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Ghanaian tech genius who helped Nipsey Hussle set up his smart store shares his fondest memories with the rapper

April 05, 2019 at 09:43 am | Tech & Innovation

Francis Akhalbey

Francis Akhalbey | Staff Writer

April 05, 2019 at 09:43 am | Tech & Innovation

Ghanaian-American tech genius Iddris Sandu with Nipsey Hussle -- Photo via @iddris_sandu on Twitter

“Nipsey is the reason why most of you know me today, he delivered me to the gates of hip hop’s sanctuary and protected me from the evils at bay,” said Ghanaian-American tech genius Iddris Sandu.

The entire entertainment industry is yet to come to terms with the death of Nipsey Hussle, who was gunned down in front of his Marathon Clothing store in South LA on Sunday.

The suspected gunman, 29-year-old Eric Holder, was arrested on Tuesday and charged with one count of murder, two counts of attempted murder and one count of possession of a firearm by a felon on Thursday. He has, however, pleaded not guilty to the charges, according to The New York Times.

Tributes have been pouring in from loved ones and friends of the Slauson rapper who is survived by a daughter from a previous relationship and a son with whom he has with his girlfriend, actress Lauren London.

Among those deeply affected by the Eritrean-American rapper’s demise is his close friend and partner, Iddris Sandu. The Ghanaian-American tech genius, who is responsible for algorithms that have made Uber, Instagram and Snapchat what they are today helped Nipsey set up his Marathon Clothing store in 2017.

Ghanaian-American tech genius Iddris Sandu with Nipsey Hussle — Photo via @iddris_sandu on Twitter

Known as the world’s first “smart store”, Marathon Clothing allows customers to download exclusive music and other content through an app.

The store leverages Iddris’ tech and design background and Nipsey’s cultural influences, sparking the interests of many journalists as well as hip hop and cultural icons like Russell Westbrook, Vegas Jones of Roc Nation, among others.

In an interview with the CNBC, Sandu said the store has helped him bridge the gap between culture and technology, and would love others to do same.

“We are living in the digital revolution,” he said. Although “we are all constantly exposing ourselves to content in real-time.”

“We need to address the largest issues affecting communities and build infrastructure on that,” Sandu said.

Ghanaian-American tech genius Iddris Sandu with Nipsey Hussle — Photo via @iddris_sandu on Twitter

Sandu took to his Instagram page to pay tribute to the Grammy-nominated rapper:

View this post on Instagram

woke up this morning with my eyes still swollen from the tears I shed last night ; convinced that this was all a bad dream. for his life to pass right in the very store we built together. yesterday my soul lost fragments that can never be restored. ‏‏‎ my soul truly aches at such a tragic loss personally as well as for culture. ‏‏‎ More than a hip hop artist, Nipsey IS also a revolutionary, an activist, a father, a brother and a close friend. ‏‏‎ I use “is” because to use “was” is to imply that his message had passed with him. ‏‏‎ no, my brothers message still lives on. ‏‏‎ through me, though his family and through our community. ‏‏‎ I’m not even going to compare him to any other legends that preceded him because hip-hop has NEVER had someone like him. PERIOD. His message was BIGGER than hip-hop. And this is where our missions intersected. Nipsey is the reason why most of you know me today, he delivered me to the gates of hip hop’s sanctuary and protected me from the evils at bay. ‏‏‎ In the last in-person dialogue i had with him, Nipsey urged me to continue to light the torch for the culture, no matter what. ‏‏‎ To be his protégé influencing in a field that transcends music, I vow to continue pushing forward the culture, because it’s what he would want and knew was necessary . ‏‏‎ The universe/God has a very interesting way of orchestrating and bringing us together, ‏‏‎ even if we don’t innerstand the circumstances of its decisions. ‏‏‎ I’ll conclude with this truth. Nipsey’s album was titled VICTORY LAP. A lap often ran last as a celebration of a breakthrough ; ‏‏‎ which he did run and made it through. In the moment right after he crossed the line, he passed me the baton to continue the light. ‏‏‎ I could just see him right in front of me saying “keep going young king…keep going” ‏‏‎ Rest in power and abundance hussle tha great, for true legends never die. mA ‏‏‎ the marathon continues……………🏁

A post shared by architect (@iddrissandu) on

More about Iddris Sandu:

When Iddris Sandu was in high school, he developed a mobile software that would later gain the attention of former U.S. president Barack Obama and land him at the White House, where he received the honorary presidential scholar award.

He was only 16 years old. Now 21, the Los Angeles-based young man is the unconventional tech guru who has accomplished many incredible feats, including being responsible for algorithms that have made Uber, Instagram and Snapchat what they are today.

The software engineer considers himself a “cultural architect” and said he aims to “level the playing field” between Silicon Valley and young communities of colour.”

Born and raised in Harbor City, California with parents from Ghana, Sandu would never forget a harrowing experience he had when he was eight – his father had wanted to take him on a trip to Ghana.

“But on the fourth day of the trip, he abandoned me in this village, took my passport and came back to the States,” Sandu told Oxford University’s Music and Style Magzine, adding that he was abandoned for almost nine months before getting into contact with an NGO which helped him travel back home.

He got back to the U.S. when the first-ever iPhone was unveiled, and this started his journey into the tech world.

“I just got super inspired. I thought – this device is going to change the world. The reason why the iPhone was so important was because it was the first time when regular consumers could develop for other regular consumers. Before, you really had to work at a tech company for multiple years to be able to offer any sort of input or to create an app. But Apple made it so mainstream. I knew it was the future,” he said.

Just 10 years old then, Sandu started learning programming on his own for the next two years at a public library and this was where he got spotted by a designer from Google, who offered him an internship opportunity at the company’s headquarters.

Iddris Sandu. Pic credit: Black Enterprise

At age 13, he got his first experience with programming and worked on many projects such as the initial Google blogger, Google Plus, among others.

Yet, Sandu was determined to affect change, hence, at the age of 15, he designed an app for his high school that gave students turn by turn directions to navigate their classrooms.

Just 10 years old then, Sandu started learning programming on his own for the next two years at a public library and this was where he got spotted by a designer from Google, who offered him an internship opportunity at the company’s headquarters.

At age 13, he got his first experience with programming and worked on many projects such as the initial Google blogger, Google Plus, among others.

Yet, Sandu was determined to affect change, hence, at the age of 15, he designed an app for his high school that gave students turn by turn directions to navigate their classrooms.

Being the only school in California that had an app made by a student, Sandu received wide acclaim that would later afford him a meeting with former President Obama.

During that same period, Sandu wrote an algorithm that he would go on to sell to Instagram and by the age of 18, he was already consulting for Snapchat before landing at Uber, where he created a software (Autonomous Collision Detection Interface) for its self-driving cars.

With the passion to bridge the gap between the informed and uninformed, and to inculcate into young people like him the need for invention and creativity, he left major tech companies to bring that change.

“Information is one of the highest forms of class. And that is what keeps people divided. You should be able to think on a higher level, instead of being strictly consumers. And people of colour in particular are more likely to be consumers than creators. It’s really hard to get out of poverty or to change the structure of economic power if you’re always going to be a consumer rather than creating. Shifting that narrative is what I’ve been trying to do. And thus far, it’s worked, it’s successful.”

Having created his own music, putting together the sonics and instrumentals in just 3 days to form a full album, the creative technologist is working on a book about recent initiators, including Kanye West; Robi Reed, a casting director; and Edward Enninful, the editor of British Vogue.

With the drive to use all his networks to empower young people in America to make a positive impact in their communities, the unconventional tech genius is already on his way to become a leader for the next generation of influencers and entrepreneurs.

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