In 2016, Chicago is the home of America’s most burgeoning hip-hop scene. The number of talented rappers that have burst through the scene in recent years is startling. Spanning across sub-genres that range from drill to gospel rap, making your name for yourself in Chi-Town is now harder than ever. This past summer, a veteran rapper by the name of Vic Spencer appeared on various hip-hop blogs after engaging in a beef with fellow Chicago MC Mick Jenkins. You could say it’s remarkable for a 35-year old underground rapper to stand in the limelight amidst the flood of artistry in Chicago. However, accomplishing the remarkable is something of the norm for Spencer. The “villain” rapper, often compared to Redman, is known best for his gritty style, Twitter tirades, and opinionated voice. In this True Too Exclusive, we dive into the life of Vic Spencer and get a behind-the-scenes look at his relationship with Mick Jenkins.
When Vic Spencer was still a child – only seven years of age – Chicago police found Spencer outside of his home at 1:00 AM. When the police questioned Spencer and asked him where his parents were, he said he did not know. They were later found to be intoxicated.
This was just another chapter of the long, troublesome childhood of Spencer, who was born nearly thirty-four years ago on the Westside of Chicago. After being removed from his parents, Spencer was absorbed into foster relative care and then later moved into various group homes until the age of seventeen.
Spencer recalled when he first understood the danger of his environment.
“I was a youngster at that time, and I was just like, wow. This is something normal going on around me, and I became very paranoid.”
Fortunately for Spencer, this paranoia helped him steer away from the life he had been introduced to by his parents and peers. “You either want to be a part of that, or you don’t… I knew all the heavy gang members and the street guys, but they always saw me as a guy that went to school every day and did my thing, and they encouraged me to not mess around.”
Spencer’s ability to overcome the ills of his environment allowed him to put his energy towards music. He started getting into music on a serious level around his junior year of high school. “I used to do music in the group homes through tapes. I actually didn’t get into the studio until I was nineteen.”
Once Spencer began to individualize himself as a musician, he was able to connect with currently well-known musical producers such as Knxwledge, and Nez & Rio. “As I reflect now, the group homes helped to make me the rapper I am today, I wouldn’t have gotten the opportunities I’ve had if it weren’t for them. Not only that, but it’s made me a better person as far as family, and working with young people in the inner-city.”
Spencer also has two children himself. His experiences with his own parents gave him an opportunity to learn. “It just taught me not to do what my parents did… they were strung out on drugs, they lost custody of us when we were young. So I just try to make sure that I’m working and doing my music. You know? I just try to raise my family. My story is a testimony to how I was raised – it’s like the total opposite. I just try and learn how to be a Dad through my personal experiences.”
Spencer also briefed on his current relationship with his parents. “Again, I didn’t let it get to me.” Spencer added. “As I reflect now, the group homes didn’t make me the villain rapper I am today, it just helped me be a better person as far as working with young people in the intercity. So hats off to the group homes for raising me, I probably would have been dead or in jail if that didn’t happen.”
At 34, Spencer has managed to make a name for himself amongst the huge crop of young rappers based in Chicago. “We got a lot of music coming out of the city. So I kind of lock myself away from that and focus on what I like to do. That helps me to stay original and stay different… People will recognize something that they can quickly identify with.”
This past summer, Spencer made headlines after getting involved in a beef with fellow Chi-Town rapper Mick Jenkins. The feud started when Spencer insulted a bar which prompted Jenkins to call him out. After some things about each other were said, Vic decided to write a brilliantly named diss track: Dick Jerkins.
When I asked if he came up with the name he said:
Spencer went on to brag about his ability to roast guys. Along with knowing all the “your mama,” and “headass” jokes, Spencer said he has a natural ability with wordplay due to his emphasis on lyricism in his music. When it came to the name… “It made sense,” Spencer bluntly stated.
After the two Chicago MC’s exchanged tracks, the animosity died down and both went back to their respective work. When asked whether he felt like he was the winner of said beef, he said:
Spencer went on to say that Mick Jenkins was out of his field because of his reputation as a conceptual rapper. Spencer figures that if Jenkins felt the need to reach out to him, it proved how much his Spencer’s voice mattered.
Spencer then sympathized with Jenkins, saying that he’s “not the real enemy,” but rather someone who happened to be talking trash at the wrong time. He went on to explain how his confidence and belief in himself, makes him the rapper he is today. Spencer would have done it to anyone who spoke out against him.
Even though the feud may have died down in the public eye, the story of conflict had not ended there. Spencer attempted to make amends to the situation with Jenkins in January.
Spencer thought a collaboration between the two would exhibit a message of positivity and unification for the city of Chicago. Jenkins did not have the same idea in mind.
The hashtag Spencer was referring to was sent out by fashion designer Joe Fresh Goods who Spencer described as “someone I don’t like either.” Mr. Fresh Goods made up the hashtag #iwastellingniggasinchinaaboutyou after he told “some dudes in China” about Vic Spencer. Jenkins then subtweeted Spencer and used the hashtag:
— Spread Love (@mickjenkins) January 13, 2016
Spencer said he was “blown away,” but then “let it slide.”
Spencer then went on to call out Jenkins on the fact he didn’t come to the aid of Flint residents during their recent water crisis.
People been asking me about The Water Boy in interviews boa I can’t wait til they are released. ✌🏽️
— The King of Living. (@VicSpencer) January 24, 2016
In May of 2015, Jenkins began selling bottled water for $5 on his website. The page has recently been taken down.
Following Spencer’s criticism of Jenkins, Spencer claims that Jenkins direct messaged him on Twitter, calling him a “clown.”
“Riddle me this, though, fam,” said Spencer, “How you helpin’, if you ain’t doing nothin’ but hurtin’ the people, man. You talkin’ about water and you ain’t even helping nobody.”
Spencer went on to mention how many people wished to provide him beats for his hypothetical diss record: “It was crazy, man.”
At the end of the interview, Spencer reflected and said “I hope [Jenkins] see this.” It didn’t surprise me. If there’s anything I learned from my twenty fantastic minutes with Spencer, it was that he isn’t afraid of confrontation. And after all that he’s been through, what’s to expect? The ills of life confronted him at a very young age, and he not only overcame it, but he used it to his advantage. It takes a special brand of person to fight through that kind of adversity and maximize their potential. Spencer is that, and then some.
Since the conclusion of the interview, Spencer released the collaboration album, Who The Fuck Is Chris Spencer??? with fellow Chicago underground rapper Chris Crack. The gritty, 90’s-esque, was given an impressive score of 8.1 on Pitchfork. You can stream the album below on Spotify.