Stars & Hype Forever is your in-depth guide to what’s next in hip hop. Each week we profile an artist you need to know about, and arm you with all the essential artillery to decide if they’re the real deal, or just hype. To help readers make sense of the spectrum, curators Andriana and Yo! Adrian weigh in on each week’s talent by assigning them a blanged out hypeability score at the very end.
Listening to the handful of singles Vic Mensa has dropped this year, you can’t help but get pulled into his colorful world of lyrics and beats; and yet it’s not nostalgia that you feel, (ok maybe a little), it’s a common ground. When’s the last time rap made you smile so indulgently? For the inaugural edition of Stars & Hype Forever, Mass Appeal takes a deep dive into one of hip hop’s brightest young stars in the making, Vic Mensa. We dig in with the rapper on the LimeWire generation, splitting with Kids These Days, his mischievous youth, and starting SaveMoney. Keep reading to find out if we thought Vic is just blowing smoke, or the real deal Holyfield. This is Stars & Hype Forever.
AKA: Yung Netscape, INNANET, The Domain, Don Carlito
Reppin’: Chicago, Illinois
The Crew: SaveMoney
Beginnings: The gifted rapper, singer, and producer emerged in the music world at a young age as somewhat of a teen prodigy, releasing his first solo album, Straight Up, at age 16.
The Hype: The former Kids These Days rapper gained notoriety as the talented wordsmith of the group. More recently Mensa dropped dope lines on Chance The Rapper’s single “Cocoa Butter Kisses,” off his acclaimed mixtape, Acid Rap. As a solo artist he’s quickly garnered success as the soulful rapper with a playful side through the release of several singles off his forthcoming INNANETAPE.
Adrian Says: Vic Mensa has come a long way in a short span since leaving Kids These Days, you can see the significant change in his lyrical content and flow. Dude is an uproar, chock-full of spontaneous one liners that are likely to be coined in your everyday slang. Everything he raps feels genuine, reflecting the mind of your everyday 19 year-old on the grind, causing mischief, dabbling in drugs, and all-around young fun. He won’t be overshadowed by Chance The Rapper for much longer. As he continues to refine his sound and release quality tracks and visuals a la “Orange Soda,” expect Mensa to make his mark on the Chi-Town scene in a big way.
Dre Says: Wasting no time after the break up of Kids These Days, Vic Mensa has begun to introduce the music world to his quick-witted, smart rhymes that often skirt the line between singing and rapping, filling in the gaps with his own sort of melody. Toting a positivity that most rappers can’t claim, Mensa remains grounded about the world around him, “They made a list of Chicago rappers and they skipped me / Maybe it’s because I’m so much more / Forget what you’re not this is about what you are.” He’s bold, but not careless with his choice of words, making it clear that he’s got something to prove.
Instances of soul, jazz and this insatiable, doo-wop-tinged sound float above Vic’s smartly worded lyrics about the music industry, politics, love, fear and everything in between. His music is more than a catchy chorus or gimmicky concept, it’s relatable. Vic Mensa is hip hop’s Holden Caulfield – we’re all coming of age together, and he’s just telling our story for us. When Adrian and I interviewed Mensa we asked him if he felt he had found his sound yet, and while he didn’t really answer our question, I realize now, asking that is like asking “What do you want to be when you grow up?” The INNANETAPE is Mensa’s coming of age tale in song form. There are moments of sheer brilliance, (that have nothing to do with his age), and other points that feel exploratory and new. For as great as I know this tape is going to be, I can’t wait to hear what is still yet to be created.