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Nipsey Hussle – Victory Lap

It has been a long-time coming for the new age pioneer to release his debut album, after a turbulent entry into the game with 2005’s Slauson Boy and the Bullets Ain’t Got No Name trilogy, the West Coast talent reconnected with audiences with his (now influential) The Marathon, released in 2010, it is highly regarded as a rebirth for the rapper but more so by fans who it inspired, followed the next year with The Marathon Continues, which not only established Nip with a solid core fanbase but lined up perfectly for the release of Victory Lap. As a creative, I can only imagine how frustrating it must have been to hold onto to certain songs, awaiting the right time, because for us fans, he dropped the X-tra Laps and the quality lil’ releases on soundcloud, and then in 2013, the next pivotal moment (in music period), with (the now classic) Crenshaw. While he justified his last name with the promotion, independently doing what major labels were struggling with, the music itself justified any price point placed. With fans appreciative of the quality, it only enhanced his movement further. He proved his authenticity with Mailbox Money, a soundtrack to his success, which helped cement his All Money In imprint and Marathon brand, simultaneously raising the bar once again for the music and marketing, whilst increasing the demand to hear him cross that finish line.

[We even got a sequel to Slauson Boy (which people will champion in years to come), and the underrated No Pressure with Bino Rideaux, before the announcement of a partnership with Atlantic records, the first single and the release date of this album.]

With expectations so high, the title track serves as the curtain opening with it’s cinematic feel, the addition of Stacey Barthe’s vocals providing an extra height of emotion upon which Nip’s verse is elevated, “I’m prolific, so gifted, I’m the type that’s gon’ go get it, no kidding..”, he starts off, with a lyrical tapestry of struggle, fighting demons, to adversity and success, as he slaloms between the streets and the music business. Engulfed in the effects of the emphatic intro, the movie begins with Rap Niggas, a track that he had in the holster for a couple years now, the addition of Diddy as Executive producer only enhances the sounds of DJ Khalil and Mike & Keys, contributing to that theatrical production, heard throughout the album. The song itself is a valid statement from Nipsey Hussle, casting himself aside from the majority of (if not all) rappers today, with his credibility as certified within the streets as it is in the boardrooms. The next record is none other than the YG (fo’huniiiid) collab, Last Time That I Checc’d, it’s a feel-good track with the chemistry of the two leading the forefront of gang culture’s positive evolution. Having previously heard them as singles, it was the following that were most intriguing, starting with Young Nigga, sampling one of my favourites in PartyNextDoor’s West District, heavily amped with the iconic Puff Daddy adlibs, it’s classic Nipsey, as he paints the picture of desire and sacrifice, with his own stories of turning his back on the lifestyle in commitment to his career, “out the gate, lost count…many days in the studio we slaved, but this shit we gotta save..”, as well as the more notable story of his brother digging up money he buried, only to find half of it damaged from mould. These nuances of coming from such hardships to his status now is very much the premise of the project.

Thus far, you have probably heard good things about the album, and truthfully, with each listen..it only gets better. From the musicality (with the dope outros) to the content itself, (beyond my bias as a fan) it has really delivered. You have the Kendrick Lamar featured Dedication, which is actually one of the more catchier tracks, and fitting to the overall concept, before the sequel to a fan favourite from the Marathon tape, Blue Laces 2, with his signature flow, over the reworked production, he poetically details how far he has come, “Mogul and they know that, logo on my floormat..”, with his forward-thinking mindset and reminiscent flashbacks, he captivates the listener, with the story-telling on the last verse up there with the greats. More prominent is the assertiveness in his execution, the tone in his voice, if the first part was him chasing his dream, this is certainly him in the back of the Maybach reminiscing. The placement of each song is also to be applauded, Hussle & Motivate not only is descriptive of it’s title, but over the Jay-Z – Hard Knock Life sample, has Nip leading by example, “Lead to the lake..if they wanna fish, Make sure them niggas around you stick to the script, This should be written in stone, You should come visit my zone, Don’t take my word…double check all of my flows”. Sat in the middle of the album, it certainly important to the backbone. Status Symbol 3 might not be the best out of the trilogy, but like the two before, it stands on it’s own, “Wanna change the game…never chase a message, Never stop grindin’…cherish no possessions”, forever dropping gems, the latter part of the second verse really touched, as he raps of the dissatisfaction of harming another and the struggles to remain on course, “Started movin’ at a different frequency and it got me livin’ lavish, All my partners steady passin’…tryna wiggle through this madness, Tryna fight this gravity at time and I swear i could feel it pull me backwards”.

