Vic Mensa Is Proud to Give Back to Chicago
Last year, Vic Mensa was riding high off the success of his Innanetape project and his spot on the 2014 XXL Freshman cover. What a difference a year makes. While he works on his followup project, his upcoming album Traffic due out this summer, Vic has been dropping a series of excellent singles and touring around the world. But in February, he got his biggest look yet when Kanye West released "Wolves" featuring Vic and Sia, which the trio performed live during Saturday Night Live's 40th anniversary special a few days later. Yeezy would return the favor on Vic's excellent track "U Mad" in April and two weeks later the young Chicago MC had signed on the dotted line with Jay Z and Roc Nation.
While he's been around the world Vic has been splitting his time between recording sessions in Los Angeles and his hometown of Chicago, where he recently joined fellow 2014 XXL Freshman Chance The Rapper to bring out Kanye to perform for a group of high school students at Chance's Open Mike night event for the local youth. As he readies his new project and prepares to head out on the road again, Vic Mensa stopped by the XXL offices to speak about signing to the Roc, the difference between recording Innanetape and Traffic and the importance of giving back to Chicago. —Dan Rys
XXL: What's the best thing that's happened for you since being a Freshman last year?
Vic Mensa: I think I just had my most proud accomplishment thus far, which was when we brought out Kanye to perform "U Mad" at Chance's Open Mike on the South Side of Chicago for a bunch of kids who grew up where I did, who exist in the circumstances that formed me as a person. That was a peak of shit, just being able to go back home and be that for the next generation, which is really my generation. But be that for my generation.
What does it mean to you to be able to give back like that?
I just think it's a little bit of a responsibility. I'm not gonna be the guy to stand up on the table and be like, "My purpose here is to save the world." I'm pretty selfish and shit; I focus on myself a lot of the time. But in the case of doing shit for my hood, that's everything. 'Cause that's family; that's just a man's responsibility, to be his brother's keeper. So I feel, as someone with a perspective and opportunities and experiences, that I can share with kids that identify with me, black, brown, white, whatever. It's amazing to be able to do it and it's not something I take lightly.
Have you thought about starting an organization yourself?
Maybe in the future, man. Right now I'm putting my pieces together. And once my foundation is completely solidified and is built into a big enough building then we can make bridges. But in the ways that I can I'm trying to actively be something that matters to the community, my community and others' included.
Signing to the Roc was obviously big for you. What platform does it give you?
The platform is enormous. I'm just blessed to be where I am and to be who I am, someone with something to say to the greater good of everyone. And I'm gonna take this platform as far as it can possibly go and create new ones.
Have you been recording in Chicago?
Yeah, I record a lot in Chicago and L.A.
How has the recording been different for you than making something like Innanetape?
Well, when I made Innanetape, I didn't have enough money to be in the studio all the time, so I wrote most of the raps like in my mom's basement or in places all by myself, because I didn't have money to write in the studio. Now I'm able to spend time in the studio so there's been more collective input, just bouncing ideas off people, because most of this stuff I wrote in the studio with other people around, you know?
Seems like a lot of the SaveMoney guys are starting to pop on their own, too. Is it time for SaveMoney to step out now?
Completely. It's time to take SaveMoney super global. It's already global. I was in New Zealand and some random kids stopped me on the street at Nando's, best fuckin' chicken chain in the world. They stopped me, and this was right after Leather Corduroys project came out, and the kids were like, "Yo, we fuck with that Leather Cords' Season shit," and I'm like, Man, that's dope. I'm in New Zealand. What the fuck? I was not thinking about New Zealand a year ago. And then in New Zealand some kids on the street not only know me, but they fuck with my brothers' shit? It was a cool experience. Just, you know, the range of influence is wide.