Victims & Villains
The combination of Musiq Soulchild’s smooth vocals and Hit-Boy’s plush production makes their first collaborative album a sonic pleasure—even though Musiq’s lyrics at times dig deep into love’s darker corners. Musiq possesses one of neo-soul’s most assured voices, which lends his plainspoken chronicles of love and lust an intimacy that gives this brief album an electric charge. On the guarded yet emotional “beat of a slow dance,” his approach to a potential lover is expressed as tentative, but the way his voice serves as a fulcrum for Hit-Boy’s shaken-snowglobe instrumental conveys the seriousness of his request. The title track’s reverb-heavy piano-led grandeur recalls water-submerged soul sides of the early ’70s, although Musiq’s pointed lyrics (“You pointing fingers, placing blame/When you’re the biggest enemy in your life”) are more Here, My Dear than “Let’s Get It On.” Songs like Beyoncé’s “XO” and Mariah Carey’s “Thirsty” indicate that Hit-Boy’s production was an ideal match for Musiq’s new-classic vocal style, but the disarmingly honest way Victims & Villains’ 10 tracks pick apart the intricacies of modern-day relationship dynamics is enhanced by his keen knowledge of 2023 musical trends.