One year after hip-hop star Nipsey Hussle made his final visit to Dallas, a large new mural has appeared in South Oak Cliff, honoring the slain rapper’s legacy. Created by Dallas artist Jeremy Biggers, the artwork covers one side of the Glendale Shopping Center on South Marsalis Avenue. It’s one of the last places Hussle visited in Dallas before he was shot and killed March 31, 2019 in his hometown of Los Angeles.
The mural of Hussle is more than 15 feet high and 60 feet wide and features West African Adinkra symbols that represent prosperity, unity, wisdom, strength, faithfulness and courage. A bright yellow halo surrounds the rapper’s face.
Hussle was influential not only as a musician, but as a businessman and organizer who encouraged fellow African American community members to invest in their neighborhoods. (After Hussle died, a different mural of him by Dallas artist Theo Ponchaveli — in the art-laden corridor surrounding West Dallas’ Fabrication Street — became a site of mourning, with candles and flowers left in Hussle’s memory.)
Taylor Toynes, executive director of For Oak Cliff, which focuses on getting education resources to students in the area, invited Hussle to Glendale Shopping Center. The shopping center, where For Oak Cliff has been located since 2017, is a powerful example of black property ownership — for which Hussle has long advocated in Los Angeles. It’s owned by longtime real estate investor Al Herron, 77.
Hussle met Toynes and Heron at the center on Feb. 22 last year, the day after attending Buy The Block, a business networking event hosted by the Black Academy of Arts and Letters.
“It was inspiring and encouraging when he walked into the building and said he was impressed,” Toynes says. “It was a special moment for our organization and the community. Where he was in South Central L.A. mirrored our community and we were both really excited to see what would come from our relationship. It’s tough, man, that he’s not with us.”
After Hussle was killed, Toynes and Herron started planning a mural to honor him. (Hussle’s alleged killer is expected to go on trial in April.)
“There’s not many individuals who see the world from both perspectives, from the boardrooms to the neighborhoods,” Toynes says. “His dedication to staying in close proximity to his community and neighborhood was very inspiring.
Herron, who’s owned the shopping center for over two decades, says Hussle’s focus on black land ownership resonated with him. “It was like divine intervention when he showed up,” Herron says. “I bought my first piece of property when I was 19 in Mississippi. But black people are allowing our neighborhoods to be sold out,” he says. “We need to be into the program of investing in our neighborhoods and businesses. If we don’t own homes and businesses and create jobs, it creates an economic decline that keeps us weak. What I want to do as my last project on this Earth is to get more people to think that way, and that’s what Nipsey was pushing.”
The mural is Biggers’ largest — larger, for instance, than the mural of Selena in North Oak Cliff, off West Jefferson Boulevard, for which he is perhaps best known. He painted it for free, with help from artist Hatziel Flores. Herron paid for the supplies.
After working on the mural for two weekends, they completed it on Feb. 16. It’s on the side of a restaurant in the shopping center called M&P’s Kitchen, at 4454 S. Marsalis Ave.
“With Pan-African Connection being one of the stores that’s there in a shopping center that has a pretty good foothold on the culture in that area,” Biggers says, referring to the bookstore and art gallery, “I wanted to include their aesthetic as well as the neighborhood in general while being true to who Nipsey was.”
Toynes believes the mural will add value to the shopping center and transform it in a way that could even alter area residents’ mindsets.
“Art psychologically changes the way that people operate,” Toynes says. “When you’re in an area that experiences high amounts of trauma and doesn’t often see public displays of art like this it can change the fabric of a person.”
Biggers agrees. “It can help people see that there are other things to do. Maybe it will help someone understand that art and hip-hop are viable career options.”
“I am thankful that individuals will come to my community and take photos with this mural,” Toynes says. “But patronize the businesses as well. Economic freedom and dollars circulating through our community is the most important thing.”