The release of Vic Mensa’s new album, The Autobiography, is just that. The album tells the story of his life through each of its tracks. Hailing from Chicago, Vic Mensa is among the city’s most outspoken musicians. He uses his music career to share his opinions on many cultural and racial issues other artists don’t often acknowledge.
Mensa began his music career at the age of 15. At 16, he became a member of the rap band Kids These days. Featuring indy rock music, the group’s first album was released online in 2012. Appearing on that album was an up and coming rap musician now known as Chance The Rapper. Ever since Mensa began his music career he has been using it to try and make sense of the difficult world he was raised in. Coping with the struggles and pains of life is something that Mensa has always done through his music.
The Autobiography is Mensa’s official musical debut and is only the third album he has released in his four year music career. It chronicles the struggles and joys he has faced in his professional and personal life. The album has a nostalgic feel to it because it includes mentions of people and places that were a part of his life growing up.
The opening track on the album delves into Mensa’s soul. It includes mention of a professional partnership he entered into with a record label. The partnership is so significant to him that in 2015 he got the record label’s logo tattooed on his neck. The track, called “Say I Didn’t,” takes the form of an eye opening letter that includes mention of his parents and the friends he grew up with. In the song he apologizes for having walked away from his roots in Chicago to pursue his dream of a music career.
Another track on the album is Memories on 47th Street, which gets into some close calls he has had with death, including almost being electrocuted. Other tracks were inspired by groups such as Weezer and even the unhealthy relationship he had with his now ex-girlfriend Natalie Wright. The song inspired by that relationship is called Homewrecker, and includes vocal contributions from Rivers Cuomo, the lead singer of Weezer. This song stands out as one of the album’s highlights.
Many of Mensa’s songs talk about death and one of them references the loss of a friend he had in Chicago who was fatally shot. Having had a profound effect on Mensa he was inspired to work through his grief by writing the song, as well as another song on the album called Heaven on Earth. This complex song encompasses his point of view on his friend’s death as well as the point of view of the man who killed him. The song goes into the fact that the killer saw a photo of his victim that Mensa posted on his Instagram page after the man’s death and that was when he realized he had killed one of Mensa’s friends. In other songs, Mensa references drug and mental health battles he has endured throughout his life.
A turning point in his life inspired the song The Fire Next Time. It tells of his vow to put the drama of his life behind him and move forward with his music career. With such honest songs, Mensa has made a name for himself in the hip-hop industry and has done much to impact the industry as well.
The album is said to have allowed Mensa to work through his demons and in each song it is obvious that he was reaching epiphany. The power of the album lies in the fact that it is so eclectic thanks to the subject matters of each track as well as the long list of co-collaborators that appear on the album.
Aside from Mensa, other musicians heard on this album, in addition to Rivers Cuomo, are Saul Williams, Joey Purp, The Dream, Chief Keef and Syd of the Internet. This eclectic mix of artists makes the Autobiography album one of a kind.
Credit for the album’s focus goes in large part to Executive Producer No I.D. The collaboration of No I.D. and Mensa led to the album’s contemporary sound. Mensa has stated that in this album and any future albums he releases his top priority is keeping his music real.
All in all, The Autobiography is an eye-opening, refreshingly honest look at one man’s struggles to overcome demons and live a happy and safe life. Vic Mensa’s commitment to telling his story through his music makes this album a listening experience like no other. It takes what other rappers have done and magnifies it, showing just how powerful music can be when it comes to healing. Thumbs Up!