By Jhantu Randall
The world became aware of a rapper who went by the name of Nipsey Hussle, when he was recently nominated for a Grammy this year but even more so when he was fatally gunned-down March 31 by Eric Holder who also shot at Kerry Lathan and his Lathamʻs cousin, Shermi Villanueva in front of Nipseyʻs very own Marathon Clothing store on Crenshaw and Slauson in Los Angeles.
Born Ermias Joseph Asghedom August 15, ʻ85, Nipsey made quite an impact in the L.A. area in just 33 short years. Since his passing, there has been a public memorial event and a large funeral procession. Nipsey was laid to rest that following friday after his death in a private ceremony at Forest Lawn- Hollywood Hills. The public is now fully aware of all his good deeds, investments and visions have been brought to the attention of the general public through the media, showing the image of a man whose essence left an impact on the world at large. By focusing on community investment, business ownership and self-reliance, funded largely by a rap career that has become supplemental income, Nipsey was emulating a new kind of blueprint for success, especially for those who feel stuck in the endless state of never getting ahead, living in the ʻhood.
In the world of HipHop, Nipsey always seemed to be mentioned among the class of freshman faces but the man had been putting out mix-tapes since early ʻ05, so even though “Victory Lap” was officially his debut album he had an established following due to the series of mix-tapes. The full-length album was released through Nipseyʻs very own record label entitled, “All Money In.” This worked to Nipsey’s advantage as he had time to truly take his time and perfect his craft, “Victory Lap” wasn’t just Nipsey’s debut album, it was ultimately his strongest statement.
After his passing, much of “Victory Lap” comes off as both prophetic and quite reflective. A well deserved session that celebrates a life lived to the fullest and translated to wax for countless fans to hear. Kicking off with the album-titled single, “Victory Lap” featuring Stacy Barthe the song fuses a tropical sound with hard hitting lyrics where Nip speaks upon the moments that allowed him to get to this point. Shooting the video at the Mayan Ruins in Tulum, the visuals connect to you in a way that immortalizes Nipsey in a time capsule of his own creation.
The entire album is crafted so well that the fact that it didn’t win the Grammy for album of the year almost feels like an insult but at the same time gave it a pathway to legendary status as a result. Every track shows off Nipsey’s uniqueness and highlighted what made him stand out while also shining a spotlight on the thoughts of a man who seemed to be loved and respected by anyone and everyone he had ever come across.
While there are no fillers on this album, standouts include “Dedication” featuring Kendrick Lamar who openly gave Nipsey his flowers in life and showed it in the verse. A verse that actually compliments and plays well next to Nipsey’s quite well. “Keyz 2 The City” featuring TeeFlii is one track that will grab your ear but it is “Hussle & Motivate” and “Grinding All My Life” that have become go-to tracks whenever you find yourself searching for a way to reignite a fire within yourself. “Real Big” featuring the heavenly voice of Marsha Ambrosius is a track that I always find myself returning to. The combination of the two voices capture your attention right away and while the song itself spans over six-minutes and by the end it still feels too short once it transitions into the bonus track, ”Double Up,” also an over-six minute song Featuring Belly and Dom Kennedy and then seamlessly flowing to the final track, “Right Hand 2 God” which again sounds eerily prophetic considering all that has occurred.
After listening to “Victory Lap” it left me with a odd mix of emotions. Honestly I had always been aware of who Nipsey was, I had listened to a few of his early mix-tapes however this album gave me hope for the future of the HipHop Culture as Nipsey highlighted honor, intelligence and growth in a world that promotes bad habits, going hand in hand with simplistic, destructive behavior. I actually wish I had been a bigger fan sooner as I always pushed his philanthropic pursuits whenever I was made aware of them. Regardless, Nipsey Hussle’s “Victory Lap” is a fitting title for a man who left us all too soon but now has added his name to a group of artists that are forever immortalized.