Review: Vic Mensa – There’s Alot Going On

Vic Mensa’s career has taken off since the release of his 2013 debut mixtape, Innanetape. Since, Vic has gone onto release a string of singles and Soundcloud songs, ranging from captivating, strong releases such as “Down on My Luck” and “Drive Me Crazy” to forgettable cuts such as “I Been” and “All That Shines.” Finally, after almost 3 years and numerous experimentations in different sounds, Mensa has delivered his follow-up project, There’s Alot Going On.

For someone who has tuned out Vic since his last project, there’s not only a lot going on but a lot has changed. Vic has turned from relatively carefree, rapping over smooth, natural production to politically-charged and 808-driven. Production on the EP, primarily handled by new collaborator, Papi Beatz, feels like a refinement of all the experimentation Mensa has done since Innanetape, serving as the perfect canvas for Mensa’s rhymes and vocals.

Vic’s does not spend any time trying to hide his political views, between the EP’s cover showing him as target practice and a song titled “16 Shots.” Mensa makes these political views more than political. They feel personal, heartfelt, not a political statement but simply his own feelings on events important to him. On the banger-conscious-ignorant hybrid “16 Shots,” Mensa raps about his views on police on black violence, particularly the death of Laquan McDonald, who happened to be a close friend of one of his friends. Vic picks ups on another politically fueling tragedy, the water crisis in Flint, Michigan on “Shades of Blue” over a somber piano and dense synths. While this track is not as sonically as pleasing as “16 Shots,” Vic fills the song with meaning and thought-provoking lyrics making this song’s message more valuable than it’s melody.

While “Danger” felt lacking during its premiere at Madison Square Garden during Yeezy Season 3, especially next to Young Thug’s crisp banger that also premiered, “With Them,” in the context of the project it finally comes to life as a reckless anthem where Vic’s autotuned voice prominently commands attention over bouncing synths. The EP’s two records with radio potential are the high-pitched crooning “New Bae” and guitar-filled drinking anthem “Liquor Locker (feat. Ty Dolla $ign).” Ty Dolla $ign, the EP’s sole feature, comes in with strong breakdown on “Liquor Locker,” a perfect fit on the song. Both find Vic at his catchiest and most melodic. Both will have listeners putting them on repeat and singing along as they are easily the most accessible parts of the EP.

While “Dynasty,” the intro, was at first the most memorable moment on the EP, with Vic’s relentless flow over an equally as aggressive beat, he manages to top it on the show stopping title track. Vic Mensa combines a soulful chorus with one of the most detailing, personal and open verses I have heard from a rapper. This verse details extremely personal aspects of Vic’s life from depression, drug abuse, relationship violence, label politics and his career, painting a clear picture of Mensa’s career and emotional state since he blew up post-Innanetape. Personally, this track brought me chills the first time listening to it as a Vic Mensa fan who has seen him release songs over the past few years but not understood where he was personally in his life. This song is certainly the best song on the EP. More artists need to include this kind of detail, honesty and openness in their music. These qualities in Vic’s music and “There’s Alot Going On,” specifically, give Vic’s music a certain authenticity that cannot be replicated.

While after almost 3 years one would hope for more 7 songs, There’s Alot Going On has delivered a quality-packed, thoughtful and concise project that is equally as much of a statement on Vic’s thoughts about himself as the world around him. As much as Vic is saying something, he is expressing it in a musically pleasing fashion as his musical identity, lyrical ability and sound have grown tremendously since Innanetape. There’s Alot Going On has delivered while keeping us hungry for me, precisely what Vic was going for as his long awaited, renamed, debut album is only a few months or less away.