The album, like the artist, maintains a strong element of a West coast aesthetic, Succa Proof is one of the more diverse sounds, with the feature of Konshens and J. Black, the more aggressive of records, in comparison to Keyz 2 The City 2, another sequel to a fan-favourite, and again, very different to the original, but that’s the expression of growth, as you have to pay attention to the content, with the inclusion of another LA talent in TeeFLii. It for sure has one of the best outros you ever heard, as the production and his flow switches, and I’m sure many share my sentiments of wishing it was a whole track in itself. Grinding All My Life, another ode to the sacrifice and integrity, “Got married to this game…that’s who I made my wife, said I’d die alone…I told that bitch she probably right”, while the album would not be hindered if this did not make the final cut, the loyalty is always appreciated, as he pays homage with mention of the incident in Vegas, where a hater got stomped out, highlighting their unity. Thus far, the album has been an affirmation of defying the odds, jewels upon jewels of motivation, wisdom and real raps, cultivated together, strengthening the foundations upon which he stands, whilst echoing those principles towards new listeners. The last three songs, much like the individual outros, offer more insight to his musicality, and like the replays of the win with applauds in abundance, really depicts the end of the lap itself, from Million While You Young, an elaboration of the ‘no excuses’ mindset, featuring the recognisable vocals and presence of The Dream, it’s a hard-work pays off story, encouraging you stay true to yourself, “See you gon’ probably fail tryna play us, streets ain’t for everybody..get your grades up”. CeeLo Green has been on some classic tracks and he adds to that list with Loaded Bases, much like the previous, it’s a ‘pressure makes diamonds’ record, much like The Dream, CeeLo’s vocals help contrast against Nipsey’s tone, combined with the music, it makes for a fitting track, down to the inclusion of the crowd cheers towards the end, which start off the final track. Real Big truly captures the feeling that one can only imagine as you conclude the lap, basking in the glory of the accomplishments, soaking in the adoration, and as personal as the victory may be for Nip, the song itself is open for those to aspire towards such moments and share the success. Floetry’s Marsha Ambrosius is heavily respected within the rap world, and has played her part in accentuating the essences in songs for some of the most strong personalities, and it’s just that, with her angelic harmony, floating you to the top of the podium, with the change in music that can be described as feeling your feet firm as you raise up with the medal around your neck.

As if this journey of an album was not enough, the two bonus tracks, which are not only like the post-race interview as this chapter comes to a close, but like an end scene credit, line us up for what’s to come. Double Up sees Nip link up with two underrated talents in Belly and (another future LA legend) Dom Kennedy, with the latter undoubtedly pleasing for fans. The laid-back track is so good that it makes sense why it had to be included in this format, with the catchy chorus and overall cool feel, it could have easily been part of the main body of work. The bonus tracks actually prove just how good Nipsey Hussle is, with Double Up and Right Hand 2 God (sounding like a Championship celebration), being better than many singles of today, strong in substance and instrumentation, strengthening Nipsey Hussle’s artistry beyond just a gangsta rapper.

There really aren’t any criticisms, maybe the LA-theme could have done with a Terrence Martin feature, or how with each project released, there’s a groundbreaking execution, this however has somewhat of the regular model (in regards to the album bundle), and maybe it’s Atlantic handling that, though I can equally argue that it could have overshadowed the music, as it has done in many cases, rarely in interviews, have I heard someone speak on the content of Crenshaw, just the price point and how many copies Jay Z purchased, so this could have been a strategic move in itself.

It’s been a long road to this point, and he did not disappoint, creating a lasting soundtrack of integrity and success, and the motivation like the music transcends to new listeners too, as the increase in production quality helped establish this monumental occasion across not only new fans but genres also. A proud moment for any fan, as we salute the Crenshaw king along this Victory Lap.

I also want to offer my condolences, and pay my respects to Stephen “Fatts” Donelson, a staple in the ‘All $ In’ imprint, a major contributor to the overall operation and success of Nipsey Hussle, who before a business partner, was a friend. While nothing can make up for the losses, no doubt this victory is in his honour and long may the legacy continue.


