It is almost impossible to successfully create an album that takes influence from (and utilizes) decades of instrumental styles, vocal techniques and still tells the story fluidly. However, I think Vic Mensa may be the first hip hop artist to do just that. His recently released album, The Autobiography, As Told By Vic Mensa, is a stylistic masterpiece that very few artists, let alone rappers have been able to create.
Story | Sara Loretta
Image | HipHopDX
Of course we have seen experimental or concept albums from artists like Logic and Machine Gun Kelly in 2017, but I have yet to hear an album that the listener can pick up on the intended timeline, hear the story being told, and still appreciate the album instrumentally. The concept albums from Logic may do this, but it is not a story of Bobby’s life – it’s a life he created for the story. The Autobiography is the complete opposite, Mensa has written 15 tracks that reflects on the experiences he has had from the death of his older brother in ‘Heaven on Earth’ to smoking weed for the first time in ‘Rollin’ Like a Stoner’ to the freedom of financial struggles in ‘We Could Be Free’.
As a Chicago native, Vic Mensa is no stranger to gun violence, and that is proven on this album. When I first heard ‘Heaven On Earth’, I actually thought back to his interview on CNN’s Original Series, United Shades of America, where he and a handful of other residents of the city sat down to discuss the lack of arts in schools and the importance of these students having resources to become lawyers and accountants, not just picking up a basketball and dreaming about making it into the NBA.
There is no mistaking that Vic Mensa has developed progressed heavily from his first mixtape, Innanetape in 2013. Listening to his discography you can see the progression of Mensa’s personal sound, technique and self artistry. This alone separates the 23 year old from 95% of mainstream rappers; particularly because as the audience you can see that Vic Mensa has taken the time to truly learn about the production process to create the best album he possibly could.
The Autobiography pushes the envelope for what punk/rap progression looks like through the use of singing and collaborations with bands like Weezer. It seems that Vic Mensa falls into the category of “a fan of the music, not the lifestyle.” That I believe, is why this album is so artistic, because you can hear Mensa’s influences in each track and are able to appreciate his desire to experiment in the booth like in songs like ‘We Could Be Free’, where he utilizes an electric guitar to accompany him singing the harmony, before the choir breaks in to finish the prayer to God.
Vic Mensa has not only released another album, he has raised the bar for the hip hop community and future artists looking to put their story to paper and audio track because The Autobiography is the first album thus far in 2017 to show beauty in the pain and allow listeners to paint a real picture in their minds as they listen through each track.