Nipsey Hussle died on March 31, 2019 after he was gunned down outside his Marathon Clothing store in Los Angeles. "Higher" is an autobiographical reflection on the rapper's life. The celebratory ode starts with Hussle giving a shoutout to his grandmother and father for overcoming adversity and starting a family.
My granny 88, she had my uncle and then
A miscarriage back to back every year for like ten
Pregnant with my moms, doctor told her it was slim
Was bed-rode for nine months but gave birth in the end
The second verse finds Hussle reflecting on the dangers and temptations he faced growing up in Los Angeles' Crenshaw neighborhood. He says it was "God's grace" that allowed him to survive the streets.
This was Khaled's first collaboration with Hussle. The producer recalled to Billboard
that they shared poolside lunch together and he played the rapper the beat of the song and told him he wanted to put a "big boy singer on the hook." He left to give Hussle some space, then came back to find him writing lyrics.
Hussle's recording session for his second verse on "Higher" served as the inaugural bars recorded in his newly built studio. Khalid recalled in a live CRWN conversation: "He told me 'I did my second verse in my new studio. This is the first verse I ever did in this studio.' That's a blessing."
John Legend plays piano on the track and sings its aspirational hook. This was Legend's fifth collaboration with Khaled, following "Grammy Family," "Victory," "Never Surrender," and "Most High."
Directed by Eif Rivera (50 Cent, French Montana, Lil Wayne), the song's music video was cut just days before Hussle's death; it's said to be his final performance captured on film. The clip features Hussle, Legend, and Khaled in LA's Inglewood neighborhood, not far from where the rapper grew up.
DJ Khaled announced that all proceeds from sales of the song will go to Nipsey Hussle's children.
This won for Best Rap/Sung Performance at the Grammy Awards in 2020. Khaled and John Legend were part of a tribute to Nipsey Hussle at the ceremony.