Eric Holder suspected of fatally shooting Grammy-nominated rapper Nipsey Hussle appears for an arraignment hearing at the Los Angeles County courthouse in Los Angeles. Picture: Patrick T Fallon

Los Angeles - The man accused of gunning down rapper Nipsey Hussle pleaded not guilty on Thursday to murder and attempted murder as he made his first appearance in court.

Eric Holder, 29, who has also been charged with possession of a firearm by a felon, was arrested on Tuesday following a two-day manhunt.

He is suspected of shooting dead Hussle, who was 33, on Sunday outside the rapper's clothing store in south Los Angeles following a dispute.

Holder, himself an aspiring rapper, was represented in court Thursday by Chris Darden, a former prosecutor who gained notoriety for his work on the O.J. Simpson murder trial.

Holder's bond was set at $5 million (about R70 million) and his next court appearance was scheduled for May 10.

If found guilty, Holder faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Darden tried unsuccessfully to prevent the media from filming his client during his arraignment on Thursday, arguing that there was an "issue of identity."

Prosecutors, however, dismissed his claim, arguing that Holder's photo had already been widely disseminated before his court appearance.

Authorities say Holder got into an argument with Hussle, who was beloved by residents of his neighbourhood for his community work, and then left and returned with a handgun.

He allegedly shot Hussle and two other men, one of whom was hospitalized.

He was arrested in Bellflower, a suburb of Los Angeles after police received a tip.

Local news reports said he was being kept in solitary confinement in jail for fear he might be attacked by other inmates. 

Hussle's long-time girlfriend, actress Lauren London, with whom he has a two-year-old son Kross, broke her silence on Tuesday in a message on Instagram that included several photos.

"I am completely lost. I've lost my best friend. My sanctuary. My protector. My soul... I'm lost without you. We are lost without you, babe. I have no words," she wrote.

Hussle, born Ermias Asghedom, was praised by officials in Los Angeles and by his peers for transforming himself from being a gang member to a successful rapper and community organizer who fought for the black and Latino residents of Hyde Park, the south LAneighbourhoodd where he grew up.

He was set to meet with local authorities on Monday to discuss ways to end gang violence.

AFP