Roc Nation

It’s been a little over six years since Vic Mensa emerged on the hip-hop scene, which may not seem like a lot of time, but in rapper years, that might as well be an eternity. There are plenty of young MCs who can’t even make it past six months of relevancy even with a library of tracks whereas Vic, until now, has released two solo projects. There are of course a couple SoundCloud loosies credited to his catalog and his work as part of Kids These Days as well, but for the most part, the 14 songs on INNANETAPE and the eight songs on Straight Up are all Vic has to his name. However, for the Southside Chicago rapper, it has always been quality over quantity and his latest EP, There’s Alot Going On, proves just that.

There’s Alot Going On is Vic’s second official project and first piece of new music since he dropped “U Mad” with Kanye West last spring. The EP’s title is vague in most regards but actually incredibly insightful if you look at all he's been up to over the last year. Vic may not be churning out new content left, right and center but he undoubtedly has been busy on the scene. In 2015, he worked closely with West on The Life of Pablo, got indirectly nominated for a Grammy (for West's "All Day") and signed to Roc Nation. All those personal stories, thoughts, feelings and emotions are channeled on to this new EP.

From the jump on the seven-track effort, the rhymer comes out swinging on the opening track “Dynasty.” “If the Roc is here, throw up your diamonds and hood cubics/No I.D. said it's time to take these goofy niggas out rap/Drop bombs over Baghdad on these SoundCloud outcasts,” Vic raps, which is just about as razor-sharp as it gets. There are also surpluses of other Roc Nation references which prove how thrilled Vic is to be signed to what appears to be the label of his dreams.

Vic isn’t just speaking about his own experiences these past few years though; there is plenty of socio-political commentary. “16 Shots” is a very socially-charged track that deals primarily with the death of Laquan McDonald. Vic passionately raps, “Fuck a black cop too, that's the same fight/You got a badge, bitch, but you still ain't white/This for Laquan on sight, when you see Van Dyke/Tell him I don't bring a knife to a gunfight.” The song is riddled with a lot of similar quotables that are definitely not law enforcement-friendly but show Vic’s obvious distain for the recent cop shootings throughout America.

“Danger,” the track debuted at Kanye’s Yeezy Season 3 fashion show earlier this year, is the EP’s lowest moment; a clear attempt at experimentation that doesn’t render itself very listenable due to the offbeat rhyming and harsh instrumentation. “New Bae” is the token Auto-Tune-crooning, trap-inspired drum track that will be a hit with those looking for the most current popular sound. Not entirely original but catchy nonetheless.

“Shades of Blue” is a perfectly articulated ode to those suffering from the Flint, Mich. water crisis. Although tracks that are a stream of political consciousness have the tendency to use simple rhyme patterns, Vic doesn’t sacrifice any quick wit. Lines like “I'll be with the people when they come for the boy/Everybody tryna be American Idols/My X-Factor is I'm the only one with The Voice” confirms Vic’s superior penmanship.

The title track, “There’s Alot Going On,” is as unequivocal as it sounds. For the entire six minutes, it sounds like Vic is basically reading pages of his diary from the past year-and-a-half. It’s a chronological recap of the ups and downs he has faced over the last 18 months and how there truly is a lot going on in the world of Vic Mensa. From dealing with depression in L.A. to inking the deal with Hov and everything in between, Vic gets it all out in perhaps one of his most honest songs.

A majority of the production is handled by Papi Beatz with some additions from Smoko Ono, Carter Lang and Know Fortune, all of whom do a great job of capturing Vic’s different musical sides. The sounds on the EP feel like they came from a week-long studio session in which the rapper detailed the vibe of each song and Beatz built the sonics from there; the emotion-matching is seamless. There are a variety of instruments used throughout, which is refreshing to hear in today’s musical climate -- no songs sound the same and all fat is trimmed. Calling the instrumentation totally genre-crossing would be a bit of an overstatement but the leading piano on "Shades of Blue" and the strong guitar on the feel-good track "Liquor Locker" would even satisfy fans outside of the hip-hop world. The latter also holds the EP's sole guest feature, Ty Dolla $ign, who smoothly glides across the song.

The best part about There’s Alot Going On is its creative brevity. As longwinded as Vic can get on certain songs, he gets his point across over a short period of time. The project manages to pack a lot of different ideas, sounds and vibes into one small package that doesn’t run much over half an hour. In a perfect world, Vic would release EPs like this more often than once every three years but for now, we will take what we can get and patiently wait for his official major label debut.

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