Vic Mensa Might Be Making The Most Important Album of 2016
These Days, it's not hard to flip open your phone or turn on your TV or radio to get your news and hear about a rapper from Chicago changing the sound and understanding of music and the music industry. Amidst Instagram posts, tweets, Facebook statuses, Snapchat stories and the rest of the shareables that allow us to feel 'connected', is plenty of pandering on just when the next album from a Chicago rapper will drop. An act championed by Kanye that is playing on a long history of creating music his hometown can be proud of. Yes, the country is certainly focused on a rapper from Chicago, however it's not Vic Mensa that they're talking about. They probably should.
Everything changed when Kanye plugged his laptop in on the floor of Madison Square Garden. It was in that moment, with Chance thrust forward and Vic mysteriously absent from "Wolves", that truly set the tone for how each would respectively spend their 2016. Outwardly, it looked like a sort of black eye for Mensa, one underlined moments later when 'Ye passed the AUX cord to Vic so he could showcase his solo single that following the conclusion of The Life of Pablo's introduction.
Vic has proved over and over in his career that he's not one to take a challenge laying down. Anyone who thinks that he's been sitting quietly on the sidelines watching Chance get thrust to his hometown's centerstage is in for a real surprise. Due damn near any day now, it's Vic's project that could well be the one that firmly cements Chicago as the locale to beat when it comes to rap or music in general. Whereas Chance's Coloring Book benefitted from widespread notoriety, Vic is offered the opportunity to play the underdog, a position he's operated under for some time despite consistently being one of the city's brightest voices since his days at Whitney Young High School.
Thing is, Vic lacks the kind of people-first skills that have vaulted Chano to the forefront of the pop music world. He doesn't care, we don't care and, honestly, it could prove to be the reason his music will be relevant for decades to come. You see, Chance, in garnering the widespread love of everyone also created expectations for himself that may be hard to live up to. Being the overbearing image of positivity in a city known for it's divisiveness and violence could backfire, it could be too much, it could serve as somewhat of a detriment. It's something Macklemore, the most recent rapper to win over the mother's of his listeners, has dealt with since winning a Grammy for his progress-minded The Heist which has proven to be a tough act to follow. That Vic isn't overly worried about hurting anyone's feelings should result in an exciting mix of music that takes a direct and pointed look at the less-savory sides of his hometown and country at-large. While both acts have taken to protests that have become regular occurrences in the city over the course of the last two years, it's been Vic that has become more militant in his dealings: leading marches on downtown in the wake of Laquan McDonald's killing, expressing his views on police with award show clothing choices and generally acting as an outspoken voice for those without one. In that sense, Vic's next release could well be the sort of revolutionary, forward-thinking manifesto that we've been waiting for from an act that had "Free Huey" tatted on his arm above a black panther while a teenager.
On March 8, producer/engineer/partner-in-crime Papi Beatz posted a photo to his social media accounts of a dry erase board full of names. Split down the middle, it showed the tracklisting/brainstorming between Vic's apparent mixtape and album, hinting (pretty blatantly) that two projects were on the way. Two months later and no real information has been hinted at either of these projects, but we hope that this dry erase is still lingering somewhere in their L.A. crib. What we can probably expect is much more from both Papi and the dedicated production team that has surrounded Vic for some time. That includes Knox Fortune, a regular at LPeezy Studios and easily the breakout star on "All Night" off Coloring Book that has been working closely with Mensa and co for some time and should prove to be central to the projects that have been teased thus far.
While we sit and wait on pins and needles for just what the first full-length from Vic Mensa in three years will look like, we can certainly expect something that will at once be a curveball for longtime fans and eye-opening for those that have yet to buy-in. As he approaches that release he does so without the build-up or fanfare of his hometown contemporary, something that could prove to aid in the project being a surprise or bury it while flying too far under the radar. Regardless, the one thing we know for sure is that Vic isn't going to miss an opportunity. He's built a career on capitalizing on good fortune and adversity alike and as we approach the release of his latest, it appears he will be offering it up amidst both; a fact that should scare the rest of the country as Chicago continues it's stranglehold of the scene on a national level.