On Being a Badass Kid
“I was always a little badass kid who liked to have fun, run around the neighborhood, throw water balloons at people off the train tracks, and climb on rooftops. I think I peed on somebody off a rooftop. That was the most bogus shit I ever did.”
From a young age Mensa was eager to leave his mark on the world, even if it meant breaking the rules. “When I got to be eleven years old I was doing mad graffiti. We had this fake little graffiti crew called TTT which was “Taggers Tagging Things.” We really thought we were doing little graffiti missions in class. I went and wrote TTT on this little sign my teacher had set up. She turned around and saw the shit. She was like, “Did you do that?” I said, “Yeah I did it, but I didn’t do the rest of it.” Yo, she went immediately and got the fucking Principal. They had me in the mini holding cell interrogating me, they said, “If you tell us who else did it with you none of you guys will get suspended, we just want to know.” Rather than get suspended for five days myself, I just turned in all my homies and we all got suspended.”
On Growing Up in Chicago
Living all of his life in one of the most metropolitan cities in America, Mensa’s musical journey began in his hometown of Chicago. “The record store we went to also sold spray paint and markers, but under the counter, on the low. And we were like eleven years-old and would go up there, buy albums, buy spray paint and then get caught for writing on sh*t. So that’s how I got into rap.”
“All the different influences pushing and pulling in Chicago influenced my pen on the daily. Since I was a graffiti kid I was all over the city. I lived in the South Side, but I went to school in the North Side for some time, so I’d be riding buses and trains to all sides of the city, and I was just seeing a lot in the city. Chicago influenced the sh*t out of me.”
On The Internet
“You’re talking to the internet, on the internet, about the internet. That’s like an internet overload, the shit gon’ crash.” Today’s internet generation of music fans grew up with the world at their fingertips. “LimeWire raised my generation, you know what I’m saying. I don’t just mean LimeWire the program but the introduction of file sharing and the turn of the tides in music becoming accessible to anyone.”
The ability to access history with the click of a button allowed Mensa to expose himself to so much more music than what was available in local Chicago stores. “My favorite beat ever made is ‘So Far To Go.’ It’s a Common joint with D’Angelo on the hook and it’s a beat made by Dilla, that’s on the Donuts album, and I found that on LimeWire. That was life changing.”
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.