Amidst a backdrop of gun violence and gangland problems, Chicago has continued to produce some of the most innovate hip-hop artists over the past decade. Mainstays Kanye West, Common and Lupe Fiasco are all household names, it’s the new breed, headlined by Chance The Rapper and Cheef Keef, that are doing their best to put Chicago on the map for all the right reasons.
One of Chi-Town’s most promising prospects is 19-year-old Vic Mensa. Finding fame as the lead rapper and vocalist of indie hip-hop ensemble Kids These Days before their split back in May, Mensa has been steadily building towards INNANETAPE, his first solo release.
INNANETAPE is an eclectic collection of music that represents Mensa’s laid back personality and varied musical influences. First track, ‘Welcome To INNANETAPE’, gives an insight into the ideas behind the mixtape, with Mensa abandoning the usual verse chorus verse structure, using one extended verse to question why he isn’t considered one of Chicago’s best MCs. Sure, it’s nothing new, but opening with ‘Welcome To INNANETAPE’ shows Mensa is not afraid to take risks with his musical endeavours.
‘Lovely Day’, one of three tracks co-produced by Mensa, is head bopping fun straight out of the Lupe Fiasco handbook, while the trap-ish ‘Yap Yap’ delves into the gun problem that has engulfed Chicago. To Mensa’s credit, this mish-mash of musical styles and lyrical content never feels jilted or out of place, exemplified by the slinky ode to Los Angeles, “Hollywood,” that sits comfortably next to the heartbreaking ‘Holy Holy’.
As is the case with modern day mixtapes, Mensa ropes in a host of top-notch guest for INNANETAPE. UK pop star Eliza Doolittle’s sugary vocals add flavour to the catchy ‘YNSP’, while on the aforementioned ‘Holy Holy’, Ab-Soul drops a heart wrenching verse about losing his longtime girlfriend to an apparent suicide in 2012. Then there’s ‘Tweakin’’, with Mensa and Chance The Rapper channelling their inner Bad Meets Evil (Eminem and Royce Da 5’9) over a moody Michael Uzowuru (Odd Future, Vic Staples) beat.
INNANETAPE doesn’t break the mould, but it certainly gives listeners a glimpse into the talented mind of Mensa. Chalk this up as another win for the Windy City.