He’s the Chicago trailblazer who has had our attention from the jump. Having been an early supporter of COZY MAG, Vic Mensa is the homie- and we’ve enjoyed watching his growth as a musician. For those of you who don’t know, Vic, a recent Roc Nation signee, has been making undeniable waves in hip hop this year, after a successful festival season under his belt, his headline “TRAFFIC” tour underway, and working closely with Kanye on his upcoming album.
Aside from the music, Vic Mensa is not just a rapper. He’s intelligent, opinionated, and both conscious and concerned about the current social-political climate in the US. In other words, he’s woke. Which is more than can be said for many other musicians operating under the “hip hop” umbrella- (*cough*, that’s you Iggy, and you T.I- with your Uncle Tom ass.)
For the past few weeks, the 22 year old wowed us with a series of releases, made available to stream on his Soundcloud every Friday. The most recent release was “All That Shines”, a self-produced track with a totally different sound to what we’ve heard from Vic lately. We caught up with him to find out more:
COZY MAG: Thanks for talking to us man, the new track is dope. What made you write it?
Vic Mensa: I wrote All That Shines on some day one shit. I was at my moms. I made a beat and it just made me feel a real triumphant vibe, you know? Just looking at how far things have come.
COZY MAG: Definitely- It’s an upbeat track, we heard you produced it too, that’s sick man. Over the past few Friday’s we’ve heard a lot of different sounds from you, are you still developing your sound and do you think you’ll get to a point where you stick to a style?
Vic Mensa: All these joints I’ve been dropping are just different shit I’ve made over time and want people to hear. So yeah, it changes. Traffic is more of a specific vibe though.
COZY MAG: So lets talk “All That Shines.” You mentioned “them” getting you for your tail lights. It made us think of Sandra Bland, who was pulled over for a regular traffic stop and ended up dead in her jail cell. Did her death impact the track?
Vic Mensa: I actually wrote this song before Sandra Bland’s death. Her story is important to me though because she was a strong black woman murdered by the system for being black. Regardless of how she died, she never deserved to be in that cell.
COZY MAG: Agreed. Back in the day, police brutality was a common theme of hip hop. That kind of took a back seat, but has lately come to the foreground again in music. Do you think more people should be vocal about what’s going on? More specifically musicians?
Vic Mensa: Definitely. People should be more vocal about shit like police brutality and injustice. I think a lot of the culture is played out and conditions people to only think about material shit, and that translates in the music.
COZY MAG: For real. You’ve experienced this stuff first hand too. A lot of people in the UK don’t know what it’s really like, do you think it makes it harder for the message to translate?
Vic Mensa: I don’t know how much people outside of the U.S. understand what it’s like dealing with police as a black American. It’s just something we’re raised with and a hatred and distrust for police for a lot of us is inherit from our surroundings.
COZY MAG: Yeah man, it’s interesting when you talk about an inherent distrust. I think we (British black people) take a lot of that from rap and hip hop without necessarily having experienced brutality to that level. Obviously racism is everywhere, and within the UK police too- but when you don’t have guns, it’s a different story.
Vic Mensa: Yeah, it’s different. Police in Chicago would pull up on us as 16 year olds, guns drawn like “everybody get on the fucking floor” in the middle of downtown. Imagine being in Central London and having that happen to you and all your friends.
COZY MAG: That’s rough man.
Vic Mensa: Riiiight.
COZY MAG: To finish, I wanted to touch on the fact a lot of people seem to think you’ve come up quickly because of your Roc affilliations, when actually you’ve been grinding for a minute. Do you have anything to say to those people?
Vic Mensa: Yeah. I been doing this shit.