Prior to this album, I had only known the name “Nipsey Hussle” as a West Coast hustler; someone who was well respected in the game yet didn’t draw a lot of attention outside the worlds of hip-hop enthusiasts and artists within the industry.
After his release of the politically charged “FDT feat. YG,” Hussle subsequently shot into the spotlight for the remainder of the campaign, and quite frankly, caught my attention. From that moment, I kept a peripheral scope on his career all the while taking time here and there to dig into his past work. What I found floored me. The level of craftsmanship exhibited by Hussle in every album was astonishing. How had I only heard little of the catalog of such a dedicated artist? Whatever the reason I swore not to sleep on Hussle any longer. Therefore, when I heard about his latest album, you bet your bottom dollar I was hyped! Now that Victory Lap is out, I encourage everyone to give it a listen.
The titular track kicks off the album with hard-hitting, classic hip-hop vibes; featuring vocals from the talented Stacy Barthe. Nip starts rapping with tenacity from the get-go. The forceful delivery, the professional wordplay, the polished vocabulary sprinkled with tasteful slang; his first 32 bars of the album left such an impression on me I started the song over right after it ended.
Right after the first track comes one of my personal favorite tracks off the album, “Rap N****s.” This particular track sounds like a classic trunk-thumper you would hear in late 00’s banging out a system from a low-rider somewhere in California, all the while containing dashes of contemporary elements of production. Nip, now in his 30’s, is clearly aware of the reality facing him, a reality no artist looks forward to; he is aging. With every artist, we see a moment where they are the “hot” or “new” sound, yet eventually, they reach a point where they must either successfully reinvent their sound, or risk the inevitable possibility of seeming out of touch. Keeping that in mind, Nip crafts an absolute banger which not only distinguishes himself from the “newer” generation of rappers lyrically as well as sonically, but actually highlights the reality that yes, Nip is older, wiser, and overall completely different than these other rappers out here. A personal favorite line from this song is Nip pointing out something which, in and of itself, is so discernibly unique from this generation; Nipsey owns all the rights to all his music. “I own all the rights to my raps…” Magnificent.
Victory Lap features guest contributions from industry legends and current top artists including Puff Daddy, DOM KENNEDY, Kendrick Lamar, YG, and CeeLo Green – all of whom have been long-time supporters of Nipsey.
Some of the album’s highlights include the bonus track “Double Up,” which features both Belly and DOM KENNEDY coming together to craft a smooth ride-out trap medley of lyricism and soulful delivery, as well as “Dedication,” where Kung-fu Kenny and Nip cut through the beat with concise authority and genuine proficiency in their craft.
What makes Victory Lap such an outstanding project overall is how easily I could personally connect with the story and message behind the album. As a listener who has heard only a few of Nip’s more popular tracks prior to this project “Bitches Aint Shit,” “FDT,” etc. Nip has been on a long journey to his studio album debut, turning down larger-than-life cosigners for contracts that did not 100% resonate with his own personal goals. You have to respect Hussle’s hustle and integrity to get what he wants while not making any compromises. Hussle has long been much more than an artist. From becoming an entrepreneur, in order to sell his merchandise and artistry, to becoming a label owner, after not receiving offers which allowed the amount of freedom he desired to be unabashedly himself, Nip really is a talented and steadfast man inside and outside his art. Victory Lap accomplishes what so many artists fail to do on their long-awaited debut, by being fully consistent with the artist’s signature style and sound prior to the debut, while at the same time not being the musical equivalent of buttering stale toast – yeah you buttered or polished the toast, but its still stale.
One more notable accomplishment of the album is how profoundly Nipsey Hussle can shine a spotlight on: his roots of G-funk, his stylistic singularity as a hip-hop artist today, his experience by not taking the get-rich-quick path many rappers take, his refusal to compromise on his goals, his authenticity as both a gangster and entrepreneur, as well as his maturity and obvious superiority to all other lyricists; and to do all of this without even a hint of self-righteousness. As a self-professed avid listener of hip-hop, it is refreshing when an older artist can make an album true to themself without sounding washed up *coughcoughEMcoughcough.* That being said I know Nipsey isn’t really that old, I mean the dude is only 32 year old, which is only two years older than Kendrick. Nevertheless, Nip has been releasing music since 2006, which is a long time for a hip-hop artist; and doing so while still remaining relevant is amazing. This, paired with his obvious level of maturity, knowledge of the world around him, and accomplishments overall, create a sort of wise and mature aura which surrounds his image and spills over into his work. All in all, I do not believe I would be able to lament a fraction of what I have gushed about Nip without the release of Victory Lap, whether or not I had actually listened to him prior to this release.
To check out Victory Lap, click here.