The first time that I heard Higher, I actually cried.
The song and music video was released about a month after Nipsey’s shocking and untimely demise at his Marathon Clothing store on March 31, 2019. His death hit the city of Los Angeles hard, and the only way that we could preserve his memory was through his music. It was a bittersweet period in LA, because you couldn’t travel anywhere in the city without hearing someone blare Nipsey’s last album Victory Lap on their speakers. I remember I did my first film location in April 2019, and in front of the house that we shot, there was a car parked, and the dude was just blasting “Last time that I checc’d“. It was lit. It was a period of beautiful synchronicity, as Nip’s music became the conduit of culture for everyone.
In the days leading up to the release of the music video, TMZ had released some behind the scenes footage of what was titled “Nipsey’s last music video”. The tabloid site reported that security was added to protect Hussle at the video set in Inglewood. This article was also released during the posthumous “who really killed him?” conspiracy days, so the security part was definitely an eye brow raiser at the time. Before his death, Hussle stressed the record and the visual’s importance. It wasn’t intended to be a No. 1 record. But “Higher” would undoubtedly resonate in a way no Khaled record had before. “It almost sounds like church,” he said.
Once released, the music video was emotionally jarring. Seeing Nipsey clad in that silky blue, his satin shirt billowing in the southern California wind as he danced while John Legend sang and played the piano and Dj Khaled did Dj Khaled things (what does that guy do?), it soon became clear that this was not an ordinary music video. I don’t know how, but he had an angelic aura about him in this video; I implore that you go back and watch it. Tell me if I’m lying.
“Pops turned 60, he proud what we done / In one generation, he came from Africa young / He said he met my moms at the Century Club / Los Angeles love kinda like Hussle and Boog / Mani turned 10, Kross turned 2 / Startin’ to see this life s— from a bird’s view.
That part, to me, felt eerily similar to many of the words uttered in Tupac’s “I ain’t mad atcha”. As a matter of fact, the concept of the music video is painfully reminiscent of Pac’s iconic music video, though not nearly as morbid. Instead, it felt like a homegoing celebration, a fitting tribute to South Central’s favorite son. There’s actually a moment at the 25 second mark of the video. See the screenshot below:
There is some highly perceptive and powerful symbolism at play here. But my takeaway is that Nipsey, with his back turned, from his Crenshaw roots, is staring at a bright light. Make no mistake about it folks- this song, this music video, is the soundtrack that accompanied Nipsey Hussle from his reality here on earth to the afterlife.
“Lookin’ back at my life make my heart race / Dance with the devil and test our faith, he waxes. I was thinkin’ chess moves but it was God’s grace.”
Once this realization was crystallized, it became a no brainer that I needed to find the location where Nipsey, Legend and Khaled performed. I’m not going to lie to you: this one was tough. Because despite reaching out to the music video director Eif Riviera and multiple production assistants (no responses btw), the only clue that I had was this:
RIP Nipsey. I just spent Thursday with him filming a video for a beautiful new song we created with Khaled. We filmed in Inglewood, close to where he grew up. He was so gifted, so proud of his home, so invested in his community. Utterly stunned that he’s gone so soon.
— John Legend (@johnlegend) April 1, 2019
So armed only with the knowledge that it was in Inglewood and on top of, what was ostensibly a very tall parking garage, I went to work. I won’t bore you with all of the details, but just know that it was exhausting. A lot of time spent on google maps and some time driving up and down Slauson Ave, in and out of Leimert Park, Baldwin Hills, etc. Then one day, after a laborious drive, I noticed a parking garage that bore many similarities to some of the screenshots that I had from the music video. Excitedly, I tried to enter the garage, but it was closed. I later found out, that this particular garage was closed down temporarily because the office that used it was shut down due to COVID-19. However, I returned many months later, and was able to get in successfully and snap some pictures before the garage security kicked us out. Alright, I’m done yapping. Sorry for the long post guys, but this music video means a lot to me. It was the goodbye that we didn’t deserve, but we got anyway. Hope you enjoy.
*Please note that if visiting, this location is a private parking garage for a respected religious organization in the Inglewood community.*
Location: 333 West Florence Avenue, Inglewood, CA 90301 (the parking structure is right across from the Trinity Building)
For more filming locations, you can follow me on instagram.