Written by Thomas Herron
Sometimes even well-selling artists don’t get anywhere near the credit they deserve. Vic Mensa is a perfect example of that. The Chicago native burst on the scene in 2016 with his hit EP, There’s Alot Going On, after just one solo tape.
Mensa was originally a member of Kids These Days, a band that produced rap, rock and soul music, in which Vic was the rap vocalist. When the young group split in 2013, Vic shifted focus to the collective he founded, Savemoney, which also featured Chance the Rapper, and Joey Purp, among others.
Vic’s solo career began during his time with this collective, as he dropped Innanetape. Immediately, Vic was able to showcase his lyrical and musical ability, all while producing songs with elements from all sides of the spectrum of human nature, and he’s continued to do that on his debut album, the Autobiography.
From the upbeat “Orange Soda,” to songs like and “Fear and Doubt” and “Wings,” Vic showcases his versatility and the genuine emotion he injects through the pen, in being able to put happiness and depression side by side on his work.
Vic is an important figure in rap because he brings a musical background a lot of artists don’t have, citing everyone from Tupac and J Dilla, to Nirvana and AC/DC as his influences, even going as far as to feature Weezer on “Homewrecker.”
Mensa also does a great job of being lyrical through his expansive use of a breadth of vocabulary and metaphors. A lot of his value comes from the fact that he addresses his own mental health issues more openly than any artist in the genre’s history, save for Kid Cudi (i.e. “There’s Alot Going On” and “Fear and Doubt”).
His versatility is unmatchable, capable of dropping straight heat on songs like “Dynasty” and “Almost There,” the latter of which he establishes his headstrong attitude toward his career in saying “This for all my fans that say they want that old Vic, I’ve grown too much to ever be the old Vic.” This also displays that rare trait in rappers that allows such a simple line to hit so well due to the emotion and inflection behind it.
“Liquor Locker,” “Down on My Luck,” and “The Fire Next Time” illustrate his ability to sing and master melodies alongside strong lyrical content to prove he’s capable of producing radio-type hits as well.
Though Vic has grown to wear his emotion on his sleeve when he raps, that isn’t to say he’s lost any step in making positive music such as “We Could Be Free,” an inspirational, soft paced song featuring Ty Dolla Sign.
“Heaven on Earth” and “Coffee and Cigarettes” are great examples of Mensa’s storytelling ability. What Vic doesn’t get enough credit for is being able to tell the listener a story without hitting them in the face with it, by gracing it with hard-beats or melodies on these two songs, respectively.
Vic is the whole package as he is able to reflect an entire spectrum of emotion in his works, all while being able to command a track like a true MC, whether that be through lyrical acrobatics or storytelling. His diverse musical background also allows for a rare sound and flexibility in being able to make traditional rap songs, or to make a rock instrumental his own.
Mensa has also found a way to comment on social issues and become a conscious rapper through simply telling his own stories such as on “Memories on 47th Street.” His holistic view of both his own work and the world around him reflect in everything he does, and makes him an important figure in rap.
The Roc Nation rapper has created a unique sound and his influences are evident in his music. There really isn’t anyone like Vic Mensa in the game right now producing content at the level he does and it’s unlikely there will be, at least for a long time.