Vic Mensa has been around since 2012, featuring on Chance the Rapper’s first mixtape, 10 Day, so it’s kind of odd to call his 2017 record The Autobiography his first studio album. In all actuality, however, that’s pretty much what it is. After all, he might have a lot under his belt—his work with Kids These Days, a 2013 mixtape (Innanetape), the non-album dance-track “Down On My Luck,” two EP’s (There’s Alot Going On and The Manuscript), an opening slot on tour with Justin Beiber, and features everywhere from Kanye West to Kaytranada—but The Autobiography is his first “full-length” album.
Clocking in at fifteen tracks and an hour long, it’s the largest project of Vic’s yet, but it’s also surprisingly his least subversive. Building up a reputation over the years as the “angsty political activist,” Vic appeared protesting police brutality after the murder of Laquan McDonald and even stood against the Dakota Access Pipeline in Standing Rock. The following events prompted his EP There’s Alot Going On, with tracks such as “16 Shots” and the title-track “There’s Alot Going On” sharpening his angry, bull dog tone with concrete targets.
So it’s easy to be confused when on the opening track, Vic swaps that raw and aggressive delivery for a soul sample, lyrics about how he’s always been there for us, and… upbeat singing? It’s a jarring switch from “The violence and the lies slipped suicide into my mental health/I did acid in the studio one day and almost killed myself” on the title-track of There’s Alot Goin On to “I couldn’t ask for much more man, shit could be worse/A fresh pair of jeans, a nice clean shirt/I’m on my island in the sun, shout out to Weezer” on The Autobiography opener “Say I Didn’t.” Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo even features later on the record. Nonetheless, it’s the new direction the record opens with, it’s just oddly not a tone that resonates throughout.
“Memories On 47th St.” recounts moments from his childhood by incorporating some poorly placed pop culture references, “Rollin’ Like A Stoner” is some Kid Cudi b-side homage, “Down for Some Ignorance (Lullaby)” is one of the most repetitive songs I’ve ever heard, and “Coffee & Cigarettes” paints Vic as more of a pop-rock-rapper than the angsty political activist.
“Homewrecker” and “Gorgeous” are two songs that describe his infidelity, and while he mentions that it’s his fault, it feels more like he blames his ex-girlfriend for being really mad about it and destroying the house. “I knew you was crazy, but not this crazy,” he says, “Who’d’ve ever thought you’d be the wifey and a homewrecker?” On “Gorgeous,” he even tries to excuse his behavior by saying he just wanted them both because they’re both gorgeous. “You wanna own me like copyright/But shootin’ stars so hard to hold down,” he says, “It ain’t my fault that I want you both.”
Ultimately, The Autiobiography doesn’t paint Vic Mensa under the best light, as his ability to rap is traded out for overly repetitive flows and melodies, an odd amount of “singing,” and a level of angst equated more to high school students than that of strong-voiced political activists.
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