Aside from his music and philanthropy, a major thing that Nipsey Hussle was known for was his tattoos. The rapper, whose real name was Ermias Asghedom, was covered in them by the time a gunman claimed his life outside the entertainer’s South Los Angeles clothing store in March. Now, on what would have been his 34th birthday, Atlanta Black Star is reporting on the stories behind some of his most iconic tats.
Speaking exclusively with tattoo artist and muralist Keenan Chapman, ABS learned how some of Nipsey’s most well-known body art came to be.
Chapman is responsible for several of the rapper’s tats, and the first one he did was the “NH” on the star’s shoulders. In addition to standing for his stage name initials, it also commemorated Nipsey’s ties to the Rollin’ 60s Neighborhood Crips.
“It was essentially branding him in the hood and the streets,” Chapman told Atlanta Black Star earlier this week. “I was known as an artist in the community, and he essentially just trusted me with the work, and from that point on we built a relationship. I did about eight or nine tattoos on him.”
“This was like, top of his music career, him really putting himself out there and executing as Nipsey Hussle,” he added.
Other ink Chapman is responsible for are “Hood Unit” inscribed on Nipsey’s left hand, “Hold My Own” on his chest, and “God Got Me” on his right wrist. Chapman also tattooed “SC” in the style of a college school logo standing for “Sixty Crip” on Nipsey’s left wrist, and on the same wrist he did a set of bullets that read “No Name” on them, which meant “bullets ain’t got no name.”
The tattoo artist had also done smaller, simpler work on Nipsey, like the “ALL $ IN” one next to his right sideburn that represented his label All Money In. On the opposite side of Nipsey’s face, Chapman inked “2 DA END,” which meant the MC would continue fighting until the end. There was also a tattoo reading “God Willing” with a cross between the two words on Nipsey’s right thumb.
Chapman, who has done body art on Lisa Raye and paintings for Snoop Dog and other celebrities, also painted murals of the slane rapper in Atlanta and L.A. after his passing.
“Right after Nipsey’s passing, I started looking for wall space. Essentially if I was provided the wall space I would do the work. I made a few calls and ended up getting in contact with this bodega off of Joseph E. Boone. That basically gave me that corner space. That was the beginning. I did one at the plant-based pizza parlor and then I went to Los Angeles and started doing them there.”
That respect has carried on in the wake of his death, with fans and celebrities alike carrying on his legacy through their work and their ink. T.I. met with the Congressional Black Caucus in May to discuss investing in low-income communities, a meeting Hussle would have attended. And fellow rapper The Game got a giant tattoo of the late performer inked across his chest in April.