Hyde Park, Chicago native Vic Mensa was in an alternative hip hop band named Kid These Days from 2009 to early 2013, a band that infused the sounds of hip-hop with alternative rock, jazz and blues elements to create the most interesting thing you might have heard out of the inner-city Chicago music scene since well… long time. Earlier this year, Mensa went on tour with UK electronic duo Disclosure and shortly after, his band announced their breakup in May, leaving fans unsettled and Mensa an open canvas of creativity to make opportune his next bold move, and he did. Mensa released his second solo work on September 30, 2013 titled INNANETAPE, (a clever portmanteau he created by mixing the words “internet” and “mixtape”) and from that day forward, the city of Chicago would begin to have to share the cunning artist with the rest of the world. The tape is, for lack of better words, is magnificently and correctly sculpted in every single way, as Mensa gives you all of him on every track in the most explicit and twisted of ways. Beginning with the opening track “Welcome to Innanet”, Mensa goes straight to his roots from time with the band and provides a percussion-driven rap rock track where he overviews the concept behind his message and his journey, providing lyrics where he tells you to “tap into my frequency”; Mensa is offering his listeners and invitation to get on his level of craziness in order to properly digest what they are about to hear, and believe me, its a journey that will make your ears feel like you just tripped twice and the aftershocks are still quite vivid. In the jazz-infused cool ‘Summertime Chi’ track “Orange Soda”, Mensa provides the us with a sporadic assortment of witty wordplay and the wackiest imagery with lyrics like “Leave my demons in the dust, conducting electricity, I’m Silkk the Shocker with a fifth of vodka”, making it perfectly clear to listeners that interpretation of meaning is a dead mission for the majority of this tape, but gives you the blissful and energetic feeling that makes you want to hit the replay button a thousand times. Similarly, on the track “Tweakin” featuring fellow Save Money crew member Chance The Rapper, Mensa sends us way off the deep end by saying things like “Borderline stir crazy, crepes and beignet that’s tasty, especially drippin’ with liquid rabies, rail a adderall pill and cook mushrooms in my gravy” that straight up tells you that him and Chance were majorly OTS during the recording of this track, with crafty synth backdrops driving the madness into pure exhilarating insanity. But as much of a fun and carefree experience that Mensa wants you have listening to the tape, it would be a sheer irresponsibility for him to not provide the denser work that he does on tracks such as “Holy Holy” featuring TDE’s Ab-Soul, where both speak of heartbreaking losses that they have experienced and how it has affected their outlook on life and the world around them and “Fear and Doubt”, also featuring fellow Save Money crew member Joey Purp, where Mensa and Purp speak on the seriousness and brutality of Chicago violence and the struggle that still haunts them, being a product of it even in their blossoming success, providing honest and vulnerable bars asking questions like “Starin’ of the narrow-point reflection of myself, questionin’ what is my life to become?, I wonder if I’ll ever be the man, my momma wish I was, or will I end up victim to the hand of a gun?”. The production style on this mixtape is impeccably yoked to the sound that Mensa seems to have been going for, incorporating the likes of producers Peter Cottontale (who has also done work for Chance), Cam from J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, Boi-1da and even Hit-Boy, and providing the growth in work that we were looking for in this release. Mensa’s variety in flow and pace when rhyming is suitable over each individual style of sound and exemplifies his versatility as an artist, so that he not just a rapper, but he can provide the listeners with many different templates for his creativity. Mensa recently joined J. Cole and Wale on tour at the end of this year and is beginning to heat up all over the nation as thousands continue to bump this tape and yearn for more. One thing is certain about this bright young gem of creativity, he is only getting started. I chose this tape as my number 7 because I admire Mensa’s confidence to say exactly what he feels and not to confine himself to the sounds of one specific genre, even on his emergence into the mainstream. There are a number of talents coming out of my city of Chicago and works of the likes of Mensa make me very proud and inspired to uphold my residency with confidence.
Best Song: “Orange Soda/ Holy Holy” ft. Ab-Soul
Best Production: “Tweakin” ft. Chance The Rapper