-Album Reviewed By Jake Kresovich

Vic Mensa, a 19 year old rapper from Chicago, launched his solo career after the breakup of his former band, Kids These Days. He released his first mixtape Innanetape in the fall of 2013.  The Source magazine has ranked the album as the second best mixtape of the year, placing Mensa on the same pedestal as Chicago’s other up and coming artist, Chance the Rapper.  Likewise, Complex magazine has identified Mensa as one of the ‘25 new rappers to look out for’.  Both Mensa and Chance are part of the Chicago artist collective “SaveMoney” which consists of rappers, visual artists, producers and other driven, talented youths.  After a successful debut year, Vic will tour internationally beginning in February.

Innanetape opens with the song “Welcome to Innanetape.” Here, Mensa wastes no time demonstrating his considerable abilities as a rapper. He rhymes over a beat that remains heavy throughout the song.  This baseline drags slightly and is unable to keep pace with Mensa’s rhymes, but it never holds the vocalist back. Instead it creates a nice contrast with Mensa crafting brilliant verses to skillfully navigate the tricky pulse.

The lead single on the album “Orange Soda” shows Mensa’s ability to slow down and become more thoughtful with his rhymes.  In this song he rhymes about falling in love with music and the challenges that come along with trying to make it big in the industry.  “They made a list about Chicago rappers and they skipped me,” he complains.  But this setback has only inspired him to work harder. Towards the end of the track, a piano rings while Mensa sings overtop, offering a refreshing change of style from previously introduced beats and melodies.

“Tweakin’”, the album’s fourth track, again features a weighed-down beat that seems to lag behind the abilities of the lyricists.  At times the beat is confusing to follow, with pointed drum shots and slurs but this muddling of sounds hardly limits the power and emotion of the song. “Tweakin’” playfully invites Chance the Rapper to a guest verse and he does not disappoint.  His unique voice and flow shine through as he uses his lyrical ability to create some imaginative lines.  “They say a smart man looks like a mad man to a dumb man/ But one man…wait I’m tweakin’” Chance rhymes at the end of his verse as he loses track of his thought process, tying in his bars with the theme of the song.

Mensa touches on the violence of his hometown in the song “Yap Yap.”  The beat for this song fits the song’s theme in that it is dark and uses hard snare shots to sharpen the sound. The song begins with Mensa saying, “You think they stopped making guns when they made yours?” implying he also owns one.  After which he rhymes about making cops “miss their quota” by making sure “the baby’s in its manger” a reference reminding gun holders to makes sure their weapons are well hidden when the cops come around.  Like many other Chicago rappers the epidemic of violence in Mensa’s immediate environment has inspired many of his rhymes.

Innanetape is an ambitious and excellently executed mix tape. Although some of the production elements could be improved, the album as whole, and Mensa’s verses in particular, deserve all the praise they have received and more. Mensa’s friendship with Chance the Rapper exemplifies the well-connected Chicago music scene, and how there is thrilling innovation taking place in the Windy City’s studios.  Even better, Innanetape is offered as a free download, an authentic and generous gesture from one very talented kid who is having a ton of fun on the brink of fantastic success.


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