After Chief Keef exploded with the new drill movement in the early 2010s, Chicago was back on the map as a major player in hip-hop culture. While the scene he elevated, largely based on gang violence, grew to its peak in 2012, there was a quiet movement in Chi-Town that began to juxtapose the harshness of drill. Young Chicago rappers like Chance the Rapper, Vic Mensa, and more were forging ground as tastemakers, providing a different side to the city that seemed to only be oozing death and despair. Though their music was viewed in a much more positive light, they didn’t shy away from exposing the warzone that their city had become, addressing it in a way that searched for answers without falling into its trap.
Since then, the drill scene has more or less disappeared from the mainstream. However, Chance has gone on to achieve massive success with his brand of soulful raps. Three Grammys stuffed into his overalls, he’s become the city’s musical savior, if not that of the whole culture. After spending so much time writing about his accomplishments lately, it seems as though I’ve forgotten about another Windy City spitter. A fair amount of Jack Daniel’s and YouTube surfing has raised a question in my mind that I can’t ignore: where the fuck has Vic Mensa been?
As puzzled as I seem at the moment, a quick look at his Twitter reveals where he’s been spending his time: in the Dakota’s with the #NoDAPL protestors. After posting his support on social media during the height of the protest, he’s only become more active in the ongoing turmoil. As recent as last week, he’s used Twitter to ask for donations to a water charity supporting both those at Standing Rock and those suffering in Flint, Michigan.
Dig a little deeper (by deeper I mean only one tweet earlier), and it appears that nearly a month ago, he announced that his debut album was “in the homestretch”. If it seems like a long time coming, that’s because it has been. After making a name for himself with 2013’s Innanetape, Vic has stuttered along in his career. This was the same year Chance released Acid Rap, and despite their different styles, they were lumped together as part of the young, budding artists coming out of Chicago. Though nowadays a comparison between the two would seem like a stretch, at the time it was a debate that could easily be found on Twitter. Despite Chance continuously being one of my favorite artists, I would always admit that when it came to technical rapping skills, Vic had him beat in terms of flow and rhyme scheme.
Album in the homestretch… CLOSE! ? pic.twitter.com/uqz6zPr5l6
— vino (@VicMensa) January 24, 2017
Since their early days, they’ve taken different routes to establish themselves in the game: while Chance remains independent to this day, Vic signed to Roc Nation in the spring of 2015. Both have received major cosigns from Kanye West, a Holy Grail of influence that finds itself directly injected into the blood of any Chicago artist. Both have released only one solo project since: Chance’s faith-fueled Coloring Book and Vic’s politically-charged There’s A Lot Going On. Though this is the case, Chance steadily remained in the eye of the public via music videos, guest features, and a project with The Social Experiment. Vic, on the other hand, had much less of an output prior to There’s A Lot Going, released in June of last year. He did however, have a decent hit in 2015 with “U Mad“, a single featuring Kanye that didn’t appear on any charts, but caused quite a stir at the time of its release and has since garnered nearly 15 million views on YouTube. As recent as December, he released a freestyle to Twenty-One PIlots‘ song “Heathens“, but it didn’t quench my thirst; it only made it worse. There’s A Lot Going On was a great project that made me even more of a fan of Mensa’s, but his absence is becoming more and more obvious to my eyes.
Vic’s debut album, which was once titled Traffic but who knows at this point, has seemingly been on the verge of release for two years now. In July, he told AllHipHop that he scrapped the entire project in order to refocus on new subject material, a shift we saw him tackle on last year’s release. Since then there’s been little to no info regarding his album other than the above tweet, while his political and social activism has grown from musical opposition to outright physical protest.
I find it impressive that Vic has turned his far-reaching social media following into a tool for supporting such noteworthy causes. His outspoken activism during the election, the DAPL protests, and the Flint Water Crisis prove that he strives to bring justice to people of all race and region. It goes without saying that his actions are admirable.
With that being said, as a long time fan, I’m hoping soon we get the music he’s been promising for so long. His “homestretch” tweet was posted nearly a month ago at this point, leading me to believe that it’s nearly finished. Being that he’s put so much work into it, there’s no doubt in my mind that he’ll have a lot to say and the wait will be worth it. Based on his recent activity, it’s safe to say that he very well may be on his way to becoming one of our generation’s most candid and vocal rappers, and I for one can’t wait to see him fully step into that spotlight.
Mensa, I miss ya, please return to us soon!