Vic Mensa is a true songwriter. He wears his heart on his sleeve and is never afraid to hold his tongue. During the past three years, he has been a practitioner of activism and listeners could hear that sense of humanitarianism in his music. His artistic development has been quite interesting to observe. I’ve been a fan of Vic since his breakout project, INNATAPE, in 2013. That year feels like a decade ago, so it’s only right for Vic to grow immensely as an artist and a human being. Unfortunately, that growth doesn’t come without conflict, specifically in life.
It was vital for Vic Mensa to create a project such as The Autobiography, his prolific debut. Vic Mensa’s has been searching for a definite sound since his first project. He went from rapping on poppy Kaytranada instrumentals to traveling to more rock instrumentation. It’s not our job to tell Vic what sounds right for him. As an artist, his beat selection wasn’t very important to me. I found a fondness for his words through his intricate storytelling and the transparency of his vulnerability. The Autobiography is Vic at a new peak. He encapsulates his life journey as thoroughly as possible. Whether it be stories of violence, infidelity, or suicide, Vic Mensa remains truthful with his sorrow. He painted a picture only he can.
It’s been a long time coming for Vic Mensa, so the track, “Say I Didn’t,” does tremendous justice. Over a delightfully energized soul sample, the Chicago emcee tells tales of his come up by addressing his family’s worries for his career projection. Vic congratulates himself for not only making himself proud but his mother and father as well. His rise to notoriety was always something he predicted since he was young. He atones to this on “Memories on 47th St.,” where his speaks on his determination to overcome the violent surrounding of the Chicago streets. On both of these tracks, Vic exemplifies the confidence in his talent. He raps incredibly and doesn’t miss a beat to emphatically express his self-gratitude for achieving his goals.
After those two songs, we dive head first into Vic’s woes. On “Homewrecker”, we learn of Vic’s infidelity problems, an ordinary problem of rappers today. The Weezer assisted track has Vic fending for his life against a “crazy” girlfriend of whom he has cheated on. The woman goes on an escapade of trashing their home by flipping tables and hellaciously screaming at Vic. Vic didn’t know his unfaithfulness would set her off the way it did because wasn’t invested in her emotions. The song “Gorgeous” has Vic saying he wished he had a good reason to be disloyal, but a polygamous life isn’t accepted by many women out there. The undeniable beauty of every woman he encounters leads him to a fault.
The reality of street violence in Chicago comes to play in “Heaven On Earth.” There are three characters in this song: Vic Mensa, Vic Mensa’s late friend, Cam, and Cam’s killer. This record is an exemplary display of his being. Vic writes letters to each other from their respective living grounds. Vic is on Earth and Cam is in Heaven. They both tell each other updates on how they are doing in life. At first impression, it’s quite a simple concept, but it’s quite shocking when he would go the distance to reimagine the thoughts and motives and his friend’s killer.
“Wings” is a moment of self-reflection. Vic is trying to fly away from the drug dependency he developed over the past few years. He wants to fly away from his exterior problems but he acknowledges that he is the reason for many of them. On the heavenly closer, “We Could Be Free,” Vic reflects his care for others. Despite his inner troubles, he finds time to stand up for the brothers he shares the pain with. He wants a world of purity, and he knows he can’t do that alone.
The Autobiography is the perfect name for this album. We get Victor Mensah as a human being on all levels. The backbone of this album is unprecedented honesty that many artists aren’t able to reveal. Vic Mensa is a person who succeeds and fails to be the person he wants or needs to be. Just like a lot of us.