There’s a lot going on in Vic Mensa’s world. On his latest, aptly titled There’s A lot Going On EP, Mensa lays bare both his internal and external conflicts until they coalesce into a politically charged, if somewhat unfocused, whole.
The former Kids These Days member and INNANETAPE rapper surprise-released this latest EP last week. Listeners could grab it for free in exchange for their pledge-to-vote via Hip-Hop based voter registration campaign Respect My Vote! His first release since 2013, Mensa wastes no time in making an entrance. Opening track ‘Dynasty’, with its warped, operatic production, places Mensa on the ascent, before segueing into the lyrically dense ’16 Shots’. A call-to-arms track focusing in on police injustice in his hometown Chicago – namely the death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald by Chicago Police officers in 2014.
It’s on cuts like these where Mensa really comes through. His rage is palpable, and he channels it to paint a grim pastiche of the daily injustices he perceives, creating some of his most impressive verses to date. Unfortunately this is let down by many weak, sometimes downright cringe-worthy hooks, and this is mostly where the EP harbours its numerous missteps.
The track ‘Danger’ serves as a prime example of this. The production is strong, with foreboding synth stabs bouncing over some trap influenced drum hits, while an elastic bass line rumbles away below. Vic rides the beat with gusto, but once it hits the hook he loses steam. His auto-tune enhanced yelping isn’t helped by some terrible lines: “You know me I like the da-a-nger!” sounding like a kid covering Metallica at a karaoke club. It also doesn’t help that this is followed by the mawkish run of ‘New Bae’ and ‘Liquor Locker’. Again, the production is mostly solid, with the latter comprising a laid-back beat that would serve as a decent summer jam, but ultimately it’s let down by some largely forgettable verses from Vic and only other album guest spot, Ty Dolla $ign.
Vic does manage to find his step again towards the end of the EP. Penultimate track ‘Shades of Blue’ being a sombre reflection on racial equality in America. With lancinate piano keys serving to accent Vic’s musings on the Flint, Michigan water crisis and the white-washing of mainstream media, to the ongoing protest over police brutality. Vic turns this reflection inwards on the final title track. If you can look past the maudlin warbling between the verse, it has Vic delivering an unrelentingly honest account on his mind-set and personal struggles with addiction, hedonism and label politics that preceded this release.
Although let down by some spotty verses and forgettable hooks, There’s Alot Going On serves to present Vic Mensa on the rise. Gone are the lackadaisical days of INNANETAPE, instead we are presented with a refreshed, socially conscious Vic Mensa who is set to make it big, even if he’s still finding his feet in the rap game.
There’s Alot Going On is available now via Roc Nation.