Chicago rapper, Vic Mensa has been around for awhile, and yet he still struggles with finding his own voice.
The former Kids These Days member has a few projects under his belt, and has even worked with iconic artists like Kanye West and Skrillex.
Unfortunately in recent months, he’s fallen into a firing line of criticism through his drastic style change, as well as being vocally critical of deceased rapper XXXTENTACION and his abuse charges. Obviously XXXTENTACION is not absolved of his crimes just because of his passing, however, Mensa went about critiquing him in way that would guarantee him intense backlash from the hip-hop community. Not to mention his past confessions of domestic abuse show him to be a hypocrite.
Because of these controversies, Mensa’s new EP, “Hooligans” has been immediately denounced by the general public. Some have even gone as far as to say his career is over. I, however, don’t feel it’s nearly as bad as everyone makes it out to be.
The opener, “Dancing in the Streets” with The Neighbourhood singer, Jesse Rutherford operates as a very dramatic entrance to the project. Mensa brings some decent socially charged lyrics over a melodically dense instrumental. Rutherford really steals the show towards the back end with his angelic vocals being lifted into the heavens by luscious strings.
The single released in promotion for the EP, “Dark Things” has actually grown on me quite a bit since its initial release. Before, I just saw it as a copycat of fellow Chicago rapper Juice Wrld’s signature sound, but now I can at least appreciate some of the melodies Mensa incorporates into his flows. Some of his deliveries are pretty corny, like when he sings, “And I know I said I quit drugs last time. That was last time, life in the fast lane.” While it’s not exactly a highlight for me, it’s far from the worst thing I’ve heard this year.
“Dark Things” isn’t the only time Mensa sounds eerily like one of his contemporaries. In the openings for “In Some Trouble” and “Rowdy,” his cadences parallel Blueface and 6ix9ine perfectly.
Transitioning to“In Some Trouble,” Mensa and Ty Dolla $ign trade melodic flows that are easy on the ears over this R&B and rock infused beat. The lyrics didn’t contain much, but at least the singing is pretty good.
G Herbo’s feature on “Rowdy” is really the only worthwhile aspect of it. It’s easily the most aggressive track on “Hooligans,” and yet Mensa struggles to make a legitimate impact on the listener.
He sounds the most out of place on “Reverse” with G-Eazy, where he makes an attempt at a G-Eazy style pop-rap track like something you would hear off of “When It’s Dark Out.” Of course G-Eazy doesn’t really do anything that would save the track, he mostly sounds like he came in to grab a check and leave.
Mensa doesn’t stand out all that much on the soulful, “The 1 That Got Away/No Shoes.” Charlie Wilson on the other hand kills it on the hook. The second half of the track has this Kanyesque auto-tune looped instrumental that sounds okay in the beginning, but it continuously loops without progression to a point of unbearability.
Melodically or lyrically there is nothing noteworthy on “Deserve It” or “Klonopin.” Mr Hudson’s feature tries to be equally as epic as Rutherford’s, but it falls flat on its face. The way the EP ends makes it sound much more incomplete than it actually is.
As a whole, this thing isn’t as bad as X fans will make it out to be. The features are pretty decent and Mensa’s singing has improved immensely. Unfortunately, his Achilles’ heel continues to be his sonic misdirection. He continues to shoot for numerous sounds that are often hit or miss. Considering this is yet another lackluster project under Mensa’s belt, it isn’t really all that clear where he’ll be able to go from here. Maybe through a break and intense self reflection he could potentially improve himself, but at the moment his future is not looking bright.
Best songs: “In Some Trouble,” “Dancing in the Streets”
Worst song: “Reverse”