Sounds Like: Deft, late-Nineties hip-hop lyricism, with a dash of nonsensical free-association.
For Fans of: Sean Price or Redman if they were raised in Chicago a decade late.
Why You Should Pay Attention: Approaching his mid-30s, Vic Spencer is older than your average emerging rapper, and he embraces the irascible, grumpy persona in a way that's more entertaining than aggravating. He grew up on the distinct, personality-driven "lyrical" styles of the late Nineties underground — think Soundbombing-era Eminem or Redman — and though it's an old sound, Spencer approaches it in a fresh way. Few contemporary rappers sound much like him, which is part of why he's stood out in a crowded Windy City hip-hop scene. He recorded with Chance the Rapper and the similarly named (though stylistically distant) Vic Mensa before either were known quantities, and has the support of a who's-who of local producers, particularly the celebrated autuer Tree. Spencer's latest tape, The Cost of Victory, isn't something you'll hear on the radio, but it taps a stylistic vein that's been almost completely abandoned, a slice of classic late-Nineties backpack rap without the negative connotations.
He Says: Vic Spencer's parents both had problems with drugs, and he ended up living with his aunt from the time he was seven. In his early teens he transferred to a group home, where he began taking rap seriously. The year was 1997. "I was trying to defeat the odds of what I was going through. [We formed] a group called Uhlich Voices," says Spencer. "The CEO [of the group home] took an interest in how we were writing music and doing things to stay out of trouble while we were in the agency. Me and three other guys, we traveled across the country. Sacramento, Kentucky, Connecticut, St. Louis...a couple of other spots. [We performed in] DCFS [Department of Children and Family Services] forums. DCFS is in Chicago, and we was always be a part of the entertainment. I wrote about being in the group home, being angry, about my parents being crackheads...for people that were going through the same stuff that I was going through, and I wanted to show them that there was another side and it would be alright." Today, his parents are both clean, Vic has been married for nearly a decade and has two daughters of his own — and he's still rapping.
Hear for Yourself: "Relapse" epitomizes the jazzy style of The Cost of Victory. By David Drake