REVIEW: Vic Mensa's "The Autobiography"
It’s executive produced by No I.D. who just helped create Jay-Z’s 4:44, the clear-cut album of the year.
Vic’s often been known to dig deep and reflect on his past misfortunes. His 2016 EP There’s Alot Going On was a diverse offering which found him discussing everything from a past relationship to the Flint water crisis. Given the title of this latest project, you can expect him to dig even deeper.
But will all that digging reveal diamonds or dirt?
The first time I heard Vic Mensa was on Asher Roth’s remix of Kids These Days’ “Hard Times.” I immediately noticed his unique voice, sharp flow and strong lyricism, but I never imagined he would grow into the artist he is today. The Manuscript EP and The Autobiography are further proof of Vic’s growth as a rapper, a musician, and a human being. By stripping down to his innermost self, his music has become more personal, more relatable, and a bit surprisingly, better lyrically.
The Autobiography kicks off with a soulful track built off a sample of Darondo’s “Didn’t I.” Vic takes this opportunity to speak to his father, mother and late grandmother about their support for him and how much he appreciates them. On “Memories on 47th St.,” Vic spills all the details about his life, from having IEPs and getting kicked out of kindergarten to nearly dying sneaking into Lollapalooza. Tracks like these carry the torch that was ignited by the album’s title.
Overall, this album works because it’s both strong musically and revealing. From speaking on past relationships on tracks like “Homewrecker” and “Coffee & Cigarettes” to diving into the tragedies of his personal life on “Heaven on Earth” and “Wings,” Vic may as well have written this album in his own blood. And of course, the album is heavily peppered with references to Chicago, Vic’s friend (and rapper) Joey Purp, and the violence that plagues his city.
But the best part about the lyrical content on The Autobiography is that it doesn’t overshadow any other aspect of the album. While the album is primarily focused on delivering on the expectations the title creates, Vic still devotes plenty of energy to crafting clever bars and developing a unique, potent sound driven by strong vocals and varied production.
That’s not to say this album doesn’t have any chinks in its armor. For those who enjoy Vic as a rapper, this album could have focused on rapping a bit more. And while “Rolling Like a Stoner” serves as a catchy anthem which explores the reality of drug use (think “Swimming Pools”), I’m just not rocking with it musically. If this song had been replaced or the album cut to 12 songs, I think it would have been a stronger debut.
To me, though, this album has no real lows, just slightly lower highs. It’s easy to put on and play straight through, and no song is so shallow as to not offer the listener anything.
The Autobiography is full of social commentary, emotion, reflection, and self-improvement. It serves as a coming out party for one of the most promising young spitters in Hip-Hop—and I’m sure we’ll be hearing more of the same from Vic Mensa in the coming years.