity - much of “Blue Laces” does just this - the lyrics are bolstered by an innate sense of pride. Yes, he addresses the cyclical nature of violence, and how it creates outside perceptions that demonize young black men, but in Nipsey’s hands, they are humanized...as they deserve to be.

2. “Blue Laces 2” (2018)

I wonder what it come to you in your brain for you to run to / Ones that hate us, handcuff us and mace us / Call us dumb n****s 'cause our culture is contagious / Third generation, South Central gangbangers / That lived long enough to see it changing / Think it's time we make arrangements, finally wiggle out they mazes / Find me out in different places / I'm the spook by the door, this the infiltration.

A follow-up to 2010’s equally definitive “Blue Laces,” this sprawling sequel displays Nipsey’s unique ability to proselytize to people and communities that have been historically devalued, reminding them not only of their humanity but their very real ability to impact change.

3. “Crenshaw & Slauson (True Story)” (2018)

There are really too many good bars to choose tbh.

In this three-part saga, Nipsey’s affinity for storytelling is elevated to an art. The narrative is a deeply personal one that details his ascension in rap music starting from the moment he decided to “cut out the middleman” as an 18-year-old neophyte, to the sacrifices required to gain a foothold as an independent artist. In the same way, Nas revealed a new level of introspection and lyrical artistry by personifying a bullet in “I Gave You Power,” so too does Nipsey on “Crenshaw & Slauson,” which feels like a journey into the interior of an at times guarded artist.

4. Childish Gambino, “Black Faces” featuring Nipsey Hussle (2012)

Look, young rich nigga s***, pops was an immigrant / Lifestyle ill legit, but I know I own business / Started out the trunk, ended up at the dealership / All gold Rollie, black face no blemishes / Legend in my city ‘cause I grind so vigorous.

Hussle’s fiery feature on Donald Glover’s surprise sixth mixtape Royalty was something of a happy coincidence, one that started on Twitter and snowballed. After the rapper shared that he was a fan of Glover’s 2011 project, Camp, the duo hit the studio and cooked up "Black Faces," an unapologetic celebration of black resilience and entrepreneurship. The rapper’s reflections on the nature of his empire, which began in the streets and metamorphosed into legal businesses, also highlights his family’s immigrant experience, reinforcing the importance his Eritrean identity played in his life and music.

5. “Racks in the Middle” (featuring Roddy Ricch & Hit-Boy) (2019)

Teaming up with Compton rapper Roddy Ricch, Nipsey delivers braggadocious bars that reflect on the nature of success and the material goods that come with it. Following a Grammy nomination and critically-acclaimed album, it’s a well-deserved flex. And as Nipsey’s last release of his life, it is certainly fitting to include.

6. YG, “F**k Donald Trump” featuring Nipsey Hussle (2016)

Look, Reagan sold coke, Obama sold hope / Donald Trump spent his trust fund money on the vote / I'm from a place where you prolly can't go / Speakin' for some people that you prolly ain't know / It's pressure built up and it's prolly gon' blow / And if we say go then they're prolly gon' go.

Politics and rap have been deeply intertwined since the birth of hip-hop, which was conceived as an innately political statement. In the face of one of the most divisive elections of our time, YG and Nipsey Hussle, though affiliated with opposing sets, mobilized to send a strong message refuting the inflammatory rhetoric of Donald Trump. Hussle in particular unpacks America’s long and crooked political history, espousing Reagan-era conspiracy theories with the same ease he that he reflects on his childhood in Crenshaw.

7. “Dedication” featuring Kendrick Lamar (2018)

Young black n***a trapped and he can’t change it / Know he a genius, he just can’t claim it / ‘Cause they left him no platforms to explain it / He frustrated so he get faded / But deep down inside he know you can’t fade him / How long should I stay dedicated?

While the Kendrick Lamar assist certainly enriches “Dedication,” Nipsey’s signature cadence delivered over a Mike N Keys-produced beat embodies the core of his rap ethos. His ability to verbalize the internalized struggles of being a black male in America without succumbing to a sense of hopelessness is as rare as it is precious.

