Music by VICE

Being Vic Mensa

The rapper discusses being a young black man in America, his deep love for Chicago and Linkin Park.

Feb 22 2015, 2:30pm

This article originally appeared on Noisey Australia.

The shirt says Vic Fuckin' Mensa and the man himself speaks a lot of fuckin’ truth when it comes to his hometown of Chicago and beyond.

Since announcing his solo career in 2013, after the breakup of his band Kid These Days, Victor Kwesi Mensah has featured on Chance the Rapper's critically acclaimed mixtape Acid Rap, toured with J Cole released INNANETAPE and is now appearing with Kanye West.

During Mensa’s recent Australian tour we had a chat about the state of race relations in America, role models in rap and devilish girls on tour.

Noisey: You were born and raised in Chicago. Do you think you’ll live there forever?
Vic Mensa: I’ll live in Chicago forever, my heart’s is so deeply in Chicago. I did leave Chicago and head out on tour for more than half of last year though.

And this was with Danny Brown? What was your wildest night on tour?
Yeah it was with Danny. In Paris, we had this devilish girl following us around trying to get us kicked out of everywhere. She came into this no smoking restaurant and just stared at us and immediately lit up a cigarette. The waiter asked her to put it out, and she started cursing everyone out and put it out on the wall right in front of the waiters face...we were like, what the fuck is wrong with this little demon!

What was your musical diet growing up? Were you into Do or Die and Kanye?
Do or Die, Kanye, Lupe (Fiasco) and Twista and then Jay and Nas and all the New York stuff! I really loved Guns n Roses and ACDC and corny 80’s bands, and then I got deep into Nirvana and the White Stripes. I love the White Stripes. I cover them at shows.

How did it feel being included in the XXL Freshman Class? Do you still think it’s relevant?
It’s dope, you know it’s definitely not the end all, be all of everything anymore but if you look back over the last five, six years, a lot of the people that you see and hear today were part of it.

You seem like a positive guy and I can only imagine that as a young black man in America it must be fucking hard to stay positive sometimes. Do you use your art as some kind of catharsis?
My art is definitely catharsis. I speak about race relations and just general turmoil in our lives and shit...sometimes it feels really hopeless when you see something like Eric Garner’s murderer go untried because he’s a police officer, or you see Darren Wilson walk free, or you see George Zimmerman get rich and famous. It’s a crazy situation because in America, killing an unarmed black kid as a police officer or as a white man, that will make you rich, instantly. The same people, the prosecutor, of the case for Darren Wilson who killed Mike Brown, the prosecutor of his case was also the head of the start up fund for Darren Wilson’s defence funds. It’s a system set up against black people, how can the state prosecutor be one and the same, it’s kind of like the KKK, the way the KKK were also the policemen and judges and neighbourhood figures, it’s the same way now with the judicial system being the same people protecting the ones that they’re supposed to be judging.

So it feels really fucking hopeless sometimes and then I remember I have more of a voice, and more of a power to change than most people do, so that’s the best thing we can do, to try and to do whatever we can to influence the mindset of our peers, and more importantly the kids, the next generation. If those kids are able to have their mind frame just like pivoted away from ignorance, then they’ll grow up to a better world. It’s definitely hard to stay optimistic about it sometimes, when you get slapped and slapped in the face, but I guess that’s what makes us strong as a people, that we can be resilient to that shit.

What’s it like in Chicago right now? It feels like there is an energy, this dominant youthful force that is leading the way, especially in rap, how do you feel about Chief Keef, Fredo Santana, Young Chop and all those guys?
I fuck with Young Chop. Chop is a cool nigger man.

He’s so funny on vine.
(laughs) Yeah he’s just a funny dude in general, like in real life too! He’s a brilliant artist and I think Keef is dope, I rock with all the Chicago shit that’s making waves because it’s playing a different perspective in community. I don’t think that any of the murder messages are in anyway good for humanity but it’s like, as somebody that makes songs and creates art, we are not gonna be fucking role models for you all the time. People don’t start rapping to be political organisations and you can say that artists have a duty to spread something of substance to the world, but at the end of the day, all anybody’s got when they come in and leave this world is themselves, so people are speaking their perspective.

What was the first record you ever bought, can you remember?
Well Coconuts is the record store that I used to buy cds, lemme think for a second, I’ve been buying cds since I was in 3rd or 4th grade. Honestly, it might’ve been Linkin Park’s, Hybrid Theory.

Linkin Park must have been so massive when you were young.
Yeah they were huge! I haven’t heard them in so long, when I picked the CD up from Mum’s house the other day it was too scratched to listen to properly (laughs).

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