Hands down, Nipsey Hussle could be considered as one of the most influential artists in this decade. Hussle has endured a long road filled with obstacles, high-risk marketing, out-the-box campaigning, self-accountability, ingenuity and basic instinct, which fueled his incredible catalog — including The Marathon, The Marathon Continues, Xtra-Laps, Crenshaw and Mailbox Money. He has also released the second installment to his debut mixtape Slauson Boy and an EP entitled Famous Lies and Untold Truths through a Summer-long campaign releasing new material during all of Summer 2016 (also, #MarathonMondays).
The word victory is more than a word to the Crenshaw-raised musician; it’s his story of overcoming trials and tribulations. Hussle has released over 12 mixtapes/projects since the beginning of his career (2005), and it’s been well overdue for Nip to the release his long-awaited major label debut album, Victory Lap (stream/download here). In its first week out, the album rallied 53,000 units and earned the No. 4 position on the Billboard Hot 200. If the 53,000 units, 30,000 were counted as traditional album sales, while 21,000 were grouped under SEA streaming equivalent albums; 2,000 accounted for track equivalent albums.
The Intro: Victory Lap
Every classic hip-hop album has a moment in which you hear a legendary intro in the making, such as Jay-Z’s “Can’t Knock the Hustle” and Meek Mill’s “Dreams and Nightmares.” In Nipsey’s case, “Victory Lap” (featuring Stacy Barthe) set the same standard. As the story opens, a sense of tenacious command occurs as Hussle begins telling his story with no chorus from beginning to end:
I’m prolific, so gifted
I’m the type that’s gon’ go get it, no kiddin’
Breaking down a Swisher in front of yo buildin’
Sitting on the steps feeling no feelings
Last night, it was a cold killin’
You gotta keep the devil in his hole, n***a
But you know how it go, n***a
I’m front line every time it’s on, n***a
As the moment builds from the first verse moving into the story line, you can see growth in his flow and delivery. Nipsey reflects on his past milestones while controlling the “stage” and embraces that he is on an upper echelon compared to other artists.
Victory Lap finds moments in every record to produce a retro feel with 90’s-inspiration. The legendary, well-seasoned and rising key production for the album is set by producer-duo Mike and Keys and Larrance “Rance” Dopson from 1500 or Nothin. There are a few additional appearances from Axel Foley, Tariq Beats, Mr. Lee, Brody Brown, Teddy Walton and The Marathon producer, Ralo Stylez.
The singles create key moments for the album, bringing polarized opposites together from different sides like fire and ice. Nipsey kills gang tension by bringing features from the other side of the flag, bringing along comrades such as YG (who brought flames with the anthem “Last Time That I Checc’d”) and the Kendrick Lamar, who assisted on the track “Dedication.” On the latter, both artists take turns carrying the torch as the new West coast leaders of rap.
“Young Nigga” is that moment of clarity and soundtrack to every upcoming hustler working to solidify their name. Adding Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs to the formula is what Hussle needed to create that golden hip-hop moment. In previous tracks, Hussle mentioned the Bad Boy mogul and his entrepreneurial pioneering, which paved the way for Nipsey and his peers during the “Golden Age” of hip-hop. Like the sensei to the student, the track gives an early climax to untold stories that Nipsey finally reveals. The beat is sonically perfect, pitching suspense and insight on how much Nipsey has really risked to get to this moment. He controls the vocal strength of his delivery, not losing focus and grabbing the listener attention bar-for-bar. He seemingly fights his way to the defining moment while keeping versatility in his lyric structure and tone.
“Blue Laces 2” is a sequel to a personal time, directly from the voice of the Rollin’ 60’s Crip. The smooth record — produced by Houston’s Mr. Lee — shares flashbacks that Nip could recall vividly, including a fight with a rival gang which later turned into a shootout, causing his friend to get shot several times…a true inspiration for such a striking record.
Victory Lap doesn’t contain a single dull moment and holds the listener accountable to embrace it, guiding them along the streets of South Central Los Angeles and through the “City of Angels.” Nipsey’s long-awaited studio album quiets the critics while meeting expectations. It has a chance of being a timeless album for the next generation of West coast music and a success story for young entrepreneurs across the world.