Hip-Hop Soul legend Musiq Soulchild gave us an album of the year contender when he released his new project “Victims & Villains” last month. The collaborative project with producer Hit-Boy is not only one of his best albums, but one of the best you’ll hear all year.
We had a chance to catch up with him once again for an interview. During our conversation, he talked about his process for creating the album with Hit-Boy, some of the standout songs on “Victims & Villains”, evolving his Hip-Hop Soul sound, and much more.
YouKnowIGotSoul: The new album “Victims & Villains” is out, your collaboration with producer Hit-Boy. This collaboration kind of came out of nowhere a bit, what inspired you to create this album?
Musiq Soulchild: I think it was just as a surprise to me as it was to you guys. There wasn’t this long drawn out process of recording. I got approached to make an album last September. And here we are, it’s out. There wasn’t a lot of time to have an idea or thought, a complete thought, about putting this album together. The driving force was solely on working with Hit-Boy. Really excited about that. You specifically know how hard I’ve been preaching Hip-Hop Soul. Here it is, an opportunity that I was presented with, to adequately lean into that. You have a producer who is most known for Hip-Hop, and I felt like that was a good way to start extracting the vibe of what I’ve been trying to say this whole time.
YouKnowIGotSoul: It had been awhile since your last album. Did you even have in mind that you wanted to do an album at this time?
Musiq Soulchild: Nah, not at all to be honest. It’s weird because I liken it to my first album’s process. I wasn’t really trying to make an album. I was just recording songs. Some things get on, some things don’t. That’s why it was almost jarring when it was presented to me. My manager said some people thought it would be a good idea to put an album out. I wasn’t even thinking about it. At that time, I was still processing a lot of complex stuff. I wasn’t in the mindset of presenting myself in front of you guys with a new product and project. I really wanted to just be in the background and just figure out a lot of stuff that really required my attention. A lot of personal stuff. Even after that, I got even busier when the tour was on its way. I was trying to stay out of the way and heal, but it was like I needed to walk and talk and chew gum at the same time! So I had to heal, and also go on tour, and also put out an album! Let’s go. Why not, man, why not? So that’s the gist of how the process went.
YouKnowIGotSoul: The amazing thing about this project is your sound worked so well with Hit-Boy’s production. It’s like it was meant to be. What was the process like in the studio creating such a great album?
Musiq Soulchild: Yeah. It felt like this is how it should have been going this whole time. I think that because there wasn’t really anything like it before, there was no way that anyone could have curated it that way. I know it sounded like a foreign broken record to people. This is possibly the best offering of Hip-Hop Soul that I’ve ever been able to present to you guys. It’s almost like I’ve been having an identity crisis this whole time. It’s not that I don’t recognize the blessing and the privilege to do what I have done, and how much you guys really liked it and support and made it what it become. I appreciate it and will forever be grateful for it. However it’s a very different thing when you’re doing something that feels more natural to you. Not just doing something because you know it works and it will make you money and people will like it and say nice things about it.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Have to also give a shout out to your last album “Feel The Real”. That album seemed a bit overlooked, but always felt that was a great representation of Hip-Hop Soul as well! Once you take the time to live with an album like that, you can really appreciate it.
Musiq Soulchild: I put a lot of work into that project. That’s me still bumbling around trying to figure out how to articulate things more accurately, with what I had at the time. Again, there wasn’t any sit down and map it out. Whatever I’m doing now, is going to have to feel a certain way. That way is going to have to be different how it was before. What that is, I don’t know. But I’m going to work from how I know I don’t want it to be, and go from there.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Let’s talk about some of the songs on “Victims & Villains”. We have a song of the year contender on here. “Your Love is Life”. What a song! A genuine love song, feels good, we don’t get songs like that much anymore.
Musiq Soulchild: And it’s a classic quintessential Hip-Hop Soul song. It’s a boom-bap beat, with the vibe being what it is. Me just speaking my emotions on top of it. That’s pretty Hip-Hop Soul. I was so grateful that I was able to convey the essence of it in that way, because I’m thinking in my mind, I hope people get, this is what I’m trying to say and do. I hope that people get what makes it, is both elements. This is why I never identified as R&B. That’s something else! I can do it, I’ve done it. It’s nice. But it’s not me. I know that sounds crazy to people. I get it. But being good at something is not the same as doing you, and being who you are. I’ve done my best to push through and not complain, and take the W’s and put points on the board. After a while, there is this frustration that builds up because you’re not being yourself. I feel like this project, it’s starting to sort of unearth that. I’m really looking forward to seeing how much more of it I can start putting out there. I really feel like it’s really, really cool. But I won’t get to it if you keep looking for what you want.
