The Manuscript might only be four tracks long, but as another prelude for Vic Mensa’s debut album there isn’t much to be expected and it at least serves its purpose. In fact, upon its release, one of Vic’s engineers let the reddit world know that it was indeed just another prelude. They then went on to state that this material is what can be expected of the final product. Regardless of what the project should be considered, if these four tracks are a sample of the whole album, then it might be time to start worrying a bit.
Other than the second track, which has an excellent Pusha T feature, there is the distinct flavor of pop-rap present throughout. Pop, though, is meant to mean popular music, or music that is meant to be played on the radio for the masses. It’s hard to argue that The Manuscript doesn’t fit that bill, but the Mr. Hudson feature pretty much confirms it. This is also apparent in most of the production, as it’s far smoother and more approachable than other recent songs like “New Bae” and “Dynasty;” perhaps the beats are more akin to more R&B “Liquor Locker.” For a debut album this can be expected, let’s just hope that “Omg” isn’t the lone hard-hitter on it.
Speculation aside, Vic does get personal on the first track with a verse consisting of almost nothing but name drops and shout outs, perhaps highlighting the people that helped Mensa achieve his status and position in the music world. The most potent line on the EP might also be on the first track: “If I was Lebron I would have never went to the Miami Heat/ There’s too much loyalty in me, I’m royalty, no Prince Akeem.” Not only is the Lebron line relevant with the NBA finals going on, but there might be an allusion to Kendrick’s DAMN in there as well in there before the Coming to America reference. Avril Lavigne gets some recognition as well, and if you’re sharp you’ll hear a LMFAO reference, but the most important part of the verse is the ending which definitively announces that the album is coming soon. “Omg” is an obvious standout, with excellent production focused around a seedy guitar riff. Vic also does something different with his voice on the chorus, ditching his usual high-pitched rapping for a more ominous and heavier vocal style. Multiple other head-turning bars are dropped throughout the EP as well, they’re just mixed in amongst some overused ’emotional’ sounding beats.
The lyrics definitely feel personal, there’s no denying that, but without some unique production backing them they sound like overused ideas that are ever-prominent in rap today. That’s why Mensa’s verses stand out so well; the intensity behind them is undeniable, they’re just bogged down by some average hooks, with “Rage” being a perfect example of that statement. “Almost There” is in fact almost there, but Mr. Hudson’s voice is so jarring on the chorus that it shatters whatever vibe Vic is going for with his rapping. “Rollin’ Like a Stoner” has some great verses too, but if Vic was going for some mass appeal he might as well have reached out to Kid Cudi to do the hook; while Mensa does a decent job imitating the signature Kid Cudi sound, Cudi would have of course nailed it and elevated the track to another level.
While the bars and lyrics sound like Vic Mensa, the production doesn’t serve him as it should. Whether this was a personal decision or one made by the label, it doesn’t do much to create excitement for the album. Will the Innanetape Mensa shine through, or will this be a Lupe Fiasco scenario where the executives take over? Only time will tell, but we can rest easy knowing that the answer is on the way. Stream the album below and make sure to check back at True Too for all your hip hop updates.