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Watch Vic Mensa and Damon Albarn Perform Live Together

And peep our interview with Vic Mensa.

Vic Mensa has officially arrived. His mixtape Innanetape was hot property in the hip-hop blogosphere last year and holds a 4.5/5 rating on DJ Booth. Since then he's been blasted into the mainstream consciousness following a tour with English wonderkids Disclosure, his recent cover as part of the XXL Freshmen Class of 2014, and an appearance alongside Damon Albarn during his headline set at The Governors Ball last night.


But Vic’s appearance on the XXL cover alongside dudes like Rich Homie Quan, Lil Durk and Isaiah Rashad is a bit of a misnomer. He’s a pretty great rapper, but he’s also a killer singer: as demonstrated on new track “Down On My Luck” where he works his magic over a straight up house beat and convinced everyone that has heard it to go apeshit. It feels like a natural progression for him as an artist – reimagining the 90s hip house of Jungle Brothers and Rob Base before it was ruined by Flo Rida and Pitbull - and it’s coming to a dance floor near you. You rapped over Disclosure’s “When A Fire Starts To Burn” a few months ago and more recently “Down On My Luck” - where did the idea to sing/rap over a house beat come from? I made “Down On My Luck” a while ago - in the Fall. It wasn’t so much like I had the idea to rap over a house beat, we just made the song and it was before my tour with Disclosure. I had the idea to perform a song that the audience on the tour could vibe with and connect to easily. And with “A Fire Starts To Burn”, I saw how people reacted when Disclosure played it on the tour. I’d had the idea to rap over it for a long time, so after I watched their set in New Orleans, I decided to go into the dressing room and just download it and looped it up on my computer and started writing. I recorded it as soon as I got home. “Down On My Luck” is pretty different to everything on Innanetape – how have hip-hop heads reacted to it? There’s always negativity, that’s a main part of any creative endeavor, sustaining yourself through criticism. It’s not a new thing; there’s no situation where you make everyone happy. It doesn’t happen. So whether it’s me putting out a house song and rap fans being like ‘this is whack what the fuck is this?’ or if it’s me dressing different in high school and people like ‘damn what you wearing? You look whack’, people won’t always understand what you’re doing no matter what you do. Peoples’ opinions can never be my motivation. I always write for me and for my people. I might have a fanbase in mind occasionally when I do things but I’m not making music for a certain group of people. I’m just making music because it’s an expression and extension of myself like my own arm, and extension of body and mind. Is the singing something you’re looking to pursue? I’ve got songs that are all sung, and I’ve got some that are all rap, and more often I’ve got ones that are a mixture of the two. Melody is a strong tool to employ as a musician and I think it’s one of the most effective expressions of emotions, so it’s prevalent in my music a lot. I mean what I say and I say what I mean. It reminds me a lot of the hip house movement from the 90s - do you see house music becoming more entwined with hip-hop? I do think that house is a vibe right now and it’s not like a lot of these other fads and trends. It’s got some history to it. It’s not a fly-by-night music. I can’t tell you whether other people are going to rap over house music but I do think that rapping over dance music in general is something that is probably going to become popular. You teaming up with Disclosure reminded me of the way Danny Brown worked with a bunch of British guys on his last record - are there any other young British producers you’re hoping to work with? I need to connect with more British producers. I really love the song “German Whip” - we used to drop that when I was in England with Danny Brown. I dropped it at all of my shows. I’m looking to become more knowledgeable and versed on young English producers. I want to work with more people. What was your first feeling when you were told you were going to be on the cover of XXL? I was excited. I found out pretty close to the time I was supposed to go and do it, less than 24 hours before actually, when I was in the studio. I stayed up all night working and then got on a plane at 8am and flew out to New York. It felt like it was supposed to be. Do you feel the weight of expectation that comes with being included on the Freshmen list? Not at all. I have the music to prove it, y’know? It’s not an arrogant thing, it’s just that I know the music I have will change a lot of peoples’ lives. Down On My Luck video is out on July 27th on Virgin EMI Follow Lev on Twitter: @LevHarris1 Chance The Rapper and James Blake: The Sitcom DAMON ALBARN X RICHARD RUSSELL - BACK AND FORTH …