By: Zoe Hines
Founder of Ballistic Sounds.
Chi-Town rapper Vic Mensa dropped his E.P. There’s A Lot Going On this June. Mensa’s album name perfectly describes his songs which tackle an array of important subjects such as gun violence, struggles for people of color, poverty, and personal issues that he has worked to overcome. Vic Mensa is able to grasp all of this content in seven tracks with beautiful lyricism and flow.
The opening song, “Dynasty” displays his confidence and highlights that he is destined for success. Mensa often expresses his love for Chicago by reminiscing on past experiences he had in the city before rising to prominence. The E.P. shifts when “16 Shots” begins to fill the listeners’ ears. “16 Shots” represents the number of times Laquan McDonald, a 17-year-old black boy, was shot by a Chicago Police Officer.
No longer does he mention his confidence or growth to fame, but rather the controversy of police brutality. The anger builds as he delivers the first verse, which reveals his perspective on people of color being violently attacked and killed at the hands of the police. When the chorus approaches, he releases his rage. The song takes a drastic turn from fury to anguish. Laquan McDonald’s lawyer, Jeffrey Neslund, commences the murder trial of McDonald. His statement forms a vision of terror in our minds as we hear the details of McDonald’s death.
There’s another change in momentum. After you have listened to “16 Shots” and “Danger”, which capture Mensa’s madness and social views, the synthesized melody within "New Bae" and the song's depiction of love reveals the versatility of the artist. Mensa replaces ruthless bars with passionate singing to express his concerns for finding someone who will set him straight. “New Bae” ends with a transition from looking for a new love to finding one in “Liquor Locker.”
If you’ve ever heard his old band Kids These Days, you know Mensa’s history with rock music. “Liquor Locker” starts off with a smooth guitar riff that works perfectly with Mensa’s seductive voice and flow. Mensa illustrates the effect alcohol has on him by slipping into a sentimental mood and discussing his feelings for his new love. The smooth guitar riff collaborates with a nice hip-hop beat to complete the chorus. The guitar riff changes from electric to acoustic as Ty Dolla Sign serenades the listener with an explicit verse describing the sexual visions that are incited by his intoxication. Mensa’s vocals and meaningful lyrics partner with slow beats to bring multiple emotions to the track.
“Shades of Blues” kicks off with a beautiful piano tune as Vic spits about poverty and suffering. Though he criticizes the media and the public for their lack of awareness and action on these urgent problems, by the end of the track he admits that he is like everyone else. By admitting his own fault, Vic’s lyrics “Now here I am talking ‘bout a revolution. And I can’t even spare a dollar to the movement but I’m in the strip club spending dollars on that movement” bring awareness to a broken system and society’s jaded mindset.
The synthesized melody slowly gets louder as Mensa expounds his journey in “There’s A Lot Going On.” This last track digs deep, encapsulating the stress behind success through a description of drug addiction and a battle with suicide that take place as Mensa’s dreams simultaneously begin to come true. As Mensa narrates hitting rock bottom and lifting himself up through cathartic artistic expression, the listener gets a glimpse into how much music means to him.
This E.P. goes in many different directions, touching on numerous subjects relating to issues in the world and issues within the artist. Bringing up all of these problems in seven tracks constantly changes your emotion from anger to remorse, adoration to awareness and bewilderment as you realize Mensa’s life in the limelight is not what it appears to be. This could be one of the best projects out now. If you want to listen to something real, give There’s A Lot Going On a listen.