Fans, friends and family of Nipsey Hussle packed the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Thursday for a memorial service honoring the late rapper, who was gunned down outside of his clothing store in March 31.
Attendees began streaming into the 21,000-seat arena early on Thursday morning, hours before the Celebration of Life was due to begin at 10 a.m. local time.
Just before the ceremony began, The Blast broke the news that Stevie Wonder would be singing “Rocket Love,” a track from his 1980 album Hotter Than July. The performance will fulfill Hussle’s longtime wish, which he outlined in his 2016 track “Ocean Views.”
“Then when I die, blue rag around my rifle/Hunnid thousand in my coffin, that’s just light dough,” he rapped on the song. “Play a Stevie Wonder song, smoke some flight bro/Crack a pint of Act then pour in some Sprite bro.”
In addition to “Rocket Love,” Wonder also sang a rendition of Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven” during the proceedings.
Other artists tapped to perform include Marsha Ambrosius singing “Fly Like a Bird,” Jhene Aiko singing “Eternal Sunshine,” and Anthony Hamilton singing “Do You Feel Me” from the 2007 American Gangster soundtrack.
To open the ceremony, Hussle’s hit “Victory Lap” was used as the processional before Frank Sinatra’s classic “My Way” was played over a montage of photos.
Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan delivered a powerful speech, and Hussle’s business partner Karen Civil provided the acknowledgments and resolutions — including a letter of condolence from former President Barack Obama that praised Hussle’s music and activism in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Crenshaw.
“His choice to invest in that community rather than ignore it — to build a skills training center and a coworking space in Crenshaw; to lift up the Eritrean-American community; to set an example for young people to follow — is a legacy worthy of celebration,” he wrote. “I hope his memory inspires more good work in Crenshaw and communities like it.”
Hussle’s longtime girlfriend Lauren London took the stage with his daughter Emani Asghedom, her son Cameron Carter, Hussle’s nephew Khalil Kimble and Hussle and London’s son Kross Asgehdom.
London later returned to the stage to say some words to her lover of more than five years.
“To Ermias, the love of my life. You know what it is. Grief is the final act of love. My heart hears you, I feel you everywhere. I’m so grateful that I had you. I love you beyond this Earth. Until we meet again, the Marathon continues,” London shared.
Other tributes included words from YG, Snoop Dogg, and radio personality Big Boy.
JAY-Z also contributed a written passage for the memorial book distributed to the audience. “The outpouring of admiration is testimony to the love and respect you’ve farmed,” he wrote in part. “Sleep well King. The Marathon continues as a line of energy for all of us to consider. LOVE AND LIGHT JAY.”
Fellow attendees included Kendrick Lamar, Cassie, Master P, Lena Waithe and Machine Gun Kelly.
Following the memorial, Hussle’s body was laid to rest nearby at the Forest Lawn Memorial cemetery.
Tickets to the event were released on Tuesday, and were free of charge to California residents, with a limit of four per household. The passes sold out in under 20 minutes, forcing many to swarm secondary sites like eBay to try to obtain tickets.
Security for the event was ramped up following the violent chaos that occurred at the vigil held for Hussle the day after his death. Ticket holders were subject to a metal detector screening, visual inspection and bag inspection. No backpacks or bags larger than 14 inches by 14 inches x 6 inches were permitted.
The venue played host to Michael Jackson’s high-profile memorial service in 2009.
The event was first announced on Monday via Hussle’s Instagram page. “Join Us for the Celebration of the Life & Legacy of Nipsey Hussle,” read the caption alongside a photo of the late musician dressed in all-white with giant angel wings behind him.
Fans were asked to leave their phones and recording devices at home, out of respect for Hussle’s family.
Hussle, 33, died from gunshot wounds of both the head and torso, the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner confirmed last Monday. “Paramedics were called and [Hussle who was born Ermias Joseph Asghedom] was taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead at 3:55 p.m.,” the coroner said, in a statement obtained by PEOPLE.
Eric Holder, 29, has since been charged with one count of murder, two counts of attempted murder and one count of possession of a firearm by a felon, according to a release from the Los Angeles County’s District Attorney’s Office.
On April 4, he entered a plea of not guilty in court. The aspiring rapper could face a maximum sentence of life in state prison if convicted.
Holder has hired attorney Chris Darden, who famously was part of the prosecution team in O.J. Simpson’s murder trial, according to CBSLA.
In the time since his death, Hussle’s loved ones have spoken out about the tragic loss of the rapper and activist.
“[He was] somebody that believed in the process of hard work, determination and just the positivity of somebody staying in the area that he grew up in and making something out of nothing,” his brother Samiel Asghedom told ABC News.
“He was a role model to the community, to the kids, and to the mothers and the grandmothers and the community that watched him grow up and seen him as a youngster, a family man, a father, raising his kids,” he added.
The rapper’s girlfriend Lauren London paid tribute to her boyfriend of five years on Instagram last week, sharing a slideshow of photos of them together with their family.
“I am completely lost,” London wrote. “I’ve lost my best friend, my sanctuary, my protector, my soul.”
“We are lost without you babe — I have no words.”
Among the photos shared, London included a sweet image of Hussle throwing their 2½-year-old son Kross in the air. London also posted a selfie of Hussle and Kross. This is the first time the actress has shared a photo of their son’s face.
“I’m going to keep my head high and always represent for my king to the fullest,” she told the Los Angeles Times. “He loved his kids. He was a family man. His family came first.”
Those interested in Hussle’s Celebration of Life service this week can learn more information here.
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