Brimming with the defiance and grit of a punk/grunge rock star, Vic Mensa delivered The Manuscript EP on Thursday, June 8, 2017. A prequel to his yet-to-be-titled debut studio album, the four track record is a continuation of Vic’s thoughts on racial inequality as well as his personal struggles as discussed on 2016’s There’s Alot Going On.
A member of Chicago music collective SAVEMONEY, Vic Mensa is no stranger to incorporating a variety of styles in his music. Just as Chance the Rapper peppers in gospel inspired choirs and refrains in his tunes or frequent collaborator Mick Jenkins draws influence from jazz cats of yesteryear, Vic Mensa is quite clearly finding inspiration in black leather clad rock musicians for his most recent work. On “Almost There” a light vocal distortion follows similar stylings of his performance on “Danger” from There’s Alot Going On, though the first verse incorporates cadences and puns similar to Comeback Season or Thank Me Later era Drake. “I’m rapping like a Google Home the way I talk to ya,” or “Got more soul than your grandma’s kitchen,” stand out as Vic most out of character moments on the tape, though, as he mentioned on the track’s intro, it’s for all his “fans that want the old Vic.” Additionally, the outro on “Almost There,” performed by Mr. Hudson, shores up Vic’s rock star mentality, singing, “Deep down, everyone’s a rock star,” implementing vocals reminiscent of 2008’s “Paranoid.”
Continuing into the “Omg (feat. Pusha T),” Virginian producer Pharrell continues his penchant for uncredited track assistance, as he handles the hook in his trademark, anti-melodic talk-rap style. Amidst an appropriately placed “F*ck Bill O’Reilly” interjection, “Omg” and much of the rest of the project presents Vic’s music and mind frame in a state of decay, at times swelling but generally relying on sparse guitar lines and minimal bass that is somewhat synonymous with the deterioration he sees in his hometown Chicago. Almost unsurprisingly, Vic composed much of this project in 2016 alongside There’s Alot Going On, a time during which he annexed himself from social media and wrote tracks on topics like police brutality and excessive force against the youth, as evidenced by last year’s “16 Shots.”
“Rage” however, stands out as Vic’s most experimental cut on The Manuscript, as a light piano intro and some genuinely impassioned signing breaks into a pure alt-rock jam. Vic doesn’t overstep his vocal range, using it perform a pensive track on which he ponders the meaning of his life’s pain and injustice as he (and others) have dealt with the torment of drug addiction, legal struggles and institutionalized inequality. Though running just under 16 minutes, Vic Mensa delivers an important EP, both to the reemerging music scene in Chicago, as well as to the notion genre flexibility in 2010s rap.