8. “Sound of My Ceremony” (2012)

I ain't got a boss, I am not a slave / Turnin' up my hustle is how I give myself a raise / And it's funny how people let money make 'em change / See you stickin' to the script then start rippin' out the pages of history, it ain't a mystery / If I died yesterday, my life would be a victory

Although “Sound of My Ceremony” ultimately didn’t make it onto The Marathon Continues, Hussle went on to add it to The Marathon Continues: X-Tra Laps. Much in the same way singles like “Hussle & Motivate” balance gritty realities with hope and dignity, so too does this song. Not only does Nipsey frame himself as royalty, but in one verse in particular he describes his life as a victory, which feels almost prophetic.

9. "Hussle in the House" (2009)

Look, I'm comin straight off of Slauson / A crazy motherf**ker named Nipsey / I'm turnt up cause I grew up in the 60s / Caution to you rap n****s try and diss me / I go hard that's why yo' b***h wanna flip me.

Not only does Nipsey pay homage to NWA’s “Straight Outta Compton” in the song’s opening line, but he also interpolates Snoop Dogg’s “G Funk” intro and serves it all up with a sample of “Jump” by Kriss Kross. The bars are true Nipsey Hussle form - a litany of “guns, money and b***hes” as Hussle goes on to say in a later verse - but there’s still a playfulness that makes it a solid palate cleanser for some of A Bullet Ain’t Got No Name Vol. 2’s more heavy offerings.

10. “Hussle & Motivate” (2018)

Judge a young n***a by they address / Left us no option, what they expect? / Only thing we knew for sure was to bang the set / F**k livin' basic, I'm takin' risks.

F**k what they sayin', I'm sayin' this / Don't waste your time, it don't make you rich / It don't mean nothin' so f**k 'em, let's make a grip / Double up, triple up, make assist / Ballin' so hard, you could play your bench /Lead to the lake, if they wanna fish.

Sampling from Jay-Z's “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem),” Nipsey reflects on the sacrifices, setbacks and victories that ultimately brought him success. As it were, the song isn’t a boisterous celebratory lap (although it appears on the Victory Lap album), but rather a sermon of sorts; a love letter to the young men and women of his community and beyond.

Here, Nipsey takes aim at the hypocrisy inherent in the glamorization of street life while the very same communities are actively disenfranchised, effectively causing the cycles of violence they are often accused of perpetuating. More important, he looks beyond this reality, offering motivation, and a blueprint for transcending circumstance.

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CIRCA 1980: Photo of Bill Withers
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Bill Withers' Greatest Hits: Remixed, Sampled And Covered

The recent loss of legends in jazz, soul and classical music have saddened the music industry and reminded us of their touching gifts to music. The passing of Manu Dibango, Krzysztof Penderecki, Ellis Marsalis Jr., Bucky Pizzarelli and Alan Merrill brought endless tributes from peers and fans with the recent loss of soul singer-songwriter Bill Withers doing the same.

With a mirage of hits, the iconic songwriter left his mark on music with the release of his debut album Just As I Am in 1971. "Ain't No Sunshine" put a spotlight on his songwriting while 1977's "Lovely Day" reminded the industry of his signature vocals. Withers released eight studio albums, one live album and garnered three Grammys for his powerful songs that gave hope and love to fans to this day.

Hip-hop and R&B have gained the most from Withers as his music went on to inspire records like "No Diggity" by BLACKStreet, "Roses" by Kanye West and other songs from UGK, Dr. Dre, Jill Scott and more.

Take a look at some of Withers' finest tunes covered, remixed and sampled below.

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8. “Lovely Day” | Menagerie (1977)

Sampled On: T.W.D.Y., “Player’s Holiday” | Derty Werk (1999) LunchMoneyLewis - “It's Gonna Be A Lovely Day” feat. Aminè | Pets 2 Soundtrack (2019) Swizz Beatz - “Take A Picture” |One Man Band (2007)

Standout: T.W.D.Y., “Player’s Holiday” | Derty Werk (1999)

Short for "The Whole Damn Yay," the group used Withers' sample while throwing a splash of The Bay's laid back flavor. With cameos from future legends like E-40 and Ray Luv, the single already embodied the best of R&B and hip-hop with guest verses from Too Short, Mac Mall and Otis & Shug. The mimosas and yacht are also a great touch.