Click artwork to purchase physical


10 Months later: Victory Lap has not only been solidified by the listeners, including a host of credible figures continuously praising it throughout the year (and I feel like this album created that conversation for ‘Rap Album of The Year’) but it also gained Neighbourhood Nip a Grammy nomination. Whilst it actually means more that it’s the Street’s album of the 2018, it is still a beautiful depiction of integrity and perseverance, that this body of work is now forever etched in the history of the esteemed ceremony. A lot of others are now starting to see the prolificacy that his core fans have been championing this whole time. From the new music and videos (six, totalling well-over 50million views), down to old footage surfacing of him ahead of his time, all goes to show that the timing couldn’t be more perfect.

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Ard Adz – No Rain No Flowers

One of the scene’s unsung heroes, Ard Adz has been consistent to say the least, one of the few underground acts to have a solid fanbase, to where everyone else had to take notice. For some time now the rapper had been overlooked, but no more, as he follows up on an array of mixtapes with his new EP, No Rain, No Flowers.

Heavy with the street raps, many of his fans noticed a more conscious theme creeping, as he began to bring his faith further into the music, something that merely highlights his transparency as an artist. Unafraid to share emotion, where many may fear the backlash, it was even more appreciated and added to the familiarity that audiences felt with him.

With No Rain No Flowers, Adz gives us 6 tracks, that help establish not only where he’s at, but the intentions as he continues on, starting with the intro, Dirty’s Pain

where he unapologetically flows, weaving between his love for his people, but the lack of trust, his ambition to succeed but his disgust of the shady industry, it plays well setting up for the current anthem What’s Gwarning

Classic Adz, as he details the street life, going back and forth with feature Bellzey, “My brother said life is a gamble, so I’m hitting life at all angles, I got the steel on my waist, it beats like I got it off Banglez”, through the catchy flows, there’s still lyricism and metaphors present (as with that line he shows love to producer Steel Banglez). He makes it seem so easy, it’s almost his signature, which he carries on into the Oye Oye Freestyle. The EP thus far is catering to his core audiences, as he opts to stay loyal to his rap roots, with the S Wavey collab, Cause Jahanam, over the classic Alchemist production, it’s a casual vibe, thats sets up the next track perfectly, the standout Fast Lane. “What have I become, I’m a devil to the lord, but an angel to my son..”, the track depicts his struggle with life and religion a little further, with an assured take on him finding his balance. With talk of an album soon to come, the last two tracks help steer into that direction, including the last track My Ak. A relatable track, for many with people locked up, and it shows the loyal soul that he is, through this introspective cut.

In the first track, he says, “I’d still rather sign to my son than Virgin..”, in the last, he says, “I’d rather sign to my son before Def Jam..”, such strong indications of his anti-label stance, and with the content given, he’s certainly not looking to compromise in the slightest. There are many of his fans, who comment and mention his ability to provide beyond the gangsta rap, but for now the South London artist is clearly looking to cement his legacy within what he knows best.


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Blay Vision – Turner Ave.

The young producer has been forging his own sound over time, notable behind the boards, producing vibes for a variety of MC’s (most recently Phaze What – Neva Dat), though he’s proving more than able behind the mic also, and with Skepta broadening the parameters of Grime, Blay is one of the up and coming acts to utilise the freedom. His 2017 release Turner Ave might be one of the top Grime projects of the year (amongst the likes of Manga St Hilaire’s Outbursts From The Outskirts).

It’s clear from the get go with These Guys, as an assured Blay lays out the mindset and his intentions,

and the project backs that sentiment, as though you can hear certain influences, overall it really stands alone from whatever else is out at the moment. Track 2, Fully Involved, one of my favourite productions this year, and I’m glad that he attempts to have substance, as if he’s aware of what the production provides, allowing him to structure more thoughtfully, and from a humble perspective of an up and coming act, so the content fits well. I find myself separating the production at times, but in all honesty, I can hear he’s more seasoned as a producer, but the flows are impressive, more so the stories he weaves and the lessons he attempts to stitch together, it’s really well crafted. I really like how the project flows, he most definitely thought about performances, as tracks like the hype Skeen, will undoubtedly get the crowd jumping, and through the raw delivery, there’s lines to take in, “I know man that’ll marry your mum, come to the country and dun your clart”, that’s a reload right there!

