RH First Look: Vic Mensa

“The only way it’s really affected me personally is by making me feel like I have to get it popping ASAP while I still am so young, but a bit of motivation never hurt anyone,” says Vic Mensa, the youngest member of Brainiac Society a collective of artists, DJs, and producers handpicked by Naledge of Kidz In The Hall.

Mensa was added to the crew in the winter of 2009, attending studio sessions as soon as the final bell rang at Chicago’s Whitney Young where he is still a student. “I’ve pretty much always been able to get by in school without having to do too much, so I’ve really just kept on doing what I’ve been doing. There have been those nights when I miss homework time because I’m in the studio, but it’s all good.”

It’s all good because Mensa displays “better than good” emceeing abilities. Put in his music and it’s very easy to forget that he’s not old enough to vote. On the heels of his first release, an EP titled Straight Up, we turn our First Look spotlight on Chicago’s youngest hopeful, Vic Mensa.

Vic Mensa: Rubyhornet first look

RubyHornet: First question, is Vic Mensa, your real name?

Vic Mensa: Yeah, Victor Mensah is my real name, but I flip it to Vic Mensa (without the H) for the rap thing. On some Mensa Society type ish, which is a society for people with super high IQ’s.

RubyHornet: You are by far the youngest emcee I know that is actually good. What can explain this crazy occurrence?

Vic Mensa: I’ve kinda always been the youngest dude doing whatever I’ve done, starting with breakdancing and then graffiti and all that other good stuff, so when it came to rapping, I guess I just fell in line with where I thought I should be. Not to mention I’ve always been around the old heads and all that, so I guess I just caught knowledge.

RubyHornet: Having grown up in a new musical era, who are the artists you most look up to, and where do you go for your musical knowledge?

Vic Mensa: Well, my favorite emcee is Common, but musically I take influence from everywhere. I look to all sorts of artists for different things, ranging from D’angelo and Badu’s harmonies, to the Pharcyde and Slum Vill’s posse hooks and backgrounds, J Dilla’s awesomeness, Marvin Gaye’s soul, Pimp C’s trillness, all that… I’ve been doing a lot of vinyl digging lately too, and listening to a lot of jazz.

RubyHornet: Speaking of knowledge, one of your biggest supporters is Naledge of Kidz In The Hall. Tell us how you guys met up.

Vic Mensa: Through the homie V.I… I met Vic Spencer like two years ago at an in-store cocktail type party Solemates was having, and we ended up having like a nonstop hour and a half cypher off that sip… Then a while later he told me that he had showed Naledge one of my joints, and Naledge was thinking about putting me down in Brainiac Society, which was dope because I had been thinking it’d be cool to be down from the first time I heard about the crew. So from there we just linked up.

RubyHornet: Has he told you what he likes most about your emcee skills? What’s it like to have him in your corner?

Vic Mensa: I think Naledge just likes the fact that I can spit, straight up. And it’s dope to have him riding with me, he’s a real smart dude with a lot of insightful things to say about EVERYTHING lol.

RubyHornet: So I’ve heard of emcees dropping out of college to pursue music. Being so young and in high school, what’s the academic vs. music balance like?

Vic Mensa: The classic college dropout… I’ve pretty much always been able to get by in school without having to do too much, so I’ve really just kept on doing what I’ve been doing. There have been those nights when I miss homework time because I’m in the studio, but it’s all good.

RubyHornet: Are your parents supportive of your musical aspirations?

Vic Mensa: Ehhhh, depends on what you call supportive. They just bought me a beat machine for my birthday, so shout out to moms for that, but I know they don’t really want me to be a rapper. But hey, it is what it is.

RubyHornet: You attend Whitney Young in Chicago, do you share this part of yourself with other students and/or teachers or is it kept out of the school?

Vic Mensa: Its funny because I don’t really talk about it like that, but everyone seems to know I’m a rapper. Probably because I rap ALL the time. So I guess I sell myself out a bit with that.

RubyHornet: Tell us about this project that is about to come out, and what it’s been like putting it together.

Vic Mensa: It’s called Straight Up, it’s a 6 song EP with two bonus joints. It’s short, but Ive been working hard on it for a while trying to make everything just the way it needs to be. It’s pretty much all me, the only features are my girl Aja Monet, my boy Nico on the trumpet, a singer named Sophie and a violinist named Daniel Robbins. And that’s all on one song. So yeah, it’s really just a handful of ill joints that I put my heart into and I’d like for people to hear.

RubyHornet: Youth can be a positive and negative. Can you talk about how it has helped and perhaps hurt you musically? Do you feel pushed off at all because you are so young?

Vic Mensa: Being young catches peoples ear, especially when they like what they’re hearing. So that can definitely open doors. It hasn’t really hurt me, just because I don’t rap about kiddy stuff, so I don’t really get the whole kid rapper thing. The only way it’s really affected me personally is by making me feel like I have to get it popping ASAP while I still am so young, but a bit of motivation never hurt anyone.

RubyHornet: For many of our readers this will be an introduction to you and your music, give us three things you’d like people to know about you before checking out more music.

Vic Mensa: Hyde Park is where it’s at… Kids These Days is that s**t… Straight Up!

Alexander Fruchter

Original co-founder of RubyHornet. President of Closed Sessions

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