YouKnowIGotSoul: The song “imreallytrynaf*ckwhichu” was a song where we first heard and weren’t sure about. Then we gave it a bunch of listens and lived with it, and realized it’s really good! It’s because it’s so different.
Musiq Soulchild: Imagine if you never gave it a shot, you would have still been thinking what you thought about it before. That’s what I’m talking about. People are so quick to judge. Give it a minute man! Have I not amassed enough credibility to earn your time and attention and faith, that I know what I’m doing. This is a foreign concept because what I’m doing is not normal, I understand that, just give it a minute. You might actually like it!
YouKnowIGotSoul: Another song from the album we have to mention is “between love and war”. What a song! Talk about the sequencing, since you saved that one towards the end of the album also.
Musiq Soulchild: Well that was the plan, I just listened to all of the songs, those are the only songs I had. I put my projects together according to how I think they should flow. The loose concept of how I put songs together on an album is I think of it like a day. So it starts off with the sun rise, then by the third record, your day has started. Then we’re going to calm down a little, then pick it back up. Clearly, especially nowadays, people don’t always honor that, they listen to whatever they want to whenever they want to. Even two minutes or less. When I put a put a project together, I do it with the full intent of it being experienced in its entirety. If any of you are so inclined to do that, you’ll get the full vibe.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Let’s talk about the title track for a bit. That song doesn’t sound like anything else we’ve heard from you before but it worked!
Musiq Soulchild: See all of these things that you’re saying, it’s convenient to say now, but it’s weird because when I’m doing it, my mindset that it’s going to be received like this. I’m thinking people might actually not like this, because it’s such a departure from what I’ve done. But I still had to stand on it, and say this is what people are going to get. What I realized is that I was conceding and compromising too much, with you guys, that don’t have enough information on what I’m trying to give you. So I can’t go by that because you don’t know enough. I don’t mean it as disrespect, it’s just a fact. I’ve got to go by what I know, I know that it’s good. But you will never be able to weigh in on it if I never put it out. I would never put it out if I just keep thinking you won’t like it. You either like it or you don’t, but this is good. I had to accept and even announce it to myself, and confirm it and affirm it to myself, I am an authority of what this is, stop letting everyone else be the authority on it. They’re not me. They have their opinions and their perspectives and it matters, especially if they are supporting me. But I gave it way too much influence. It’s like you’re listening to your kids on how to be a better parent. They don’t know enough, they just got here. Not that their perspective doesn’t matter. I’ve been doing this for 20+ years. I think that afforded me some credit to know what I’m doing, but I can’t control what you guys are willing to receive and how you guys perceive what I do. I can’t force you to listen and give it time. You may not have the time or care to give it a minute. But unless that connection happens within you, you’re not getting the full intent. I really can’t come behind and support that, it didn’t even resonate with you, so it’s like I didn’t even do anything at all.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Really just hoping you don’t get too discouraged. Like we mentioned earlier in the interview, this is one of the best albums we will hear all year, and we listen to a ton of music. We really want to see you keep going.
Musiq Soulchild: Hearing you say that, definitely makes me feel good, I appreciate the vote of confidence. But just imagine you feeling the way you feel, and people still say “I dunno, it don’t sound like the old Musiq Soulchild, I’m going to sit this one out.” What do I do?
YouKnowIGotSoul: This is probably why many of your peers have given up releasing new music. Just look at someone like Dwele who hasn’t released an album in over 10 years.
Musiq Soulchild: There we go. I could literally write a book on how many people really could use your attention because they live and breathe this shit and they want to give you the best curated version of these vibes. We can’t because there are no lanes for us. I got off, I got lucky. I’m grateful for that. But that’s why I’m so passionate about the things I’m saying. I don’t think people really understand how much good music is out there that they could really get the support that they deserve. They need to be on these people’s stages, ya’ll need to support them. We can’t do it by ourselves. This is a participatory event, we need ya’ll. As much as we love to go off on our own and do our artistic hermit and nomadic thing, we still gotta present to you people. If the majority is not connected with us, it’s only but so much we can do. I’m grateful that in this day and time I’m still able to put stuff out that people care about an actually like. It doesn’t happen this way for everybody, for most it doesn’t happen this way. Again, this is not a complaint, this is just an observation and context I’m trying to present for people who really love music. If you really love music, maybe you should give your perspective on things, maybe change your expectations, maybe if you can or choose to or want to or feel like it, educate your self a little bit more on what it is you’re engaging with, do a little bit of research, YouTube is free, a lot of stuff is on there.