Nipsey Hussle: Pioneer of Bitcoin's Cultural Revolution

Nipsey Hussle: Pioneer of Bitcoin's Cultural Revolution
Artwork: Dawdu M. Amantanah


Rapper and entrepreneur Nipsey Hussle, tragically murdered on March 31, 2019, was one of the first artists to talk about Bitcoin and cryptocurrency. Little has been written about the connection between Nipsey and Bitcoin. I want to change that to help keep his legacy alive.

Nipsey Hussle, aka Ermias Joseph Asghedom, was born on August 15, 1985, and grew up in the Crenshaw district of south Los Angeles to an American mother and an Eritrean father.

The first time I became aware of Nipsey must have been around 2010 or 2011, when I saw a video in which a young Nipsey explains why owning liabilities is a distraction and why we should focus on accumulating assets instead. This statement ultimately led me to buy bitcoin years later, marking the beginning of an unexpected journey shaped by his insights. 

Innovating Against Industry Disruptions

As a young artist from Crenshaw, Hussle faced many adversities and found creative ways to deal with them. In the early 2000s and 2010s, the music industry faced disruptions caused by decentralization, similar to what the financial industry is experiencing today with Bitcoin.

Decentralized file-sharing networks like Limewire and Napster enabled consumers to download MP3 files for free, making it difficult for artists to capitalize on music.

Proud-2-Pay: A New Paradigm for Artists

Nipsey developed a concept he called 'Proud-2-Pay,' which was, frankly, the predecessor to 'Value-4-Value’. A payment form using bitcoin to transfer value directly from supporter to recipient. The concept is simple but sounds radical: you provide your content for free, for everyone, without access restrictions. If people enjoy it, if people find value in it, you make it easy for them to give back (Gigi, 2021). 

Hussle always gave back to his community and wanted to show that people would support him in return. The campaign focused on his mixtape 'Crenshaw' (2013). 

He offered the mixtape for free download, but also created 1,000 signed physical copies and charged $100 for them. Every single copy was purchased in less than 24 hours. 

The campaign was a success and generated positive reactions. Mogul Jay-Z, for example, bought 100 copies of the mixtape. Nipsey achieved his goal of sparking a discussion about artistic genius and freedom and proved that his community would always support him.

It was a concept. It was basically like, always by choice, never by force. If you are proud to pay for it, this is the price of it.” – Nipsey Hussle, 2013.

Photo: Jorge Peniche

Charting Nipsey's Journey into Bitcoin

In 2013, Nipsey Hussle was using the traditional transaction model, not Bitcoin. But as far as I know, he was one of the first rap artists to offer some kind of 'Value-4-Value' model online. 

Later he became vocal about the benefits of Bitcoin and blockchain technology. In 2017, he started talking about the significance of Bitcoin in numerous interviews. Similar to his first video appearance in 2006, he always emphasized the importance of longevity in HODLING.

The Marathon Continues: Nipsey's Lasting Business Impact

Nipsey's mindset and vision distinguished him in his music and his many entrepreneurial endeavors. In addition to being a musician, he had multiple businesses: a start-up accelerator in Crenshaw, a real estate company, a fashion company, a record label, and a technology venture focused on Bitcoin and blockchain. 

Nipsey was a visionary who prided himself on never leaving his community. He bought an entire block in Crenshaw and improved it by, among other things, opening a store there for his clothing line, The Marathon. The brand represents his attitude: life is not a sprint but a marathon. Longevity is also the ethos of Bitcoin. The supply is set at 21 million; there will never be more. This certainty and the fact that Bitcoin allows the value of work to be preserved make it possible to save and plan for the future. Bitcoin is a low time preference technology. 

Getting out of survival mode

Hussle thought deeply about social issues and shared his views. He often talked about how when people have little money, access to the financial system or means to save and build wealth, they become pessimistic about the future and develop a high time preference. He called it “getting in survival mode.” This means consuming today rather than saving for the future, which prevents people from thinking long-term - and, in extreme cases, leads them to do things that seem to bring short-term benefits but lead to long-term harm.

Nipsey Hussle and the Bitcoin Revolution

This negative dynamic is linked to structural problems in our monetary and financial system. When central banks fail with their monetary policy, they cling to power by printing money to continue funding their activities. The population then suffers from currency devaluation, price inflation, and the resulting uncertainty. While Nipsey also linked the issues he raised to other structural problems in society, he understood well that Bitcoin offers a solution.

The Bitcoin network is decentralized across thousands of computers around the world. No single entity controls it. The network is permissionless and accessible. There is no discrimination based on opinion, race, gender, or origin, and with that, Bitcoin has the potential to create a fairer society with a more equitable distribution of wealth.

All Money In: Nipsey's Blueprint for Lasting Wealth

All Money In, a record label and conceptual brand initiated by Nipsey and his brother Blacc Sam in 2010, embodies their philosophy of creating long-lasting, substantial value. Nipsey, renowned for his multifaceted entrepreneurial pursuits, also championed the idea of artists retaining ownership of their masters, ensuring complete control over their artistic creations. His entire career and approach to life reflects the principles inherent in the Bitcoin ethos.

Nipsey Hussle funeral at the Staples Center


Nipsey Hussle's untimely death in 2019 left a profound impact on the world, echoing the sentiments of a global community. His foresight in recognizing the potential of Bitcoin and its ability to empower and transform not just the financial landscape but also societal structures, continues to resonate. As the global fiat-based financial system faces major challenges and Bitcoin's influence grows, Nipsey's vision has only become more relevant.

The marathon he started in both music and financial innovation is far from over, symbolizing a legacy that encompasses freedom, prosperity, and communal upliftment. Nipsey Hussle's life and work remain a testament to the enduring power of a 'Bitcoin Mindset' that harmonizes creativity, justice, and community-building in our increasingly digital world for a meaningful analog existence. Rest in peace, Nipsey Hussle; your marathon continues.

Additional resources

Nipsey Hussle Interview - Escaping Survival Mode, Economics, & Master Your Energy

Nipsey Hussle - How to Grow Your Mindset and Achieve Your Dreams

Nipsey Hussle-That's How I Knew (Audio)