Covered By: Jill Scott, The Original Jill Scott from the Vault Vol. 1 (2011) Alt-J, This Is All Yours (2014) Robert Glasper Experiment, Black Radio 2 (2013) Kirk Franklin, The Nu Nation Project (1998)

Standout: Kirk Franklin, The Nu Nation Project (1998)

Who was going to beat a chorus singing to the lordt? Franklin's take on the classic gives us stirring gospel and appreciation for Withers and God. There are plenty of covers that have lifted the same vocals as Withers, but the ones listed have put their unique spin on the track.

7. “Ain't No Sunshine” | Just As I Am (1971)

Sampled On: DMX - “No Sunshine” | Exit Wounds Soundtrack (2001) Lil B - “Up And Down” | Based Jam (2012) 2Pac- "Soulja's Story" |  2Pacalypse Now (1991)

Standout: DMX - “No Sunshine” | Exit Wounds Soundtrack (2001)

"No Sunshine" served as the only single from DMX's film alongside Steven Seagal, which gave everyone the perfect backdrop to the movie and X's intricate storytelling. Both the original and flipped version points out the dark elements of our lives. Withers penned the song after watching the film 1962 movie Days of Wine and Roses, he pondered over the toxicity in his life. "Sometimes you miss things that weren't particularly good for you," he said in 2004 to SongFacts. "It's just something that crossed my mind from watching that movie, and probably something else that happened in my life that I'm not aware of."

Covered By: Soul For Real | Candy Rain (1994) Michael Jackson | Got to Be There (1972) The Boris Gardiner Happening | Is What's Happening (1973) The Temptations | Solid Rock (1972)

Standout: Michael Jackson | Got to Be There (1972)

At 14, the future King of Pop gave a riveting cover of Withers' hit for his debut album, Got To Be There. From his vocal control throughout the track to the instrumentation, his cover takes the song to another level of heartbreak.

6. "Grandma's Hands” | Just As I Am (1971)

Sampled On: BLACKstreet - “No Diggity” feat. Dr. Dre and Queen Pen | Another Level (1996) Big K.R.I.T. - “I Gotta Stay” | K.R.I.T. Wuz Here (2010) Brother Ali - “Waheedah's Hands” | Champion (2004)

Standout: BLACKstreet - “No Diggity” feat. Dr. Dre and Queen Pen | Another Level (1996)

R&B heads are well aware of BLACKstreet's neverending ballads and the genius of Teddy Riley. But the pivot of their sound for their sophomore album Another Level was due to Withers and the William “Stylez” Stewart. Speaking to Fact Mag in 2017, the creator of New Jack Swing gave credit to Stylez for bringing him the sample of "Grandma's Hands."

“If he hadn’t played that sample for me, there would never be a ‘No Diggity’ And if he didn’t write it according to the melody I gave him so it would sound that way because I wanted it to sound funky,” he said. “I wanted it to be appealing to everyone, but mostly to women. I wanted every woman to feel like they were the ‘No Diggity’ girl and that song was about them and it came across. And now, still, today, that song plays and people are on that dancefloor.”

Covered By: Gil Scott-Heron, Reflections (1981) Merry Clayton, Merry Clayton (1971) Barbra Streisand, Butterfly (1974)

Standout: Gil Scott-Heron, Reflections (1981)

Gil Scott-Heron's version of the soul classic reminded us of his versatile talents. From spoken word to his vocal abilities, the Godfather of rap music always came through with his own sound and style. Reflections was one of four albums the late artist dropped in the 80s with critics looking to it as one of his finest projects. Other cuts from the album included "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)" and "B Love."

