By Alex McMann
Hip Hop Journalist
Artist: Vic Mensa
Album: The Autobiography
Label: Def Jam Records
Vic Mensa, a native to Southside Chicago, began his solo career in 2013 after the break up of the group, Kids These Days. Mensa’s early accomplishments include joining J.Cole and Wale on tour in 2013, being on XXL magazine’s freshman class list in 2016, and working with Sia and Kanye West on the track “Wolves”. This was all done before the release of “The Autobiography” in July of 2017.
After hearing his work with Chance the Rapper on “Cocoa Butter Kisses”, “Suitcase”, and “Family”, I was excited to hear his debut album. In the mentioned tracks, you get a preview of Mensa’s storytelling, but the big difference you see in this album is Mensa’s ability to recall previous themes used from one song to the next, and complete a story within the track.
You are first welcomed in with jazz horns from Darondo’s song “Didn’t I”. While this tune has been sampled many times, No I.D. did an amazing job producing this track. Mensa then shows his rapping and singing capabilities as the track progresses, to celebrate new life after struggles with addiction stating “I seen her through the window, flying in the sky/ looking down on you, proud of you/ This is for my Grandma, told you we would show out for you.”
Two tracks later, Mensa utilizes a melancholy guitar riff from “The Good Life” by Weezer. The story and the sound of the guitar work in conjunction to show the acceptance of less than ideal circumstances for self pleasure through the words “A homewrecker, a homewrecker/ I wanna go back/ A homewrecker, a homewrecker.” Track 13, “We Could be Free”, stands out in its message of pushing forward as a society by repeating “If only we knew we were slaves to the pains of each other” to encourage unity. This is beautifully done with minimal instruments, as well as a steady voice to draw attention to the lyrics of the song.
Mensa dove into his personal life to create an album rich with stories that speak on personal subject matters. The experiences brought to life in music include the loss of his friend in “Heaven on Earth, being first harassed by police in “Memories on 47th street”, drug abuse in “Wings”, and issues with a past relationship in “Homewrecker.” This album was a beautiful mix of interweaved story telling between tracks, gritty lyrics, and songs to reminisce followed by songs of brutal honesty over wars waging inside of one’s head.