Over the course of the next few weeks, Billboard will be allowing artists behind some of the year’s most notable hip-hop and R&B releases the opportunity to speak on why their respective albums deserve to be crowned the top project of 2018. The first artist to speak on his successful run this year is Grammy-nominated rapper, Nipsey Hussle, for his visceral debut album, Victory Lap. — As told to Carl Lamarre
I just think the amount of life, the amount of narrative, the amount of truth, the amount of pieces of somebody’s life stories that went into Victory Lap is one of the reasons why my album is the best rap album of 2018.
I wasn’t trying to make the album of the year, I was just trying to make something that would stand the test of time. I remember I was just referencing classic moments in hip-hop. I was just trying to draw my blueprint for my album. I was looking at why I love this album and why this song was still great after all these years.
I set out to create something that I can consider timeless. The fact that I dropped it in 2018 — I just felt like whenever I dropped my album, it was going to be a point in time where we got some classic hip-hop and some timeless hip-hop. So I dropped it in 2018, and it turned out to be a benchmark year for rap. Everybody dropped. All the greats, all the up-and-coming artists, everybody dropped! Even with the album coming at that moment and having the impact that it had, I feel like we were successful with what we set out to do. I just wanted to do something timeless and that years from now, you’d enjoy it and say, “That was classic hip-hop right there. That’s what our genre sounds like [at its best].”
When I listen back and just look at the moments from outside of myself, the album was just everything hip-hop represents. Even the title, Victory Lap — with the music and how it sounded under that title — I think it was just really concise, and really consistent with everything that I represent as an artist, and also what I’ve been saying since I came in the game.
Me, personally, I never delivered a project with such a large runway in terms of promotion, music, mixtapes, videos and singles. We didn’t get a leak. The whole album was experienced the way we wanted it to be experienced. We performed the music live at All-Star Weekend in L.A. before the album release. When everybody left the concert, the album was officially out. There were a lot of instances where the stars were lining up to the release of the project. The tour was crazy, but again, even on the production side, if you really listen to the album with a fine comb and listen to the layers of production on the album, it’s deep. If you took the words off, you can appreciate the music. The production was just great music.
I think with Victory Lap being the final piece of a trilogy that started off from a mixtape series, and ended up being my debut album, it’s the story of Nipsey Hussle. Coming from selling his mixtapes out of his trunk on Crenshaw and Slauson, to having a venture with Atlantic Records and dropping his debut album — and then, with what the music sounded like and being delivered from that context — I just felt like it was like a moment for me as a fan of hip-hop, and as a fan of the underdog, and just the American dream of coming from nothing to something.