Chicago-based Roc Nation signee Vic Mensa is well on his way to the hip hop mainstream with the recent release of singles “U Mad (Feat. Kanye West)” and “Down on my Luck” in anticipation of his upcoming major label debut album, Traffic. However, before signing a major record deal Vic was a member of rap group Kids These Days and hip hop group SAVEMONEY with frequent collaborator Chance the Rapper. At the young age of 19, he self-released a critically acclaimed solo mixtape titled INNANETAPE (2013). INNANETAPE featured appearances by Chance, Ab-Soul, Rockie Fresh and BJ the Chicago Kid, along with production from Hit-Boy, Boi-1da, Cam for J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, DJ Dahi, Tae Beast, Christian Rich, Om’Mas Keith and Mensa himself.
Upon listening to INNANETAPE a few times, I comprehend the recurring comparison of Vic to Chance, as they have very similar styles and essentially grew up making music together. Despite this, Vic tends to have a larger range of sounds and flow than Chance. Just within this one tape, his flow ranges from the high-pitched characteristic Chance flow, to a choppy 2-syllable flow, to the popular “Turn-up” flow, and many others. In addition, Vic displays his vocal diversity by nailing a few hooks here and there.
Although he spits many different ways, the overall vibe of his flow in INNANETAPE is playful. He is a 19 year old kid trying to turn his hobby into a legitimate career as he explains: “16 with a mixtape, now 19 with a mixtape, trying to be 21 with a million dollars.” Vic chooses soulful instrumentals and displays his crafty ability to adapt his style and lyrics to the beat. He mixes in a few serious joints in the second half of the project to paint the entire picture of his young life in the Windy City.
Vic exhibits a hip hop cultural excellence with his socially conscious lyrics, spoken word execution and a spot-on Biggie “Goin’ Back to Cali” reference. The introverted lyrics in “Holy Holy” portray his intelligence with the complements of the great Ab-Soul. The features impress because they add variety but retain Vic’s personal touch to the project. He recognizes his limits, mostly with hooks, and includes others artists with similar visions and talent. Lastly, Vic ends with the braggadocio “That Nigga” which leaves a lasting impression of excitement for his future projects.
The limits of INNANETAPE include boring instrumentals at times, lackluster hooks, and a few avoidable tracks (“Yap Yap” and “Run”). Some of the critiques are due to Vic failing in experimentation, which is not necessarily awful because with failure comes opportunity for growth. Vic’s versatility in conjunction with his youth demonstrate his potential in hip hop. His diverse flow(s) and ability to vary subject matter eliminates his boundaries of a specific niche in hip hop. INNANETAPE is an incredible self-released mixtape.
Check it out below