5. "Use Me" | Still Bill (1972)

Sampled On: Kendrick Lamar - “Sing About Me, I'm Dying Of Thirst"  | Good kid, Maad City (2012) J. Cole- "Dollar And A Dream II" | The Warm-Up (2009) Leela James - “So Good" | Fall For You (2014) UGK - "Use Me Up" | The Southern Way (1992)

Standout: Kendrick Lamar - “Sing About Me, I'm Dying Of Thirst"  | Good kid, Maad City (2012)

Lamar's take on "Use Me" blended right into the themes of his debut album, Good kid, Maad City allowing the artist to create another world on the project. To make things even better, Lamar also sampled Al Green's "I'm Glad You're Mine" for the track.

Covered By: Grace Jones, Indigo Nights, Live (2008) Mick Jagger feat. Lenny Kravitz, Wandering Spirit  (2004) Issac Hayes, Dr. Dolittle Soundtrack (1998)

Standout: Mick Jagger feat. Lenny Kravitz, Wandering Spirit (2004)

On his third solo album, Jagger linked with Rick Rubin to test his creative energy, allowing him to work with Lenny Kravitz on their version of "Use Me." Colliding worlds was one thing but to hear Kravitz's vocals come in on the bridge, set the track apart from the rest.

4. “Kissing My Love” | Still Bill (1972)

Sampled On: J. Cole - “The Cut Off" featuring kiLL Edward  | KOD (2018) Dr. Dre - "Let Me Ride" featuring Snoop Dogg, RC and Jewell | The Chronic (1992) Masta Ace- "Movin On" | Take A Look Around (1990) Master P- "Bastard Child" | The Ghettos Tryin To Kill Me! | 1994

Standout: Dr. Dre - "Let Me Ride" featuring Snoop Dogg, RC and Jewell | The Chronic (1992)

"Kissing My Love" is one of most sampled from Withers catalog, thanks to its feverish drums. It's also why it fits into Dr. Dre's single and the G-funk era.

3. Grover Washington's “Just The Two of Us” featuring Bill Withers | Winelight (1981)

Sampled/Covered On:  Will Smith - “Just The Two of Us” | Big Willie Style (1997) Eminem- "Just The Two of Us" | Slim Shady EP (1997) Keri Hilson- "Pretty Girl Rock" | No Boys Allowed (2010)

Standout: Will Smith - “Just The Two of Us” | Big Willie Style (1997)

Touching and soulful, Smith's dedication to his eldest son Trey is just too cute for words.

2. “Let It Be” | Just As I Am  (1967)

The Original: The Beatles - “Let It Be” | Let It Be (1968)

"Let It Be" is a pretty special record. Aretha Franklin recorded a version a year before the release of The Beatles' version and Withers gave his take on the record in the 70s. Slightly faster, his upbeat take on "Let It Be" just hits different.

1. “Rosie” | Menagerie Re-Issue (1977)

Sampled On: Kanye West - “Roses” |  Late Registration (2005)

As the somber part of Late Registration, "Roses" brings us into Kanye's world where he contemplates the mortality of a loved one. It's a sentimental take on the sample and one of the artist's most underrated songs. It's also a hidden gem for Withers as it isn't featured on Menagerie's LP. It was added as a bonus track on

Enjoy the jams in playlist form below.

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Remain Calm: 5 Ways To Curve Negative Effects Of Coronavirus Isolation

Self-isolation during the coronavirus outbreak seems to be best practice in keeping our families and peers safe but it's also a shift in our normal social behavior. As millions of families around the country get adjusted to self-isolation, the state of our mental health and how our bodies react to the practice are changing by the day, especially lower-income and marginalized groups.

Speaking with Wired, John Vincent, a clinical psychologist at the University of Houston, shared how apathetic behavior can rise to the forefront, making space for anxiety and depression.

“People start getting lethargic when they don’t have positive inputs into their small worlds,” Vincent says. “We can expect depression to kick in, and depression and anxiety are kissing cousins.”

But the biggest reason behind the uneasiness isn't the self-isolation but just how long it will last. Details of COVID-19 are changing by the day with the most cases now coming out of New York. Yet, there's still little to no information on what happens next.

