By: Eric Short, Staff Writer
Never before has Vic Mensa had to prove himself quite like this. The 20 year old Chicago MC put out his first EP at just 16, 2010’s Straight Up, and then grabbed the ear of every indie music connoisseur as the rapping front man for the genre-blending sextet Kids These Days. Everything seemed to fall into place rather easily. Now, with Kids These Days broken up and his fellow Save Money associate Chance The Rapper rapidly becoming the “It” artist of the moment, the pressure is on Mensa to carve out a place for himself as a solo artist in the rap world. While he has been touring with J.Cole and Wale on the “What Dreams May Come” tour, Mensa still needs the validation that he is ready to play with hip-hop’s big dogs. With Innanetape, he unquestionably answers that question. Mensa belongs.
Based of his self-adorned nickname “The Internet”, Mensa had an experience with LSD where he tripped so hard that he had himself convinced he was the actual Internet, Innanetape is a well crafted 14 song project that shows off his artistic range. “Lovely Day” and “Magic” show off the developed ear for melody and harmony that he showed off in his work with Kids These Days, while previously released songs “Orange Soda” and “YNSP” remind you of the lyrical prowess and buzz-saw like flow that allowed Mensa to dive into the rap game as a teenager. Features from Rockie Fresh, Ab-Soul and of course, Chance, are welcomed treats but where Innanetape really shines is in its last four tracks.
On “Fear & Doubt”, Mensa juxtaposes his struggle to make it in the music industry against the gun violence that is going on in his home city of Chicago. With help from a jarringly personal verse from Save Money’s Joey Purp, “Fear & Doubt” is Innanetape’s most emotionally powerful track. With an unbelievably catchy hook, “Yap Yap” provides one of Mensa’s strongest verses on the mixtape. On his second go around over the Michael Uzowuru beat, Mensa gives one of the smartest outlooks on the drug riddled reality of Chicago’s impoverished Southside, “Dish that gram to grammar school graduates/They gradually will develop those habits
Can’t buy weed, you ain’t got no dough/Can’t ask me how you finna get paid
/Ain’t no thieves when the whole city broke/ Breaking into cars in the middle of the day.”
“Run” is a little bit of fan service for those who miss Kids These Days. Mensa scampers over the heavy drum kicks, using his voice as a well-crafted instrument, switching up pitches as easily as he switches up metaphors. The tape’s final track, “That Nigga” is a deep track about Mensa’s journey to the precipice of hip-hop stardom. Deft production from Hit-Boy (“Niggas’s in Paris, “Goldie”), gives the young MC the perfect platform to systematically go through his short but jam-packed career while thanking those that made it possible. Innanetape may not be a masterpiece, as Mensa proclaims on the outro and on his Twitter account, but it is damn close. While everyone talks about all of hip-hop’s exciting up and coming talent, Mensa certainly deserves to be in the conversation.
YNSP (Ft. Eliza Doolittle)
Eric is a journalism major who once attempted to crip walk. He grew up in the city of Chicago and will let anyone and everyone know about it. He loves to write but still doesn’t know how to properly use a question mark?
Editors Note: This is the first in a weekly installment of new/up-and-coming artist reviews and features. So be on the look out for that every tuesday. -Elle