Newsletter #1: Chance and Vic

In 2013, Vic Mensa and Chance the Rapper, two Chicago rappers in the SAVEMONEY collective, dropped breakout mixtapes The Innanetape and Acid Rap, respectively. Both were young, barely out of high school and aimed to encapsulate their worldviews, their Chicago upbringing – drugs, guns and gangs – musically.

In 2014, when we were finishing our own time in high school, these two were on the XXL freshmen cover. Chance became one of the biggest names in rap in the past decade, touring and collaborating with Kendrick Lamar, Eminem, Kanye West, etc., etc. Vic Mensa is famous – not equally and not always for his music as much as his frequent denouncing of various figures in hip-hop. He also got a Kanye co-sign, he got signed to Roc Nation, and there was significant hype around his Traffic album – still not materialized as of 2019.

Both men performed on SNL with Kanye, when he was still the old Kanye. Chance’s verse off The Life of Pablo’s “Ultralight Beam” is one of the best features in recent memory, full cap. He has since released Colouring Book the third mixtape in the Chance series which has seen his addition to the Chicago rap Pantheon.

Vic’s activism is exemplified on There’s A lot Going On an EP released in 2016. “16 Shots”, recounts the murder of Laquan MacDonald, a Chicago youth, who Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke shot 16 times. Van Dyke has since been charged with murder, the first Chicago cop to be in 50 years.

Early in their careers – post-breakout mixtape releases – both artists underwent addictions, but each reacted in their different ways, idiosyncratic ways.

These mixtapes are essentially sibling projects (like Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid M.A.A.D. City & YG’s My Krazy Life albums in that they share themes and content), both were produced by the same teams, both were released at the same time and both are talent-ladden, sonically rich and effective efforts showcasing two of the best rappers to release music in recent memory.

Going through these two rappers, Mensa and Chance, it’s abundantly clear that they’re not as diverse and dissimilar as public perception makes them out to be. Their differences are those of any two people with strong ideas, lots of talent and lots of anger.

Chance, ever Godly, is only the enemy of bad times, negative energy and poor attitudes far and wide. He’s a positive influence, he’s someone to look up to. But he’s also been through dark times, through addiction and its flanking forces of petty theft, silly crimes which can spiral into a life opposite to what he now leads.

Mensa, for some reason, is the anti-Chance in everyone’s mind. You know that people will call him corny and lame, however well-intentioned or righteous his cause. Domestic abuse is bad, exploitative social commentary which favours the few is bad, depression, anxiety, drug dependence and cyclical trauma. These things are a part of an interesting pair: epidemic social issues in need of more institutional support and topics of conversation for VICious Mensa.

It’s strange to see how Chance has been defended and held in such high regard. He once threatened a fan who threw water on stage in 2013. He was grabbed by someone who rushed the stage at his Coloring Book Tour and almost fought them. But his image for the most part is considered squeaky clean by mainstream audiences and the general public. Vic however has been written off. He’s seen as angry, supposeduly having  no reason to critique DJ Akademiks content on Chicago on the “Everyday Struggle” show. He’s also been chastised for his opinion on domestic violence and abuse in hip hop, especially his opinions of younger acts like 6ix9ine & XXXTentacion. Despite both trying to do good, we can see a clear distinction in how they are both received by fans and audiences.

As two artists, and friends, who came up together in the same collective in the same part of Chicago, it begs the question “why aren’t they perceived the same?”, “why is one a hero and the other a menace”, “why do we hail one as the son of the cross, and hang the other off of it?”

It’s almost like the company they keep is what’s creating this divide. Despite Mensa’s signing to Roc Nation, it’s the comments of Adam22, DJ Akademiks  and their huge fanbases – comprised mainly of kids who idolize them – that drives the hate for Mensa.

Chance had endeared himself to not only the Jay Zs of the world but also the people who talk about Jay Zs in videos on Youtube. This ensures he is not only offered the great opportunities he is, but that every right decision he makes is reinforced to create the ‘good guy’ narrative. Mensa is only mentioned when he does something bad, and it confirms that yeah he’s a guy worth hating, look at all the reasons there are…

Would a Joe Budden Podcast episode featuring Vic Mensa go over as well as a/the Chance episode did? Does Vic really need it? It seems as though he’ll be fine in the long run, and that the work he and Chance have done already will solidify their legacies. Or maybe Gatekeeping and Gatekeepers play a bigger role than we realized… Suddenly I want to G check a bouncer at a club, and I don’t even go to clubs…! (He doesn’t go to clubs but I do – Clay)

Anfernee Cadogan aka so who’s putting me up in their home studio & Clayton Tomlinson

 

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