THE V TAPE: ALBUM REVIEW
Following Vic Mensa’s career has been a never-ending rollercoaster ride. The highs have been euphoric and the lows have been terrifying. As one of the forefathers of the Chicago SAVEMONEY movement, there was a time where Vic seemed like he was poised to become one of the biggest artists in the country, but that all fell apart in the span of less than a year. Between his pivot to pop-punk and his valid, but over-the-top, beefs with both 6ix9ine and DJ Akademics (who both in retrospect completely deserved to get called out) Vic Mensa has spent the last few years committing career suicide. As someone said on twitter, “Vic Mensa went through more phases than a white girl in high school,” and most of his fans, including me, just haven’t had the patience to keep up with those phases. Although Vic Mensa’s risks haven’t always paid off, his newest project, The V Tape, shows that he is continually learning and growing musically from his experiences.
Vic Mensa is back rapping on The V Tape. It’s pretty much 26 straight minutes of bars and he has so much to get off his chest. Because of all the beefs, career switch-ups and label changes Vic has been through a lot and you can hear the emotion in his voice on every track. On the song “Dirt On My Name” there is palpable anger in his voice as he says, “I might have had a rap beef with the whole game, I really be in traffic how I’m always switching lanes.” This song features sampled vocals of everyone who has disrespected him in the past couple of years and he responds with fire. On “Dirt On My Name” he’s taking shots while acknowledging his own fault in every issue he brings up. This is part of a trend established on The V Tape; Vic Mensa blames nobody for his mistakes but himself, and it’s powerful to hear an artist learn from their past and use it to create better music.
It’s impossible to listen to The V Tape and ignore the last two years of Vic’s career. He engages directly with criticisms of him in the last couple of years on “2Honest,” acknowledging what every fan of his music has known. Saying, “I could master my depression I just couldn’t write for nothing… Violated probation, again and again, my kin and my friends like ‘what the fuck is up with you fam? Don’t you understand niggas wanna fuck with you fam? But you keep fucking yourself and that fucks with your fans.’” It’s rare to hear an artist acknowledge what everyone around them has been telling them and the fact that Vic can admit this so openly is powerful. On this song, he nearly breaks down in tears mid-rap, but it doesn’t affect the flow at all. It sounds like he has so much to get off his chest, so much to tell the audience that he feels like he finally can say.
The V Tape brings back that classic, mid-2010s, Chicago sound. The entire tape was recorded and engineered back in Chicago and Vic spends a lot of time talking about Blackstone, Larry Hoover, and what the Southside means to him. Of course, since we’re talking about that era of Chicago hip-hop, the Kanye influence is everywhere. On Vendetta Vic says, “Like they forgot who brought me in this business, I ain’t talked to ‘Ye since he been religious, all my Dior and still a Christian.” On “BETHLEHEM/SC FREESTYLE” he spits over the same sample that Kanye used on “Saint Pablo” dropping absolute gems like “They heard the caged bird sing, so I bought me a coupe,” “Blue police cameras sit high like Gargoyles,” and “Them killas in Killa Ward catch you in River North.” The whole project exudes Chicago energy and Vic Mensa is rapping his ass off. It’s easily his best lyricism since INNATApE and is so good to hear he still has that technical ability.
The V Tape should be a wake-up call to any Vic fans who had given up on him. This is easily his best rapping in the last five years and is really encouraging about Vic's future. It feels like Vic Mensa is finally taking some criticism to heart. The V Tape is an extremely strong project, not because it is going back to “the old Vic” but because Vic shows so much inspiring personal growth. Just listening to songs like “REBIRTH” gives me chills because of how honest and powerful Vic’s new attitude towards his music is. Hopefully, The V Tape is representative of where Vic is going because it’s definitely one of the best projects to come out of Chicago this year.