[I recognise good ol’ Southampton, after I spent the last couple years there]

Around track 7, there’s a minimal shift, but if you’ve come this far, you’re certainly hearing the rest of the project less critically, like the vibezy My G’s, with it’s catchy hook and satisfyingly piercing synths,

I’m proud of his evolution thus far, from the early sounds of his I have on my old laptop, a more refined sound, and it continues with the JME featured Gone Mad,

he’s back at it right after with Free Mo, which is more him flexing his MC abilities, switching up the flow, and it’s a more musical approach, as it’s another well structured effort that I can see working well live. I like tracklists that aren’t predictable, and as he begins to show his versatility, this is just that, an array of tempos and styles, one minute your just nodding your head to Amnesia,

the next you’re tuned in, relating to the introspective and open Normal, “Anxiety got me thinking a madness, I just wanna be normal”. 

Such records really highlight his abilities, beyond a talented producer, crafting quality songs, whilst still being able to give you the more performance based bangers like 99 Pace

and the final track on the project, Violent, which gives you a more confident Blay, it’s as if you’ve travelled on a journey through the project, and that’s what you want, from an artist’s perspective and listeners alike. It takes a lot of effort to put together a project, let alone visuals and without the support of masses it can be a hit or miss, so props to him as he carves out a moment for himself with Turner Ave, an array of sounds and flows, all rolled up into a dope project.

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Wholagun – Solution To The Problem

It’s been a long time coming. The South London rapper forged an almost legendary street status, an OG to many of the up and coming stars today, Wholagun had found some early success with a string of hits 3 to 5 years ago, generating a decent amount of views and following, however, for various reasons, it felt like he had not entirely made the transition into rap, not to mention the scene was not as healthy then. In the past couple years he followed through with some more freestyles and street bangers, with fans almost demanding an entire project, and so today, those wishes are granted, as we finally get the release of a full body of work, Solution To The Problem.

8 Tracks, fit to satisfy the core fans, but with enough range to introduce himself to new ones alike. Wholagun can rap, there is no denying it, what makes him some of your favourite rapper’s favourite rapper, is his versatility, flows for days, and as his brand increases, as will the content, with this EP showing early glimpses of just that. It starts with the lead single Dirty, it’s straight forward, easy to digest, and catchy, Wholagun has pretty much perfected the British trap sound, proven with the next track Weighty Cheque, following a similar format, as did Pretty & Bad, maybe I wanted more from him because I know what he is capable of, so initially I was disappointed, but couple more listens later and they’ve grown on me, the flow patterns and punchlines do it justice.

You can never judge from a couple tracks, and that’s exactly the case with this project, as track 4 takes a more melodic turn, “the game is mine, I rap, I sing, I’m taking the piss..”, and he is, the fan in me was vibezing, and the part that wants to see his talents rewarded was pleased, because it’s quality enough to be put up there with the current crop, one criticism I had, and If I was in the studio with him, I would say, to avoid the repetitive choruses, saying that, on this record, it made sense, and fit well. It might just be a personal choice and in fairness a lot of the biggest tracks out today have similar hooks, but I do believe he is talented enough to do better, and I just wouldn’t want anyone thinking otherwise.

I realise that because I’ve been waiting for this for long, I’m almost judging it, in all fairness, this is a re-introduction, as he re-asserts himself, letting you know, who he is out here, “I don’t wanna hear about big man, when you ain’t bigger than man”. The get money motivation is strong throughout, and by track 5, I realised he’s giving you doses of genius, easily digested, “I just got a call from the plug, got the front room looking like ‘dam”, this exact ability to paint a picture lyrically is why so many have loyally waited for this. Best thing about the project is that it only continues to get better with each song, bringing us to track 6, Be Rich, an introspective take on that previously mentioned motivation, is one of the standout tracks, “I’m tryna get that bread, my daughter needs her pizza, I’m tryna leave the ends…ain’t tryna rise that heat up”, he further delves into his desires to really establish himself in this game, making no mistake that it’s going to take hard work.

My early criticism/disappointment might not have made sense, me knowing he is capable of more, and when you hear track 7, you can understand, out of nowhere there’s a track catering to the ladies, and in no way has he had to compromise, nor is it a reach in any way, there’s strength in vulnerability, “feeling a way when you hug me, I feel like the man..only God is above me”, Winner it’s quite soulful, and very much appreciated, making it another standout. The last two tracks might be the best, with Real Talk 3 really cementing Wholagun at his best, the insightful raps, engulfed in wisdom, it’s human, it’s the epitome of what rap is for many, that inspiration, to keep going. “Every days a blessing, I just wanna see us all progressing, feel like everyone fights depression, ’til you realise your minds a weapon”.

I wanted to end it at that bar, powerful, emotive, important, that is Wholagun, who has given us a quality body of work, that he can only build upon as he continues his imminent rise to the top.


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