Photography By: Stephanie Koch

It’s been a banner year for coming up Chicago rappers as young acts like Tree, Alex Wiley, and of course Chance The Rapper have gotten national attention. Vic Mensa’s year has been a little bumpier: His band Kids These Days broke up after releasing one album (the Jeff Tweedy-produced Traphouse Rock) and he’s had to deal with endless comparisons after Acid Rap blew up for his friend and fellow Save Money crew member Chance. But Vic’s proper solo debut INNANETAPE dropped on September 30 and has earned him renewed attention on the back of tracks like “Orange Soda.” INNANETAPE is a strong showcase for a budding solo artist, displaying a variety of songwriting talent from the easygoing near singing of “Orange Soda” to the melancholy ode to Chicago’s fallen “Holy Holy.”

Like Chance, Vic has avoided signing to a label after the Kids These Days breakup, but he’s still making moves, wrapping up a tour with J. Cole and getting ready for another set of shows in January with U.K. electronic duo Disclosure. Besides touring, Vic is currently reworking some of the INNANETAPE tracks like first single “Did It B4” for rerelease and putting together some of the songs that got cut from the tape. XXL caught up with Vic to talk about his early days tagging on Chicago’s South Side, The Beatles’ influence on INNANETAPE, and why his haters need to step up their game.—As told to Eric Thurm