“Open, transparent, consistent communication is the most important thing governments and organizations can do: Make sure people understand why they are being quarantined first and foremost, how long it is expected to last,” Samantha Brooks of King’s College London told the outlet. “A huge factor in the negative psychological impact seems to be confusion about what's going on, not having clear guidelines, or getting different messages from different organizations.”

Uncertainty hitting low income and marginalized groups is also a problem within itself. As virtual parties and celebrities opening up on social media happen on a daily, there are people who might not access fun distractions on the web.

“Some people have posited technology as a means of connecting people, but lower-income groups might not even have FaceTime or Skype or minutes on their phone,” Thomas Cudjoe, a geriatrician researching the intersection of social connections and aging at Johns Hopkins University says. “People take that for granted, using their devices can be a strain on people’s incomes.”

To make self-isolation less than a bore or a daunting task, experts suggest creating a schedule to dictate control in your home.

1. Work It Out

Gyms are closed, but your home can be transformed into a personal training center. Use heavy bags for weights and if you can, create a playlist of workouts on YouTube. For those who have memberships for Blink or Peloton, the platforms have streamed their workouts on apps.

2. Mindful Meditation

Meditation isn't about dumping your thoughts, it's about staying aware and mindful. AQUA has developed online that leverages the power of "Mindful Meditation and Mobility Movements" for flexibility and fluidity in the body. Classes are free of charge but feel free to donate.

3. Take It Back To High School

Give your friends a call or indulge in a FaceTime party. Feel free to use the Wifi in your home to reduce the amount of data used on your phone. Lala Anthony held a too-cute FT birthday party for writer Kiyonna Anthony with a 70s theme. You can also find creative ways to hop on the phone with friends and family instead of constantly chatting about 'rona.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

We made the best out of our quarantine situation🎉‼️FACETIME 70s Party💃🏽🎉HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MY NIECE @kiyonnathewriter ❤️❤️💃🏽💃🏽SHOUT OUT TO ALL MY ARIES ♈️ MAKE THE BEST OF IT!!!😘

A post shared by ℒᎯ ℒᎯ (@lala) on Mar 23, 2020 at 7:14pm PDT

4. Start A Journal

Journals just aren't for kids. The practice not only gives you something to do, but it fuels creativity and a new level of self-awareness. Former First Lady Michelle Obama recently developed Becoming: A Guided Journal for Discovering Your Voice, with over 150 inspiring questions and quotes that connect to key themes in her memoir. The journal will also help bring readers to terms with the importance of family and personal reflections as well as the goals they'd like to make a reality.

5. Have a Dance Party or Enjoy Lo-Fi Beats To Quarantine To

If you don't have data or battery power to watch a virtual DJ party, make your own. If you have to pull out your record player, do it! You can also hop on your favorite streaming service and create a playlist all your own.

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From Teen Sensation To Vocal Bible: Brandy's 15 Best Songs

September 27, 2019 marked the 25th anniversary of the multiplatinum self-titled debut album by one of R&B’s greatest voices, Brandy Rayana Norwood, or simply Brandy. She was already well on her way to stardom prior to her debut as a background vocalist for Immature and one of the stars of the short-lived ABC series, Thea. However, it was the album Brandy that set her on the path to tremendous success.

Since officially bursting onto the scene in 1994 sporting her well-known braided crown of glory, she has been a force to be reckoned with. She was handpicked by her idol, the late Whitney Houston, to portray the role of the first Black Cinderella in the 1997 film Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella. Her show Moesha was one of the longest-running black sitcoms. Brandy was also a CoverGirl in 1999 and became a friend of Barbie that same year when Mattel released the Brandy Doll. In music, she’s released six studio albums, sold more than 40 million records worldwide, headlined three world tours, and won more than 30 awards including seven Billboard Music Awards, a Grammy and the Soul Train Lady of Soul Award. Brandy deserves her flowers.

Let’s check out the top 15 songs that helped solidify Brandy as your favorite singer’s favorite singer (just ask Solange) and earned her the title of the “Vocal Bible.”

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