A co-founder of increasingly visible Chicago rap crew Savemoney (Chance the Rapper, Joey Purp, Towkio and more), 24-year-old Vic Mensa has already worn many hats: the rhyme-spitter in groove-centric indie-rock band Kids These Days, the occasionally highly technical MC tearing through 2013 mixtape Innanetape, the political firebrand of 2016 EP There’s Alot Going On. Now, his proper debut full-length might be letting you know who he really is.
In the plainspoken, autobiographical style of songs like Kanye West’s “Through the Wire,” Mensa lays out his life, from the kid who was pulled off his bike by cops at age 12 (“Memories on 47th Street”), to the adult struggling with his drug and alcohol intake (“Rolling Like Stoner”) and struggling with his relationships with women (“Homewrecker,” featuring guest vocals from Rivers Cuomo, tweaks Weezer’s 1996 “Good Life” until it sings like MC Lyte’s “Poor Georgie”). On the intense, Pharrell-produced “Wings” he vocalizes the voices in head that filled him with shame, doubt and suicidal thoughts. Most emotionally rich may be “Heaven on Earth,” which interpolates Aughts trip-poppers Lamb: It starts as an Eminem-style letter to a dead friend, features a second verse of the friend writing back and closes with Mensa rapping as the person who killed him, trying to understand his fear and guilt.