Photo Credit: Matt Winkelmeyer | Getty Images
Los Angeles is in mourning — the energy of the city has been dimmed since the passing of the beloved community activist and one-of-a-kind Nipsey Hussle. Many people will attest that Nipsey was more than just a rapper, he was someone people could relate to. His music spoke to people on a deeper level. Nip used his art to inspire people and assure them that with faith and dedication, you could achieve anything.
Nip sat down with NPR to break down his Grammy-nominated album Victory Lap in an in-depth track by track discussion, with hopes his explanation would change the way the public perceives the album.
“When they [read] this interview, they’ll be able to go through and listen to the album and really break down my point of view,” Nipsey said. “That’ll give them an insight on who I am and what I believe in more than any tweet, statement or Instagram post. When they hear the music, they’ll hear what I believe in and what I choose to promote — that’s the most important thing.”
Nip broke down his entire 16-track project song by song, discussing how each one came about and the meaning behind them. Here’s a breakdown of Nipsey’s Victory Lap album by British publication NPR Music.
- “Victory Lap”
“I’m an urban legend / South Central in a certain section / Can’t explain how I curbed detectives, guess it’s / Evidence of a divine presence.”
Hussle explains this powerful verse viewing his success as both a huge victory and a life, considering everyone around him was either getting locked up or killed.
- “Rap N***as”
“Ain’t nothing like you fucking rap n*****, Hussle man a shooter that’s a fact, n****”
Nip talks about the back story of this track and the role P. Diddy played in the production. In fact, he played it for Puff and asking him to be on it. Puff pulled out a 1994’s “Natural Born Killaz” with Ice Cube and Dr. Dre and said, “It don’t sound like that though, bro.”
Nip then went to his producers, showed them Ice Cube and Dr. Dre track, then went to the studio to tell his sound engineer that it needed to be louder. He then reproduced it and made a “West Coast street anthem.”
- “Last Time That I Checc’d (feat. YG)”
“And I take my time, and take my tribe, Every level that I crossed in this game like state lines”
Nipsey credits his inspiration for this song to Jay-Z and Tupac. Just like the Jeezy catalog or the E-40 catalog, there are jewels that would benefit an individual’s life and financial status if he were to live by them. “I understand art reflecting life, but we grew up on art instructing life,” he says.
Nip collaborated with YG to create an anthem for the streets and his generation. He wanted to create a song that people from his generation could relate to, a song that belongs to the people of the coast.
- “Young N***** (ft. Puff Diddy)”
Nip recalls his session with Puff and the high positive energy they had throughout. Nip and Puff were clapping, doing push-ups, smoking a pound of Marathon OG, and making music. They created more than they needed. Nip used this song to share a story about his brother who buried a quarter of a million dollars in a fire-proof, earth-proof bag wrapped in plastic in his momma’s backyard on 60th street. The money was molded and half ruined. He recalls sitting scrapping the mold, rinsing and blowdrying, trying to salvage the money.
- “Dedication (feat. Kendrick Lamar)”
“This ain’t entertainment, it’s for n***** in the slave ship / These songs is the spirituals I swam against them waves with….”
Nipsey creative process has developed over time. He started out writing lyrics since he was 13-14 years old. Marathon was the last project he wrote lyrics down for. Ever since, he finds his delivery to be more passionate when it goes naturally.
In this popular track, Nip goes deep into explaining how important it is for him to be passionate in the studio booth, he says “I just got in the booth and let the music talk… I hear the beat and instead of writing it, I say into the mic.”
- “Blue Laces 2”
When Lebron James won his first championship, there was footage of him in the locker room blasting “Blue Laces” through his headphones. When Nip found out, he was so flattered he added “Blue Laces 2” to the track list of Victory Lap. After recording the first verse, Nip was ready to leave the studio but Big Reese from Lincoln Park, who was sharing the studio at the time, asked him to stay and do the second verse. Big Reese was so impressed and told him the second one is harder than the first verse, and to finish the song right now. Nip did the third verse and admits even he was blown away by it. He had a moment with the booth and credits the song to Big Reese.
- “Hussle & Motivate”
Nipsey invited his homegirl to help with a hook for his song. When she showed up with someone he didn’t know, he admitted being a little upset but the guy’s talent blew him off. As soon as the beat started, the guy started humming and Nip told him to get in the booth. According to Nip, the hook basically says he doesn’t do this for nothing. They got a narrative but it’s not the truth, so he wanted to admit that. “Hussle * Motivate” is a sample of Jay-Z “Hard Knock Life” record and Nip shouts of Jay-Z since he signed off on it.
- “Status Symbol 3 (feat. Buddy)”
Nip talks about meeting Buddy through his producers Mike * Key. The goal of the studio he created was to create the synergy that Motown and Death Row had, having the producers, the writers, the artists, and the executive team all under one roof. Nipsey talks about how talents Buddy is, how he can rap better than your favorite rapper and sing better than the best singer. Nipsey admired what Buddy stood for and got in a few tracks with him before created “Status Symbol.” He mentions that the track was titled “Almost Forgot” for a year or two, but then changed into “Status Symbol” when him and Buddy came together.
- “Succa Proof”
Nipsey talks about being a positive influence and an inspirational figure. He talks about not endorsing celebrities or gang members and trying to redefine the tribe and stimulating young people. This song shouldn’t be taken as a diss to those who started bangin’ after they were famous, pointing out Soulja Boy and Chris Brown. He then says if he had a younger brother and he is doing goofy things, he’d tell him that ain’t a hundred but he still loves him. To Nip, that’s what the song was about. “We ain’t gonna tell you to gangbang, we gonna tell you to buy out the block,” Nip says.
- “Keyz 2 The City 2 (feat. TeeFlii)”
Nip considers this song a fact-check for LA. He recognizes what he did with the Rollin’ 60s and calls it a blueprint. He encourages other gang members to follow the blueprint. “Link up with your team, build businesses, build enterprise, create additions for your young people to come up underneath,” he says. “That’s the bragging right.” He says the metric is what we built as entrepreneurs and as leaders, and that’s what the song is about.
As we mourn the loss of Nipsey, let us also celebrate his music and legacy by continuing to spread the message of love he so greatly lived by.
Read the rest of the breakdown here.