The Marathon Don’t Stop: The Life and Times of Nipsey Hussle, written by music journalist Rob Kenner, is slated to arrive on March 24, 2020. The book will feature on-the-ground reporting and interviews with Nipsey’s friends and family.
“The last time I spoke with Nipsey Hussle, he told me, ‘I ain’t outside giving out jewelry or dropping off bags of money on people, but I’m giving out game,’” Kenner says. “This book is my attempt to help fulfill that intention. The Marathon Don’t Stop will also place his accomplishments in proper historical context, giving Nipsey Hussle his rightful place in the history of hip-hop, Los Angeles, and America. It will include interviews with people who haven’t spoken before, as well as insights into the forces that shaped Hussle into the man he became.”
Michelle Herrera Mulligan, senior editor at Atria, will edit the biography. “Nipsey has inspired an entire generation of people who have felt invisible in their communities,” she says. “This book will share the blueprint of Nipsey’s success, drawn on the streets where he was raised.”
Kenner, a founding editor of VIBE, whose work has also appeared in The New York Times, Complex, Billboard, Mass Appeal, Ego Trip, Pigeons & Planes, and more, spoke with us about the biography and shared a first look at the cover artwork. The Q&A, lightly edited for clarity, is below.
Why did you want to write a book about Nipsey Hussle?
Nipsey Hussle said that “the highest human act is to inspire,” and like so many others, I was inspired by both his words and his actions. He was one of the most fascinating artists of our time, as well as an important activist and thought leader, but he received relatively little acclaim during his lifetime. The fact that so few critics and gatekeepers recognized how important he was only makes his story more compelling.
I knew I wanted to write a book about Nipsey Hussle long before his tragic death. The events of March 31 left me stunned just like the rest of those who cared about him. Since that time, there has been a tremendous outpouring of love for him around the world, but also a fair amount of misinformation and media spin from forces that underestimated him or saw him as a threat. I wanted to do my part to help set the record straight. While this is not an authorized biography, I’ve decided to donate a portion of the proceeds from the book to Nipsey’s estate out of respect.
My purpose is to lift up the best parts of Nipsey Hussle’s legacy so that they will live on and inspire others.
What can people expect from this book?
The last time I spoke with Nipsey Hussle, he told me, “I ain’t outside giving out jewelry or dropping off bags of money on people, but I’m giving out game.” This book is my attempt to help fulfill that intention. The Marathon Don’t Stop will also place his accomplishments in proper historical context, giving Nipsey Hussle his rightful place in the history of hip-hop, Los Angeles, and America. It will include interviews with people who haven’t spoken before, as well as insights into the forces that shaped Hussle into the man he became. Those who have read my work in VIBE, Complex, and elsewhere know what kind of tone to expect.
How would you describe Nipsey’s career and legacy within the context of hip-hop history? How will he be remembered?
Nipsey Hussle will be remembered as one of the most important cultural figures of our time, both for his body of work and for his legacy as an entrepreneur and activist. As an MC, he was one of the realest to ever do it, which sounds like a tired cliché, but in his case is 100 percent accurate. The things he rapped about were drawn directly from his life, and telling his truth and saying every word like he meant it was more important to him than fancy cadences or verbal pyrotechnics. That authenticity is what made him stand out amid the musical maelstrom of the blog rap era, and it’s what will make his best work stand the test of time. As committed as he was to the streets of Crenshaw, Nipsey’s influences were much more broad than the West Coast. He admired great artists who pushed the art form upward, whether from New York, New Orleans, or Houston. As he matured artistically, he absorbed multiple styles while developing his own unique voice.
Of course his legacy is much bigger than rap. As JAY-Z pointed out in a freestyle on April 26, Neighborhood Nip’s MO was to: “Gentrify your own hood before these people do it/Claim eminent domain and have your people move in/That’s a small glimpse into what Nipsey was doing/For anybody still confused as to what he was doing.”
Is there anything else you want people to know about this book?
I've been a hip-hop journalist for most of my life, and that’s the perspective I’ll be bringing to The Marathon Don’t Stop. In his song “Dedication,” Nipsey called himself “Tupac of my generation,” and I asked him to explain what he meant by that. He certainly wasn’t talking about his life being cut short. He had too much to live for, too many people who loved him, and too much important work to do. Having seen the tragic deaths of 2Pac and Biggie play out during my years at VIBE, I understand that what happened with Nipsey is very different than those situations. Ultimately, though, this is a book about his life. My purpose is to lift up the best parts of Nipsey Hussle’s legacy so that they will live on and inspire others.