NEW YORK (AP) — John Legend, Meek Mill, DJ Khaled and a host of musicians paid tribute to Nipsey Hussle at the Grammy Awards, filling the vast stage with a soaring performance of his music.
The tribute kicked off with Mill performing a new song called “Letter to Nipsey,” which mentioned a letter President Barack Obama wrote in Hussle’s honor. “When we lost you, it really put some pain on me,” Mill rapped. “Real hitters never die.”
Then DJ Khaled and Legend sang their collaboration with Hussle, DJ Khaled’s track “Higher,” which later won the Grammy for best rap/sung performance. Legend sang while playing the piano as a choir sang along with them. Other performers including Kirk Franklin, Roddy Ricch and YG, each took turns doing solos.
Hussle was killed outside of his South Los Angeles clothing store in March 2019. Sunday’s performance featured musicians, background dancers and Legend wearing traditional Ethiopian and Eritrean clothing in honor of Hussle’s African roots.
The tributes to Hussle were made even more poignant by the loss earlier in the day by another icon of Los Angeles — basketball superstar Kobe Bryant.
“Rest in peace, Nipsey Hussle,” DJ Khaled said at the end of the performance. Hussle’s image was beamed onto the back of the stage, beside one of Bryant. “Rest in peace, Kobe Bryant,” DJ Khaled said.
Hussle received praise for being a skilled rapper and also for being an activist who tried to unite and build up his community. Ava DuVernay introduced the Grammy performance by saying Hussle “made brave, brilliant strides in his community.”
Earlier, before the telecast, Hussle became a Grammy Award winner the first time. He won best rap performance for his track “Racks in the Middle,” a collaboration featuring Roddy Ricch and Hit-Boy. Lauren London, Hussle’s partner and the mother of his child, accepted the award with several members of Hussle’s family, including his grandmother. “Higher” then made him a double posthumous winner.