Karen Civil is the late rapper Nipsey Hussle’s business partner. She spoke at Nipsey Hussle’s memorial today; you can watch a livestream of that here.
At the memorial, Civil read a letter written by Barack Obama to the Hussle family, which read in part, “Nipsey saw potential, he saw hope, he saw a community.”
To The Grio earlier in the month, Civil gave an interview about Hussle’s bond with his girlfriend, Lauren London, explaining, “The great thing I got to see with him is the way he loved Lauren, and the way they poured into each other. People talk about Black love, but this was Black love. To see the way they look at each other- you saw the GQ piece they did.”
Civil is a social media and digital media strategist, producer, entrepreneur, and philanthropist who has written a number of books and is also known for creating a website that allowed fans to send mail to Lil Wayne while he was in prison.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Civil Grew Up in a Haitian-American Family in New Jersey
Civil grew up in New Jersey in a Haitian-American family. She has spoken out on numerous occasions about the importance of her Haitian roots, telling Forbes in 2015 (after she donated a playground in Haiti), “Even as a child, my parents have instilled the importance of giving back, especially to the community that has given to you. Haiti gave me my family and my heritage so this playground is only my first way of giving back to Haiti.”
Civil’s first brush with online success came when she made a Backstreet Boys fan site in middle school that awarded her third place in a national competition. To Forbes, she said, “When I was young, I originally wanted to be a radio on- air personality. Once I realized I may not be fit for that, I was infatuated with hip-hop that I still wanted to be apart and give back the community, so I decided to carve my own path and make my own lane.”
Per Forbes, Civil has been described as “the next Oprah.”
2. Civil’s Grio Interview: ‘That Man Wholeheartedly Loved This Woman’
During her interview with The Grio, Civil said of Hussle’s relationship to London, “That man wholeheartedly loved this woman. I saw the difference. I saw the difference in him when they got together and they started to become an item… She was an angel to him.”
Civil also talked about how protective Hussle was of London and his children and loved ones, explaining that he would often call out London’s internet trolls. “He didn’t do that display of disrespect, especially to women around him,” she said. “Nipsey led by example in every sense of the way. From how to be a great human being, how to be a businessman, how to be a father and how to be a black man who loves a black woman…Which we don’t get to see often because at this point black women are the most disrespected women out and Nipsey was not going for that notion.”
3. Civil Has Written About Her Own Grief Over Hussle’s Death in a Number of Instagram Posts
Civil’s first acknowledgement of the death of her business partner and good friend came on March 31, immediately after news of his death had been released. Civil wrote about her experience coming to Los Angeles and working with Hussle, saying in part, “10 years ago when I moved to Los Angeles the first person I went to go meet was Nipsey Hussle on Slauson. For an out of towner, he welcomed me with open arms and a year later, I found myself working with him.”
Civil continued, “He wasn’t the average artist, his intellectual level of wanting to better his community, the people around him was something that was beyond extraordinary. He did not just want to be a millionaire, he wanted the people around him, to succeed on the same level. He had a vision for his career and to systematically see progression and change in his community. He no longer wanted the negative stereotype that came with the Crenshaw/ Slauson community.”
You can read her full Instagram post here.
In an April 5 post about Hussle’s death, Civil wrote about her relationship to grief. She wrote,
Grief is not a road we walk, or a journey we take. It is not a process that can be defined by stages we are told we must feel – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. It is not a textbook diagram, or a framework we must comply to. It isn’t a task we must complete. We don’t push through it, we don’t move into it and out of it, we don’t follow a linear progression until we reach the other side of it.
There are no rules to grief. We can only succumb to it, surrender to it, let our hearts break open for it. Grief changes us.
Grief breaks us.
Grief is love with no place to go.
And so in our grief, the only thing to do is to give our love a place to go.
Love with word, love with deed, love with action.
Love one another so fiercely that our love is spent, that are chests are no longer hollow, that the lump in our throats hurts a little less.
In an April 10 Instagram post acknowledging the slain rapper’s death, Civil wrote, “Denial has been my mindset through this.. The reality of you not being here is beyond devastating and crushing. ? I’m so sorry Sammy & Lauren”
4. Civil Runs Her Own Social Media Marketing Agency, ‘Always Civil Enterprise’
Always Civil Enterprise is Civil’s social media marketing agency, which she runs. Per the site, the agency is “a full-service branding and marketing powerhouse, specializing in the imaging of brands and creating a foundation for endless success and visibility.” The company was founded in 2008, and has worked with a number of high profile individuals and brands, including James Harden, YG, Nicki Minaj’s “Rich Sex” single, a number of fashion shows, and some product placement ads by Beats by Dre.
Prior to running her own agency, Civil has held a number of roles, including running her own blog, working as Social Media Director for Beats by Dre, and interning at a number of radio stations and music production companies in her early years. In an interview with Kreyolicious, Civil gave a piece of advice for how to become successful: “You basically let your grind speak for itself. You have to put in that extra work to show how dedicated up are… You have to stay longer and don’t become a crop watcher, so to speak. Let your grind and ambition show.”
Following Hussle’s death, the Always Civil Instagram page shared a post in tribute to the rapper, writing, “Our condolences to Philanthropist, businessman, artist Nipsey Hussle, Who we had the pleasure of working with for 7 years. Sending love and light to his wife, children, family and friends.”
In addition to owning Always Civil, Civil has also opening a clothing company, Civil Clothing.
5. Civil Worked With Hussle to Found the Marathon Clothing ‘Smart’ Store
In June 2017, Civil worked with Hussle to found Marathon Clothing, the store he owned on Slauson and Crenshaw, and the location where he would eventually be shot to death at. Per Billboard, Hussle worked with Samiel Asghedom, Karen Civil and Steve “Steve-O” Carless to achieve his vision, which was that of a “smart” store where people could buy clothing but also use an app to previous exclusive upcoming content from Hussle.
Like Hussle, Civil has worked to encourage and foster the growth of entrepreneurship and tech education among the black community. She opened a Live Civil Computer Lab in an orphanage in Haiti in 2017, donating 20 computers to the lab, per Vibe, and also announced in May 2018 that she’d be hosting the series Good Looking Out on Complex Network; the series aims to “give millennial entrepreneurs an opportunity to receive advice from experts in their respective fields,” per Complex.