As I’m sure we all know, even though the passing of Nipsey Hussle was back in 2019, it still is a hard pill to swallow at times, at least for day 1 fans like myself. Even though we won’t get another Nipsey song/album, or featured verse in today’s time, it is still a special occasion nonetheless whenever we get to hear a posthumous Nipsey verse. I know for me, whenever I do hear a posthumous verse from Nipsey, it brings me mixed feelings of both sadness and also happiness. I’m sure a lot of other Nip fans experienced the same mixed feelings when they heard “Welcome Home” (The Game ft. Nipsey Hussle), “Higher” (DJ Khaled ft. Nipsey Hussle & John Legend) and “Deep Reverence” (Big Sean ft. Nipsey Hussle). Like all those songs featured with Nip, I experienced the same set of mixed feelings when I heard “What It Feels Like.” This song is featured on the “Judas and The Black Messiah” soundtrack album. If you have listened to the soundtrack then you know it is special. A big part of what makes it so special is “What It Feels Like” featuring none other than the late great Nipsey Hussle and arguably the greatest rapper of all time, Jay Z. When seeing the tracklist to the soundtrack album before it was released, I’m sure a lot of people, myself included, got chills when they saw “What it Feels Like” and who was featured on it. Now while Jay Z is alive and well, he is up there in age and we may only hear featured verses from him from now on. Nonetheless, It is always a special moment whenever we get to hear a vintage Jay Z verse in today’s time. It’s been said and confirmed that this Nipsey verse was recorded back in 2013, but it still doesn’t take away from the special moment. Not to take away from all of the other outstanding artists that were featured on this soundtrack, who all did great, but “What It Feels Like” definitely stands out the most for me. The track starts with some beautiful triumphant horns while Nipsey gives us a taste of the hook. Then is followed by a hard-hitting drum pattern. Once the drums kick in you can tell this the perfect beat for Nip & Hov. The vocals of Marsha Ambrosius & James Fauntleroy in the background makes the song even better giving it a nice soulful feel. With a vintage Nipsey Hussle verse, you’re going to get a verse where he’s talking truth, providing enlightenment/insight on social issues, or just talking/bragging about his street status. Also like a lot of his verses, there will be a lot of quotes for you to use, whether it’s for a picture caption or just a quote that you keep and live by. Nip gives us a nice flow/cadence and then speeds it up once the background vocals come in.
“Look, the only reason I survive ’cause a nigga is special, first
You get successful, then it get stressful, thirst
Niggas gon’ test you, see what your texture’s worth
Diamonds and pipes, one of ’em pressure burst
Street nigga, still I get checks in spurts
I’m for peace, but before I get pressed, I murk
Better days prayed for but expecting worse
At this level, bullshit, I’m just less concerned
Cruisin’ in the 6, lookin’ at the proceeds of rap music on my wrist
Drop another mixtape, my shit boomin’ out this bitch
Young Malcolm, I’m the leader of the movement out this bitch”
He reminds us how much of an influence and activist he was comparing himself to the late Malcolm X, while also giving a slight insight into the street life and his place in the rap game at the time. At the end of his first, he brings back the hook which is the same as the song title. With a Jay Z verse you know you’re going to get a range of things. Hov’s subject matter is limitless, he can rap about any and everything from his life in the streets, social issues, financial acclaim, his business moves, etc. Where I think Jay shines best is when he is bragging because there is just so much he has accomplished/done in his life that only HE can brag about. He proves once again that age is just a number and is not taking effecting his ability to spit.
“Scorpion bricks, way before Aubrey’s double-disc
.40 on my lap, clap, sound like 40 did the mix
Filtered bass, sift coke like a Michelin star chef..”
Hov starts off his verse remarkably well, giving us some clever wordplay by referencing back to his days where he was dealing cocaine while also referencing Drake’s last album, “Scorpion.” He also references Drake in his next line when he says “.40 on my lap, clap, sound like 40 did the mix…”
If anyone is familiar with Drake then you know Noah “40” Shebib is one of Drake’s best friends and also his go to producer. 40’s production style usually consists of softened drums, which Jay uses in comparison to his gun (.40.) Moments later he raps “I arrived on the day Fred Hampton got mur…hold up, assassinated just to clarify further…” He reminds everybody that December 4, 1969 is the date Fred Hampton was assassinated while also reminding us that the date is even more significant because this is the same date he was born. This goes back to what I was saying when I said there are only certain things Jay Z can rap about/say. Aside from the lyrics from both Jay Z and Nipsey, the production on this song was amazing thanks to production duo Mike & Keys and also producers Larrance Dopson & Mars. Altogether, the producers have a solid amount of years of relations with both Hov & Nip. To add to the stellar lyrics and production, I feel like the timing and setting in which the song was released makes it even better too. As you all know, February is “Black History” month, so that adds more significance. Also, if you have not watched “Judas and The Black Messiah” or listened to “What It Feels Like,” I highly suggest you do, and also give the whole soundtrack album a listen. Overall, I don’t think there has been a better song released in February, or this year alone for that matter, to top this one. “What it Feels Like” is the song of the month for me.