Since their rise to fame roughly four years ago, Chicago hip-hop outfit Kids These Days have been celebrated for creating a new sound in a stagnating genre. To be fair, the group took cues from predecessors like The Roots – another seven-piece band that blended funky soul production with introspective lyricism – but throughout their run it was exciting to watch a group of young kids embrace a different aesthetic and approach and truly make it their own.
But alas, just as sure as time goes on and musical fads change, some good things must eventually come to an end. And so today, Kids These Days have announced that they will no longer function as a band, which is sad news to the group’s followers who have watched them as they’ve made appearances at major festivals like South By and Lollapalooza, and major TV shows like Conan. The news does come with a silver lining, though, in that the Kids’ lead singer/rapper Vic Mensa – who was recently featured on standout track “Cocoa Butter Kisses” from Chance The Rapper’s Acid Rap mixtape – has announced his solo career.
Vic’s first offering as a full-fledged solo artist comes with the video for “DID IT B4,” in which he teams up with director Austin Vesely for an extra-trippy visual journey through a cemetery and other equally-trippy places. Check out the new video below, and continue reading for an exclusive interview with Vic about the group’s breakup, his goals as a solo artist, and keeping Chicago safe.
XXL: I just saw you guys perform at Coachella and you killed it, so I’m sorry to hear about the breakup. But tell me your side. How do you feel?
Vic Mensa: I’m glad to be doing what I always wanted to do, and having full creative control of the music that I make. I think that I get to show a lot more of myself as a solo artist and I’m just mad excited for the world to hear the Innanetape project I’ve been working on, because I think it’s definitely going to fuck some people’s heads up.
In Kids These Days, did you feel like you couldn’t speak your mind the way you wanted to?
No, I mean – I’m the type of person to always speak my mind, you know? And I think that partially led to the group’s breakup. I’m just a really strong-willed and opinionated person, and I have a lot of ideas, and I’m not the only one. But there were things that I did, I was trying… I was just over-trying. I did some things that weren’t appreciated because I wanted to let other people have their creative say. But nobody wants to be doing things that aren’t appreciated, and no one wants to feel stifled when making music. Music is about being free, and we just kind of grew apart.
How was the split? Was it amicable or was it like, “I hate you and never want to talk to you again”?
It’s never going to be an “I hate you” type of situation. For the most part it’s a happy settlement. There were certain moves made by some people that weren’t all the way stand-up moves, but at the end of the day there isn’t really any bad blood. It’s not like I can’t be in the room with everybody in the band, and I wish everybody the best. But the band breaking up wasn’t my ultimatum, I didn’t bring that to the table, but once it was brought to the table it kind of opened up a world I’d already been living in in my own head for a while. I just see it as a great opportunity. Kids These Days was great and it was a lot of fun, but now I want to do something different. And I produce now, too.
I didn’t know that.
Yeah, I produced “DIDITB4.” But yeah, with Kids These Days, my role as far as making music felt like, get in where I fit in. Like, I would rap over whatever was being played. But that’s not the same as creating the song, playing the chords, and making the lyrics that go over it. That’s more of a full and all-encompassing artistic process, to me. It helps to be able to do everything top to bottom, you know?
So the solo music is your artistic vision…
Un-compromised. There was a lot of compromise in what was supposed to be a democratic system. That’s a difficult thing to have in a band, but that’s the way our band was set up. It’s cool to make music that’s un-compromised.
You’ve been getting a lot of press for your appearance on “Cocoa Butter Kisses” on Chance’s Acid Rap tape. Tell me about your relationship with Chance.
Me and Chano started making music together when we were like 14-years-old. So, we’ve been making music, and that’s my brother. We’ve grown in the music and as individuals, together. And I think at this point in time, with Chance’s success, a lot of people wouldn’t know or realize that he’s actually my brother and we’ve been making songs together, going neck-and-neck with songs and verses for so many years. We’ve just been feeding off each other’s creative energy for a long time, so I think it’s going to be cool with my newer music for people to actually see what I’m actually doing. But I’m sure there are people who heard me on Chance’s song and are like, “Oh man, this guy sounds just like Chance!” But me and that nigga grew up together. The styles that we both have are influenced by each other.
Chance has a line on “Acid Rain,” where he raps, “I’m still jealous of Vic, and Vic is still jealous of me.” Is that about your competition with one another?
Yeah man, we’ve always had a rivalry with the music. Earlier on, when Kids These Days was starting to get some notoriety, Chance was still trying to get on. So there were times when we went to South By in high school, and Chance was like, “Damn, I’m trying to put out my mixtape and get the fuck down there.” But he wasn’t there yet. And now Chance is doing a show with Kendrick that I’d love to be playing. So we have a constant rivalry and there’s definitely jealousy between us, but at the end of the day it’s all family.
Tell me about the mixtape.
It’s a really eclectic collection of music, and it covers a wide range of subject matter and musical inspiration. At the end of the day, it’s going to be a lot more representative of me than anything I’ve ever put out. It’s going to answer a lot of questions about me, and also ask a lot more questions about the world that we live in.
Fader just released a photo essay on violence in Chicago, and I feel like you, Chance, and the Save Money crew represent a different, positive side of the city from the violence that’s been going on recently. Do you feel a certain responsibility to keep your city safe through positive music?
To tell you the truth, on the most basic level, I just feel a responsibility to keep myself and my family safe, and the ones around me. My shit is really like that, you know? So before trying to be Superman, I just try to tell my homies and my people – like, we come from the Southside and it’s a terrible place – to get the fuck up out of there. Don’t spend too much time around what’s going on in our city right now, because it’s not what you want to get lost in. But within the music, I think that music is so influential to the youth, so through offering something different we definitely have an opportunity to bring some sunlight to what sometimes seems like an endless dark day.