vic mensa innanetape Vic Mensa   INNANETAPEVic Mensa – INNANETAPE
Self-released: 2013

Through his proper solo debut INNANETAPE, Chicago-born Vic Mensa represents the most refined and rewarding strain of Californication, curating a soundscape that seemingly draws from the bright rays of sun light and endless summer fun that the famed state stands for.

It’s an incredibly interesting dichotomy that sets the parameters and lyrical focuses of songs such as “Orange Soda” or “Lovely Day” against the well-known but poorly-covered problems plaguing Vic’s home city, known to some as Chiraq. Broadcasting across the “innanets” from a war zone that’s “ugly” and filled with “demons,” the wunderkind in-the-making welcomes the listener to his world in the introductory track. A series of blatantly live-played, rock-inspired drum hits immediately signify the dexterity of the project, and the stage is set for the young man who formerly headed hip-hop/alt-rock collective Kids These Days. Within the realm of his release as well as the outside music world, no other novel artist who has yet to ascend to national heights from Chicago rivals Vic’s potential star power. The fully-equipped artist’s genre-spanning, eccentric vocal capabilities and developed ear for live sound-infused, genre-bending backdrops makes him the artist to watch for from the Windy City.

Vic’s hype has been rapidly growing since the inaugural days of summer thanks to a slew of rightfully well-received tasters, all of which collectively showcase his undeniable, unique talents as a rapper (“YNSP”) along with a keen ability to utilize minor melodies flawlessly. One listen to the aforementioned, lovable standouts “Orange Soda” and “Lovely Day”, and the crossover possibilities are obvious. No skill or structure is sacrificed (nor are any questionable artistic decisions committed) to reach this level of promise.

Small details suggest a heightened focus executed during the creation of INNANETAPE; The subtle, fulfilling loop-around that connects the project’s final moments to its very beginnings; the skit preceding a flight to “Hollywood, LA”; the smooth transition orchestrated by drum patterns between “Welcome to Innanet” and “Orange Soda”, the later of which containing a twinkling piano arrangement not found on the single version. With these minor artistic touches that together sew the entire project into one progressive entity, the overall quality of an already superb free album grows.

Vic flexes on “Tweakin’,” providing sharp, elongated streams of consciousness filled to the brim with wordplay: “Where do babies come from? Porkin’ the stork/ Poorly parked pullin’ into your Porsche with a Ford/ 44 on the dash, put a dent in your door/ Close your mouth, the witness never make it to court.”

More importantly, he slips a singular line into the barrage of rhymes that might go unnoticed, but is crucial in understanding the underlying currents flowing beneath a project that is “happy” on the surface: “I don’t want to fight/ I just want a quiet life and a nice little suburban place to cry at night.” Even here, Vic’s addressing of Chicago’s problems is very implicational rather than direct, forcing the listener to reach the truth that Mensa is not as carefree as he appears at times, and that the causations for the times during which he is are not always innocent.

With every handful of tongue-twisting, smile-inducing, sonically pleasing moments on INNANETAPE, there comes a very subtle line inclusion or emotional tone to a word that hints at a certain level of Vic’s self-imposed ignorance: “If the world ends tomorrow, will you smoke with me?” Mensa asks on the excellent, Cam-produced “Holy Holy”. His acknowledgment of the negatives in life are entirely exposed on “Fear and Doubt”, a track the sees Vic going through intensive reflection and self-examination: “No one to hold me but me, I mean it’s hard not to be stressed…/ …I been heavin’ cause all this smoke I been breathin’ in just to not be depressed.”

For a free album that encompasses enough warm musical components to continue the feeling of summer’s presence for a little bit longer, what is arguably the best free album to drop in the second-half of 2013 is also an incredibly sorrowful one if you pick up on the clues scattered–at times directly but more so indirectly–across the project. As fantastic a listen as INNANETAPE is, this is perhaps the most laudable piece of all: Vic is not just multi-talented, but multi-layered. Tune into his frequency and get lost within the innanet. Or don’t. You’ll be hearing and seeing Vic everywhere you look soon enough.

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4 out of 5