# Kids these days featured
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While it’s been the Windy City’s controversial drill scene that’s been the focus of this year’s spotlight on Chicago hip-hop, the city is proving to be a hotbed of talent from all walks of life. Meet Kids These Days, a seven-member band that juices elements of Rap, Jazz, Rock, and Blues into a product unlike anything we’ve been hearing of late. From humble beginnings in their guitarist’s basement to performing on late night talk show, Conan this summer, this outfit’s about to make even more noise with the release of their first official single “Don’t Harsh My Mellow” today. XXLMag.com caught up with Kids These Days’ frontman, Vic Mensa, to talk about the formation of the group, its unique sound, and their upcoming album Traphouse Rock. Get familiar — Neil Martinez-Belkin (@Neil_MB)
Who Are Kids These Days
My name is Vic Mensa and I’m a lyrical orchestrator and spiritual guide of Kids These Days. Nico Segal plays the trumpet. Liam Cunningham plays the guitar and sings. Macie Stewart…well she’s amazing. She’s just an overall musician and is the best of all of us by far. She plays the keys and sings. J.P. Floyd plays the trombone. L.B. the Bogeyman plays the bass, and Greg Landfair Jr.’s on the drums. Four of us went to high school together and the rest of the cats met at an after school music program type thing. Somebody knows the exact date, but it was sophomore year of high school, and I’m 19 now.
Early Days of Band
Our trumpet player Niko, my ace from childhood, we grew up together. I was recording music at the time, solo shit, and he told me that Liam, who’s our guitar player, had a mic and pro tools in his basement. So when I went there he did in fact have recording equipment, but he had no clue how to use it, and neither did I. So we recorded something that sounded like shit [Laughs] but it was cool because it was my introduction to dude and that house became the place where we formed our band and spent our earlier days rocking out and shit.
We all throw into the pot and create the things that we do. There’s not really a leader of our band. Everyone has their own strong suits and their own roles in different areas that bring the group together. We all do our thing and it’s just the combination of these seven people that bring together what you hear. Without all these people it wouldn’t be the same.
Conversations with labels came about when we put out our first EP, which was called Hard Times. It was crazy because that didn’t come out till we were 17, 18, but the music was all made when we were 15 years old. It was well received and we had a lot of love for it, but it was just kind of weird because it took so long to come out because we had run out of money when recording it. So like a year or so later we revisited it and got it mixed and that’s what sparked the label shit and how people really got introduced to us and shit.
The back-story to that performance is crucial. It was turning over a new leaf for Kids These Days and our path. The big controversy going on amongst ourselves was what joint do we play? A song that everyone had heard before to appease that, or do we take it as an opportunity to make a mark as a different group, as the new representation of ourselves. The new song, we were able to squeeze it out, but the shit wasn’t easy. We were on the road and it got to a point where I almost gave up on it and resigned. I had been fighting super hard to do a new song. We’re not 15, I wanted to spit some shit I made as a man. I wanted to represent the now. When we heard we were getting our shot on Conan we stayed up all night finishing the new song to perform it just a few days later. The second verse of that song, I wrote it three days before we rocked it. It was a real triumphant experience.
don't harsh my mellow
It’s a joint that we made almost a year ago. The shit is, I describe it as an anthem. It’s a really anthemic “We’re not gonna take it” kind of thing. In a way, it’s a message to the industry it’s commercially driven, bubblegum pop-rap music. The mantra of the song is just “Shut the Fuck Up!” It’s a statement from young people in music that don’t want to hear that shit anymore. Music has gotten to a point where with the internet, we don’t rely on the radio and major label systems. This is our statement saying fuck that. We’re here to bring something new and something different.
It’s what we’ve been working on for a while and it’s something that’s really putting our foot forwards and putting our hands on the table because up to this point, all that we’ve put out was made when were 15 years old and we’ve developed as people and as artists since then. This new music is representative of that in a lot of ways. People haven’t heard a lot of the rock influence in our music because they haven’t heard the new stuff. They always catch the Jazz influence, the funk, but rock is also a huge part of our sound. It definitely influences me as a writer and MC. The stuff on Traphouse Rock is kind of similar to what we did on our “Flashing Lights” cover in that a lot of the songs are built off the base of different samples spliced together. A lot of the Traphouse Rock joints are covers in the way that Kanye West’s “Touch the Sky” was a cover of Curtis Mayfield’s “Move on Up.” But it’s in subtle ways that most people won’t even catch unless you have a trained ear.
We’ve all been doing our thing and taking shit seriously for a lot longer than people have been paying attention. As far as everything with Chief Keef and GBE, that’s kind of a different realm than us. I was aware of him before he globally blew up, but I wasn’t really aware of him before Andrew Barber started posting his shit. But in terms of Chicago, I’ve always known it was unusually dope. As long as I’ve been making music, you could always bump into a nigga in Chicago that was hot at rapping. Within our own circles and fanbases we’ve been building for a while now and you’re just seeing it now. Kids These Days, Rockie Fresh, King Louie, we were selling out shows in Chicago that other people would come into Chicago and couldn’t sell out. It’s great to see everyone getting their shine now and its only motivated everyone to take the next step and go harder.