REVIEW: VIC MENSA “THERE’S ALOT GOING ON” EP

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Roc Nation’s newely signed Chicago emcee is probably someone you may already know by now as he goes by the name Vic Mensa. He has gained a lot of high profile recognition since 2013 stemming from his first mixtape INNATETAPE as well as his band Kids These Days. Mensa quickly made his way around the modern day hip hop scene with cosigns from both Jay Z and Kanye West. Because There’s Alot Going On is his first project in three years and is also a prelude to his highly anticipated album, its clear that we would see what some of Mensa’s solitary present and hopefully subsequent rapping qualities are from this record. It seems to me that people are unsure of who he is and he is seen as being known more for who he knows and for the occasional aesthetic or advocacy-like reblogs of him on tumblr.

The opening track of the EP entitled “Dynasty” starts out with muffled production with what sounds like an occasional high pitched meow sound as Mensa starts rapping about god keeping him up at night insinuating that his problems are bothering him a lot, followed by him displaying the confusing contradiction of him being too wealthy to clean his own house but then also says that maids cost too much and he now only cleans his closet. This was followed by roc nation shout outs (which are present throughout almost all the tracks) and a slight bash at unknown sound cloud artists as he reminisces about a time before Chief Keef gave the term Chiraq the meaning it has today. After he attempts a deep song songy shakey outro on the first verse the beat becomes thicker with subtle voices of choir singers as the original beat gets reproduced in a quicker rhythm with more production layered on top of it to sound more hip hop as Vic comes in with the second verse. He speaks about carrying Roc nation like he has a foot ball in his hands during a game possibly describing being a newbie to the label and the industry while this record and his album could quite possibly represent the success or downfall he may have in the “game.” He also speaks on how no rapper is safe in the game of hip hop both commercially and physically because so many rappers have passed away in the past year alone. He talks about schools having metal detectors to prevent things like shootings possibly pertaining to the environment he grew up in and his advocacy for shootings and the movement. He also throws in a Harry Potter reference stating that more kids need to get their priorities straight to prevent their own killings just as Hermione Granger once said that she was going to bed before her friends came up with a clever idea to get them killed. The next track titled “16 Shots” is dedicated to 17-year-old Laquan McDonald of Mensa’s home city of Chicago, who got shot by police. The production is more diluted with occasional drumline beats in the background with more distinct hard buzzing noises in the hook as he shouts the number of times Laquan had been shot. He speaks about the case saying that the mayor lied about seeing the footage of the shooting and how the South side of Chicago has so many people suffering through trauma but have very little access to things like trauma centers. He then refers to those police officers as pigs in response to their police tacts of shooting young black men because they think they are nothing but thugs. In the second verse he speaks on an actual event that took place during a riot where a little girl was abused by a police officer right in front of his eyes as well as speaking on the people wanting the mayor to resign because of Laquan’s death but he instead fired the police superintendent to avoid resignation. After the somewhat serene yet eerie bridge comes through of an auto tuned female verse stuttering “murderer,” The outro is heard which is the actual statement from Laquan’s lawyer describing the details of his death by the police. While both of these songs have a hard hitting meaning behind them Mensa does throw in some laid back entertaining tracks like that of

“New Bae” as he starts the song just like he starts his week, by drinking Jay Z’s cognac brand and doing a lot of partying. The beginning production on this track will have you thinking that there is something wrong with your headphones but as Mensa comes in with a more whisper-raspy voice and becomes more quick with his words and frankly not sounding like his normal self as he sounds a bit auto-tuned, high pitched, and squeaky paired with his shout singing as a lot of artists do. Furthermore the track has lyrics pertaining to the classic having a girl that looks like a model, having kinky sex, cheating on his previous bae as well as throwing in some grocery eating. Although the most impressive thing about this song is that fact that Mensa sounds like a different person when he starts rapping in verse two so much so that I almost thought there was a feature in this track. Furthermore Mensa also throws in some hints into his previous relationship with his violent ex girlfriend implying that he wants his “new bae” to be good to him after a fun night whereas with her there were a lot of altercations. It’s a track that you will either love for its dreary easy going vibe or hate for its bargain-like sound where Vic sounds like a mixture between Travis Scott and Chris Brown in some parts. The final track which happens to be my favorite and is one that ends the album well as it starts out with some poignant spiritual like production and descends to Vic singing passably or without auto tune as this track gives me vibes of a pop piano rock band during the hook where Vic is seemingly singing his heart and soul out. The intro and the hook seems like it’s catering to everyone and everything he has spoken about during the previous tracks until he gets to the first verse where speaks about his recent come up from his first meeting with Jay Z to not taking medication for his depression, partying while on drugs, cleaning messes of narcotics with his nose, and choking out his ex girlfriend after an altercation to which he seems very apologetically pensive about. This track touches on Mensa writing for Kanye as well as speaking a bit about the balance he likes to play between being a conscious rapper and a pop rapper to which people actually thought that he was going the pop rap route after releasing the track “Down On My Luck” in 2014. With this being said it seems like that’s exactly what Vic is trying to achieve with this record as it really is all over the place, I guess holding true to its name, but if Vic only wanted to talk about his awareness of social issues in America then the name “Theres A lot Going On” would be a good name except it does not go with the more pop rap songs like “New Bae” or “Liquor Locker” as it doesn’t go together well with his conscious side. Overall this record shows Vic’s hip hop potential which he does have a lot of which makes me excited for his debut album. As for now this record should be listened to in order to get a glimpse of what Vic likes to dabble in overall as an artist as well as for the conscious pensive hip hop tracks about the black lives matter movement and topics of violence in Chicago.

Author: Navi.M ~ Contributing editor