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Vic Mensa has a lot to be happy about right now. Earlier this year Kids These Days, the highly acclaimed band that he fronted, decided to part ways due to creative differences. Left in limbo, the interest that fellow SAVEMONEY crew member Chance the Rapper generated for the collective, and the resurgence of the Chicago hip-hop scene, put wind in the sails for Vic. Now with a stellar debut solo project out in the form of INNANETAPE, the future is bright for the Illinois teenager. Like Vic says on the tape’s outro ‘That Nigga’, “A lot of people probably thought that I wouldn’t be on my feet, but the only thing you can count on in this life is change.”

You’ve left Kids These Days behind to start your solo career, how different is your approach to making music as an individual rather than as part of a band?

I made a lot of the songs on this new project from the ground up, whereas in Kids These Days there were a lot of components of the music that didn’t involve me. It’s like I’ve got eight arms that are all involved in every aspect of the project. I also got more into the production side of things too; I contributed a few beats to the tape.

How did the concept of the INNANETAPE come about?

At this point of my life I’m not really in on the psychedelic drug thing, but I can say that I was in a different state of mind when the internet concept came into fruition. I was mind-blown about the vastness of the internet. The release itself is very broad musically and inclusive of a lot of different genres and different emotions and styles.

What is the message you’re trying to project with your work?

Whenever people ask me what the message is that I want to convey, I never pinpoint one thing because there’s so many thoughts I want to get out. There’s less of a singular identifiable thing and more of just an insight into the inner workings of my mind. And I think that goes the same for my SAVEMONEY brothers. Most people’s message doesn’t go too far past materialism and we just wanted to be the opposite.

Do you think the SAVEMONEY collective are a reaction to the flossy, stunting rap music that has been prevalent for the last decade?

I don’t even think that us doing this is a counter towards flossing, or materialism and shining. It’s just that we as people are real people, and there’s not that many real people that are portrayed in rap. People pretend to be rich in music until they get rich, or at least rich enough to justify the image they try to convey in their music. That’s just not where we’re at with it.

What is your perception of having a successful career in music?

Music is so profitable I can’t lie and say my idea of being a successful musician doesn’t involve a ridiculous sum of wealth. That’s not the be all and end all of it, but that’s one of the levels. I think my idea of being a successful musician is to be able to make some classic records and albums that can be revisited fifty years from now and still mean something. And not to the people who just heard it back in 2013, but to kids who are hearing it for the first time. I want to make music that impacts people the way I have been impacted by music.

So do you think as long as an artist has a classic song or a classic album their legacy will stay intact despite a weak catalogue or personal shortcomings?

To me, I see mad people hating on Lauryn Hill, saying she smokes crack and all that, bringing up her tax evasion shit. None of these things will ever trump the fact that she made The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, which is hands down one of the best albums ever created, and not just in the hip hop/R&B spectrum. So Lauryn Hill will go down in history, regardless of everything else that may have happened because of that. A lot of your favourite artists might have a lot of albums, but you only know a couple of them bitches. Only a couple of them really, really matter. So I think that even if somebody does have ten albums, it’s highly doubtful that they’ll have one that’s better than D’Angelo’s Voodoo. So D’Angelo will forever be a legend to me, regardless of D’Angelo getting fat and smoking crack (laughs).

Is there anything you feel is missing in hip-hop right now? 

I haven’t hopped into the fire yet really, I think I’m about to bring some whole next level to this shit. And more than just hip-hop, I feel like just because of musical boundaries placed upon artistry by circumstance, we don’t have to play within them. Rap is held up to a rap set of limitations that I don’t really want to fall into or make music with the intent to fall into. I just make music.

Photography by Allen Daniels.

This story is featured in ACCLAIM magazine issue 31 – ‘The Loud Issue’ – available here.