There’s A lot Going On – Album Review

“Vic Mensa sold out”…. ” I miss the old Vic”…. “What happened to Vic?!”… these are but a few of the comments you’ll find under any of Vic Mensa’s post-2014 releases. It’s fair to say that his transition from Chicago indie band member (‘Kids These Days’) to burgeoning hip hop star hasn’t received the warmest reception.

Despite a series of radio freestyles, television appearances, mainstream singles, and endless big name co-signs (e.g. Kanye West), you still get the impression that Vic Mensa is an artist who’s still searching for his voice and his fanbase. ‘There’s A Lot Going On’ is his latest attempt.

The opening track, “Dynasty” is at its core, a dedication to Jay Z for signing him to Roc Nation. It’s a showcase event, with Vic pulling out every trick in his lyrical arsenal to prove to listeners that the hype surrounding him is real. With that being said, the smoke-and-mirror effect of Vic’s clever metaphors start to fade around the mid-way point of the song, and you realise that you’ve been listening to him say the exact same thing for 3-minutes… “I’m good at rapping and I’m signed to Roc Nation”.

It isn’t until the last 30 seconds of the song that he really sets the tone for the rest of the album. As the instrumental starts to fade we hear a hoarse voice emerge from the silence; it’s Vic Mensa, but this time he’s not rapping, he’s rallying! With each defiant chant for survival, the crowd repeating his words grows in size and volume.

 

To the police (To the police!),
You can not (You can not!),
You can not (You can not!),
You can not (You can not!),
You will not (You will not!),
Kill me (Kill me!),
If you want justice, make some noise, let’s go!

 

Stand For Something Or Fall For Anything. In the same vein as Chuck D and Killer Mike before him Vic Mensa has separated himself from the pack, by using his music to capture the frustrations of voiceless and disenfranchised (a complete 180° from his collaboration with Kanye West just a year earlier).

For all of the skills Vic possesses in his skillset, mincing words is not one of them… The Chicago MC is brash and unconcerned with who he offends in the process of getting his message across, a trait which becomes all too apparent on “16 Shots”.

 

 

“Aint no fun when the rabbit got the gun, when I cock back police better run”

 

The EP’s second track caught a lot of controversy for containing lyrics which incite violence against law enforcement. Without context it this could be interpreted as an anthem for uncontrolled aggression, but when listened to in it’s entirety there can be no mistaking it’s purpose. Vic wrote the song in honour of Laquan Macdonald, a 17-year-old boy who was gunned down by police on the streets of Chicago. Once you hear the snippet of the news reader describing Laquan’s murder at the end of the song, you can’t just pass it off as fiction anymore. This isn’t just storytelling anymore, it really happened.

Unfortunately, the potency of his political message is lost in the middle portion of the EP,  and on a project this short it only takes one or two missteps to throw the whole project out of whack. The song “New Bae” just isn’t good. It’s obvious that Vic is experimenting with his sound on this one, but that still doesn’t forgive the terrible use of auto-tune – imagine two cats clawing on a chalkboard at the same time… and there you have your chorus my friends.


Right Song Wrong Project.
The second misstep also happens to be the best song on the EP.  “Liquor Locker” is the first time we get to hear Vic’s singing voice, whilst it’s not exactly R&B quality, his use of melodies and catchy cadences more than make up for what he lacks in vocal range. The only issue with this song is that it feels out of place, the theme, production and vibe would’ve fit perfectly with another project, just not this one.

 

“The violence and the lies slipped suicide into my mental health,
I did acid in the studio one day and almost killed myself”

 

There’s A Lot Going On. The title track is everything people will either grow to love or hate from Vic Mensa as his career takes off. In just under 6 minutes, we’re given a crash course on his life, covering everything from his battles with addiction, accusations of domestic violence and near overdose experience. It’s not really a song, but more of a “this is me” confession (I never claimed to be a perfect man but name a great man who was”) – you may not like him by the end of it, but you won’t be able to say that he’s disingenuous.

Before this release there was a disconnect between Vic Mensa the ‘celebrity’ and Vic Mensa the ‘artist’. We knew the name, but we didn’t know the man. Now we know EVERYTHING.

The mystique is gone, Vic Mensa has arrived.

Overall Rating: 7/10

Tracks To Listen Out For: ’16 Shots’, ‘Shades Of Blue’, ‘There’s Alot Going On’

 
Did You Listen To The EP?  Has Vic Mensa’s Music Changed For The Better Or Worse? Do You Think He Lives Up To The Hype? 

As Usual Comments Are Encouraged!

 

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