Tens of thousands remember slain rapper Nipsey Hussle
Fans of slain rapper Nipsey Hussle stand outside the Staples Center in Los Angeles where a memorial ceremony was being held AFP / Robyn Beck

Tens of thousands of people took part in an emotional memorial Thursday in Los Angeles for the slain rapper Nipsey Hussle, whose musical peers took turns hailing his talent and tireless community organizing.

The Staples Center arena was packed to the rafters for the ceremony, and many others watched on television and online as the city bid farewell to the Grammy-nominated artist, shot in broad daylight on March 31

Police have said the killing, which triggered an outpouring of grief in Los Angeles and among his music industry peers, was gang related and personal in nature.

Crowds of mostly young blacks and Latinos wearing T-shirts with pictures of the 33-year-old rapper started early Thursday to flow toward the Staples Center, the sports arena which hosted a memorial service for Michael Jackson back in 2009.

Some 21,000 seats were offered for free on the internet and were snapped up in a matter of minutes.

The crowd was so big the ceremony started an hour late -- with a DJ playing Hussle's hit album "Victory Lap," which earned him a Grammy nod.

Robyn Beck/AFP / Robyn Beck Fans of Hussle look at his image on a screen outside the Staples Center 

One after another, speakers took to the podium to remember the slain singer as pictures of his life were shown on a screen on stage to the sound of "My Way" by Frank Sinatra.

In a letter read out at the ceremony, former president Barack Obama remembered the singer, whose music he got to know through his two young daughters.

"He set an example for young people to follow and is a legacy worthy to follow," Obama wrote, alluding to the singer's social work in the poor and mainly black Crenshaw neighborhood of Los Angeles.

After the ceremony a procession was to wind its way through that neighborhood for people to pay their last respects, with thousands of fans already lining the route.

Eric Holder, 29, has been arrested for the murder. He has pleaded not guilty. The reasons for the killing are not known.