When Grammy-nominated West Coast hip-hop titan Nipsey Hussle and his scene-stealing-actress girlfriend, Lauren London, appeared in the middle of Slauson Avenue with a white stallion, TMZ assumed they were taking engagement photos. But it was just your run-of-the-mill magazine photo shoot in the Crenshaw neighborhood of Los Angeles, where Nipsey has lived and worked his whole life and is pretty much royalty. (Everyone in Crenshaw has a story about Nipsey.) Before you get mad at Harvey and co., though, we can all admit that sometimes facts get a little murky, right? For example: how Nipsey and Lauren started dating.
“Our stories are very different,” Lauren blurted out. Her sinkhole-deep dimples and her pearly teeth flashed when she laughed, pushing Nipsey aside. “I did not slide into his DMs. My homeboy did….”
In 2013, while filming BET’s The Game, Lauren wanted to buy Nipsey’s new mixtape as a wrap present for her co-stars. You might be thinking that’s kind of a cheap gift, but at the time, Nipsey, who was massive among hip-hop fans from L.A., was selling each copy for $100.
If, like most people, you consider “a few” to mean three, then Jay-Z actually bought 97 copies plus “a few.” After Lauren got the mixtapes, she started following Nipsey on Instagram. “You know what that means, right?!” Nipsey said. So he followed her back and then, yes, slid into her DMs. Fast-forward to today, and they’ve been together for five years—raising their adorable little boy, Kross, fighting off TMZ engagement rumors together, and “building,” as Nipsey puts it. A modern-day love story, if ever there was one.
“You’re not going to scare me into being somebody I don’t want to be,” Nipsey said, “so I’ll just fight you.”
Nipsey Hussle is alarmingly upright. “He didn’t like the way I made the bed this morning, so he re-did it,” Lauren said. And he’s polite. Like really, really polite. “I just want to make sure you’re happy. I appreciate your work,” he said during the fitting in a cramped Hollywood hotel room. He elaborated at dinner: “I grew up in an environment where being polite was taken as a weakness. So I just fought everybody.” Lauren and I laughed. Nipsey didn’t. His eyes are permanently squinted, his demeanor buzzed into a cool that’s normally reserved for 1950s-era jazz musicians. His braids are so perfectly in place, it looks like he’s able to hold each strand accountable for its actions. “You’re not going to scare me into being somebody I don’t want to be,” he continued, “so I’ll just fight you.”
Lauren, used to hearing Nipsey issue profound and ironic salvos like that, focused on Nipsey finally getting his message out to the world. “He’s gotten more of a platform to be really clear about his message, because before he was just making rap gang-bang music. But I think he has a purpose in all the raps, and that’s coming to light,” she said.
“Do I choose my soul or myself?” Lauren said. “I went with my soul.”
Career-wise, Nipsey Hussle and Lauren London occupy the same branch on the pop-culture tree. I call this branch: The Branch White America Hasn’t Exploited Yet. It has its pros and cons. Nipsey, for his part, has had mixed recognition over the years. Some people know him solely by his investments. A quick but not complete list includes a crypto-currency business, a co-working space, a STEM program for inner-city kids, a fish shop, a barbershop, and a clothing store—The Marathon—located on Slauson that’s always full of locals and visiting fans. But the audience for his music continues to grow as well. After more than ten mixtapes over a decade, his first studio album was just nominated for a Grammy. “The artist part of me always wants to be appreciated,” he said. “I read every review. But I never wanted to seek validation by awards or anything controlled by politics.” The people who know, know.
The same could be said for Lauren. For example, if you ask the right people, Lauren’s first film, ATL, is a cult classic. And Lauren’s performance as New New, by far the
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