Walking into the intimate listening session for Musiq Soulchild and Hit-Boy’s collaborative album evoked the feeling of reuniting with old friends as introductions were echoed in the compact office before we all packed into an even smaller studio space. VIBE snagged a front-row seat to uncover how a private Instagram message between the Neo-soul crooner and the Hip-Hop producer led to the creation of an album within six months.
Musiq considered the process to be serendipitous, albeit fast. For the first time in his career, the Philly native admitted, “I’m leaning into a whole other side that I haven’t been able to lean into this whole time, so it was pretty exciting for me.” He’s more eager to get into his bag, as opposed to getting to the bag. Victims & Villains isn’t about him doing a job; this is his fresh start.
Over the years, he believed he was a Hip-Hop soul artist, but now Musiq identifies with his new music over his previously cultivated sound. “There were so many factors that I conceded to because I was appeasing an expectation,” explained the Juslisen singer, 45. “But now this time, I think I’m going to follow the music, and hopefully, people will follow me with it.” He made sure not to discredit any of his prior releases, however. “It’s like anybody, you work the job for 20-some-odd years, and now you’re working your own business—it just hits different.”
When first teasing the LP in January 2023, Hit-Boy tweeted, “R&B Hit-Boy otw.” Despite many thinking this was his first exploration into the genre, he expounded that it’s always been part of his DNA. “It was a point in my beatmaking career where that’s all I was on,” said Hit, 35. “I just so happened to make a [Hip-Hop] song that [blew up]. They thought that I was only a ‘N***as in Paris,’ ‘Trophies’ type of producer. So this is just a fun opportunity to allow people to get to know my versatility.”
Subconsciously, the men were already on the same creative page before starting the process of making Victims & Villains. Musiq explained, “There was no premeditated forethought about an album. [We were] just going along with how it was unfolding. The very first song that I recorded was ‘we were just binging,’ and ultimately the title of the album came from a line in that song. Another fun fact—while I was recording ‘we were just binging,’ Hit-Boy made the beat for ‘will i touch the sky,’ which starts the album. It’s just a lot of serendipitous coincidences [happening] that I’m not going to sit here and act like I was a mastermind of.”
The album is a compilation of conversation pieces and the first of a series of upcoming projects. “Every song is a vibe, but it’s intended to be that way,” Musiq clarified. “It’s however you feel in the moment. These songs are intended to soundtrack those moments that you can reflect on, that you may be in and dealing with, that you may have not experienced yet, so here’s a heads-up.”
Throughout the session, Musiq broke down a few songs, but three in particular stood out. He detailed that “between love and war” is “for everybody who found themselves in the middle of a fight and didn’t know you got there.” Yet, “we were just binging” is about settling into the familiarity of a toxic relationship. The singer expressed, “It’s like watching your favorite shows. You’re not in love; you’re just binging,” while “your love is life” is “speaking love into existence.” He added, “Basically love feels like Hip-Hop soul to me.”
Despite all the fortuitous occurrences behind the making of Victims & Villains, that was also Musiq’s biggest challenge. His perfectionist Virgo tendency nearly delayed the LP. “Personally, I feel like it’s still not done yet,” he shared. “But I equally also feel like it’s at such a good place that if I don’t put it out now, it will never come out because I’ll be nitpicking forever. I’d rather use that energy towards the next project.”
When it comes to the next project, it could be a sequel. There could be more mini projects in-between. The men are still figuring that out, but they’re also letting the universe do its thing.
Hit-Boy just wants fans to want more. “I want them to want us to keep going,” he confessed. “[Victims & Villains] is straight for music lovers. No pun intended, like music lovers, Musiq Soulchild, and just music in general. Ain’t no type of gimmicks to it.” Ultimately, it’s all a riveting testament on what truly happens when opportunity, preparation, and a sprinkle of divine alignment collide.