Musiq Soulchild is credited with building a lane that ultimately became too narrow to hold him. After a six-year hiatus, in March, the Grammy-nominated artist returned with a new album, Victims and Villians. Although his absence left fans longing for the nostalgia of “Just Friends” and “Love,” he’s returning with a new approach. 

“I have always identified as hip-hop soul, and I think people missed that part about Musiq Soulchild,” he told Blavity in a recent interview. It’s been an interesting timeline navigating in these streets, trying to get people to understand I make R&B, but I’m not just an R&B artist.” 

Fans may have been shocked to see the artist collaborate with producer Hit-Boy, but it was long overdue. The multiplatinum producer has worked with some of hip-hop’s biggest names, including JAY-Z and Kendrick Lamar. His latest collab with rap icon Nas on Kings Disease II earned the Grammy for best rap album in 2022.

Following the 45-year-old singer’s lead, Hit-Boy stepped outside the fan-perceived genres and applied his exquisite ear to the 10-song track list. This was all part of Musiq’s plan to shed the neo-soul moniker.

“So now here it is,” he said. “I’m able to work with a hip-hop producer that is not just a hip-hop producer but is mostly known for being in that hip-hop space. We now have an opportunity to promote and project a whole part of my identity that was lost this whole time.”

Completing the project wasn’t a long and drawn-out process. On the contrary, it was almost fate for the two to contribute to something that pushed whatever boundaries they had been placed within.

The new vibes allowed Musiq to push his “hip-hop soul” message and introduce fans to parts of him that have been there this whole time.

Even his rap alter ego, TheHusel, appears on “ImReallyTrynaF**kWichu.”

One thing that has stayed the same with the artist is his ability to use visuals to enhance his lyrical storytelling.

The cinematic-style videos for “Beat of a Slow Dance,” “I Remember You My Ex,” and the project’s title track, “Victims and Villains,” are surefire ways to remind fans why they fell for the Philadelphia native over 20 years ago.

Musiq admits he’s taken some “lumps and bruises” in the music industry, but he’s taken them in stride.

His “L’s” have given him the confidence to return with a newfound love of music.

He no longer looks at showcasing his talent as a job but now as an avenue with expanding lanes.

“I made a cool reference one time that this album is as different as it is the same,” he said. “It’s a reminder of what you know and more of what you don’t know.”

Musiq is on the “Soul II Soul” tour with fellow R&B giants Kem and Ledisi.