The past year has been an up and down ride for Vic Mensa. The 19-year-old rapper was a member of Kids These Days, a group of teenage musicians that blended rock and rap with ease, scoring an appearance on Conan and collaborating with artists like Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy. Just as it seemed as the band’s momentum was beginning to pick up after a big performance at Coachella, the group announced its breakup. Fans of the genre-blending outfit were heartbroken, but loyal supporters of the Mensa, the group’s resident flame-spitter, were excited to see the Chicago native begin his solo career. Looking to start a new chapter in his creative journey, Vic Mensa has now dropped a solo mixtape, Innanetape.
Despite his early brush with success, Vic Mensa is still simply a young musician who resides in the city of the Chicago. The project reflects Mensa’s experiences and observations of activities that go in the Windy City, a place full of turmoil and violence where the lives of the youth taken far too often. The violence and sense of hopelessness in the system is something that Vic touches on throughout the tape with songs like “Time Is Money” and “Fear And Doubt.” Innanetape is a project that belongs to the youth, but it speaks loudly to the elder statesman calling the shots in Mensa’s fractured city. Admist the issues that Mensa takes on daily in Chicago, there is still room for positive energy, which he distributes throughout the tape via hummable melodies, comical asides and inventive instrumentation.
Mensa provides lyrical nourishment throughout Innanetape. Mensa showcases his ability to stand alone and make strong songs early in the tape with the playful “Orange Soda” and soulful “Lovely Day.” Vic doesn’t get lost in the mix when sparring with rising stars in the game like TDE’s Ab-Soul or MMG’s Rockie Fresh. In regards to flow, Vic shows a keen ability to bend words at will, cramming syllables into lines with obvious glee. Mensa displays great voice control throughout the tape, fearlessly attempting many different voice pitches with each verse. The only knock is when his pitches become nasal, which sound like his good friend Chance The Rapper. It’s enough to make you wonder at times if you’re listening to Acid Rap, which this tape will inevitably be compared to. Luckily these moments are few and far in between on the tape allowing his originality to shine through on the mixtape.
In regards to production, Mensa assembled a star studded cast for Innanetape. Seeing big names like Boi-1da and Hit-Boy grace the mixtape’s tracklist is a pleasant surprise, while the majority of the tape’s production is touched on by Cam of the J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, who delivers a cohesive vibe to the project. Vic starts out the tape attacking a beat reminiscent of his sound when he was a member of Kids These Days on “Welcome To the INNANET.” His captivating flow shines brightest in the songs with rock-like production flourishes like “Magic” and “Hollywood LA”, but he explores a range of sounds throughout, like on the synth-filled “Yap Yap”, giving the tape excellent replay value. With the release of Innanetape Mensa has laid a solid foundation for his solo career, setting the bar high for the solo LP that’s undoubtably in his future. –Christian Mordi