Heard on the Hill

Rapper T.I. wants to form the ‘Avengers’ of black investment

He honors Nipsey Hussle by turning tragedy into opportunity

Rapper, actor and entrepreneur Clifford “T.I” Harris speaks at a Wednesday press conference at the Capitol. He joined the Congressional Black Caucus in calling for more investment in black communities. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

“It was an incredible loss.”

That’s how Clifford “T.I.” Harris describes the tragic murder of fellow rapper Nipsey Hussle, who was gunned down outside his own Los Angeles clothing store in March.

But Harris wants to use the tragedy as an opportunity to push for more investment in black communities, a passion he shares with his late friend.

“We’re like the ‘Avengers’ of investment,” he says, alluding to the Marvel films in which superheroes team up to save the planet. Losing Nipsey Hussle was “like losing Ironman.”

That’s why the rapper was on Capitol Hill Wednesday, along with radio personality Charlamagne tha God. Flanked by House lawmakers, including Antonio Delgado, Karen Bass and Hakeem Jeffries, Harris discussed how investors could steer more dollars into distressed areas known as “opportunity zones.” Sens. Tim Scott and Cory Booker introduced legislation to create the zones, which ended up as a provision of the 2017 tax law signed by President Trump.

The provision sets out to boost investment in the country’s poorest areas (rural and urban) by offering companies a seven-year capital gains tax deferral.

Besides rapping, Nipsey Hussle, born Ermias Joseph Asghedom, was an entrepreneur and philanthropist who pushed for more investment in black communities. His death, at age 33, was met with an outpouring of grief from entertainers like Snoop Dogg and athletes like LeBron James. Since the killing, many black celebrities have spoken up about the need for community investment.

T.I. says his work is a continuation of Nipsey Hussle’s legacy. It was Asghedom and a business associate who convinced him to speak with lawmakers and “take much-needed advantage” of the new law to “benefit and revitalize the underserved areas of society that we all come from.”

But Harris also says more institutional obstacles need to be addressed, such as the racial wealth gap, in which the typical white family owns 10 times the assets of the typical black family. “And with that comes more poverty and more crime and inevitably more violence,” T.I. says.

The multiplatinum and Grammy-winning Atlanta rapper known for hits like “Whatever You Like” and “Bring Em Out” has turned to political activism in recent years. He’s stumped for Democratic candidates and been outspoken about issues such as criminal justice. And on two separate occasions, he’s even talked people out of jumping to their deaths, including Scott Stapp, lead singer of the rock band Creed.

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