If you’ve yet to hear of Vic Mensa now is your chance, the talented 19 year old rapper is not messing around. In 2010 he released his first project with his Straight Up EP. The 8 track EP got great feedback within the hip-hop community, and deservedly so. First time I listened to it I had no expectations, it had just came out and had never heard of Vic Mensa before, after one listen I knew I had just heard something special. Vic is not your average rapper, as he serves as the lead emcee for Kids These Days, a band comprised of Vic and his high school friends from Chicago. The Chicago collective includes members, Macie Stewart (Vocals/Keys), Nico Segal (Trumpet), J.P. Floyd (Trombone), Lane Beckstrom (Bass), Greg Landfair Jr (Drums) Liam Cunningham (Guitar/Vocals) and Vic Mensa (Rapper). Kids These Days are a remarkably talented band and are finally starting to get noticed on a larger scale. With the release of their first EP Hard Times and performances at Lollapalooza and on Conan, these kids are making some noise. Their next project “Traphouse Rock” is set for a September release and in our interview with Vic Mensa he let us know that “Traphouse Rock is gonna be something you never heard before. Type of shit that n*ggas never even fathomed.” Read the full interview with Vic below where he talks more on Traphouse Rock, his love for Chicago, performing on Conan, shares the story of a near death experience, and more.
Click the jump for the full interview.
David: First off lemme just say thank you for this opportunity and for taking the time to talk with The Come Up Show. Much appreciated.
Vic: Thank you, man.
David: I believe you are in LA? What are you doing out there?
Vic: Mixing Traphouse Rock, new Kids These Days album.
David: Good stuff. So how old are you exactly?
David: Man, see I knew you were young but its crazy to see someone of 19 years old sound like they’ve been doing this forever. When did you start rapping and realize you wanted to make a career out of it?
Vic: I think I was like 15 years old, maybe 14 years old and I started making raps and um, at a certain point I started to feel like I was really good.
David: 15 is not that young. You hear about rappers or any artists starting a lot earlier. What took you so long to pick up hip-hop and really give it a go?
Vic: I mean it wasn’t that I hadn’t picked up hip-hop you know what I’m saying? Like I’ve been a hip-hop n*gga for a long time, when I was in grammar school writing graffiti and shit like that. I was freestyling and shit you know, but I wasn’t making songs. When I was like 14 I said I wanted to start making songs.
David: We’ll get into some of your earlier music in a bit. But first let me clarify something… your rap name Vic Mensa is a slight alteration from your actual name [Victor Mensah], correct?
Vic: Yeah. There aint nothing behind it, just thought it looked better. I mean n*gga’s call me Vic anyways.
David: And taking the H away?
Vic: With the H it’s long… It’s just long and shit. And then there’s the little Mensa society reference.
David: Ye that’s what I read somewhere. That you did it for Mensa (Society). That your raps are of a higher knowledge [Laughs].
Vic: Yeah, on some shit. Forsure.
David: So your band Kids These Days is incredibly dope. How does such a unique concept for a band come about, specially with a bunch of high school kids?
Vic: It all stems from the fact that we’re different people, with different interests and musical taste and background, so when we’re gonna come together it’s obviously not gonna be something that’s cookie cutter or that’s normal. We’re all just different people, grew up on different music and um at the time we’re doing different styles of shit and when we started playing music together it didn’t come out as one seemless genre. It didn’t come out as rock music, or rap music or jazz music because we weren’t all doing any one type of thing.
David: That’s great… I think it shows the uniqueness, there’s not many other bands out there doing what you guys do. My question, you’re a talented, confident, up and coming rapper from Chicago. Why join a band and not just pursue a solo career?
Vic: It was just natural, man. For a while it wasn’t a conscious decision, it wasn’t something that was decided to do. Those were the people that I was spending time with because of the band and n*ggas was practicing and kicking it every weekend, Friday to Saturday, get out of school, go to fucking Liam’s (the guitar players) house and kick it, make music and I loved this shit and gets to a certain point where I just realize the feeling is in the music and performing it live, and just the rush of adrenaline that shit gives is something that I felt like I wanted to pursue. Something different. There’s a lot of fucking rappers, all doing the same shit. Like fuck it why not do something else?
David: Aright tell me about the whole Save Money movement. Whose involved how did that get formed? I know there’s a lot of you so you don’t have to name everybody….
Vic: It’s a gang of motherfuckin’ n*ggas…
Vic: Me, my n*gga Chance The Rapper, Caleb James, Kami de Chukwu, Joey Purp, Brian Fresco.. man I don’t even know.. it’s just homies. We’ve all been homies for a long time and the success is in the air and mofuckas just starting to get motivated by eachother. We all been rapping for a long time, we’re from Chicago… you go to any group in Chicago, I’m sure that they gonna be trying to freestyle at parties and shit. But we were like actually recording songs like freshman year of high school, so it kinda changed the tide of things. Just the overall, um…. shit I can’t think of a word for it. People got motivated by everybody just trying to start and do it for real at a certain point, recently honestly, it hadn’t been like that for a long time…
David: Why aren’t you signed yet? And is that something you think is important to happen at this point in your career?
Vic: When it’s right it’ll be right, and if its not than its not. I think it’s just as simple as that. They show so much love and shit, I fuck with these labels. There’s definitely no burnt bridges anywhere you know, just trying to make it right.
David: Along those lines, we’re seeing more and more artists succeed on indi labels these days. So a Save Money label announcement, is that in the works?
Vic: Um, you know I can’t really speak on that per se, but I think it’d be fresh though. Be real fresh…
David: Straight Up was when I first heard your shit, and I was blown away! I remember playing “Whispers” on repeat for days! .. I still do. How old were you when you made that EP and why do you think it maybe wasn’t heard by enough people?
Vic: I was 16, to answer the first part of your question. It’s funny cause straight up got heard in a different sense than you know, like it being this internet sensation. Like all the labels were… well not all the labels… but a decent amount of label interest was guarded just off that mixtape. You know I didn’t have a crazy video for it or no shit, that was my first ‘tape ever. I just tried to make some dope ass music I didn’t think about how I could make this shit go viral or something, just trying to make good music.
David: How have you changed as an artist since that first release [Straight Up]?
Vic: I’m older.
David: But the same artist?
Vic: Yeah, definitely the same artist. I’m myself, I’m not a new person, I’m not fabricated. But I’m older, I’ve experienced more, you know I’ve got a different style… just natural progression shit.
David: KTD’s upcoming project is called Traphouse Rock correct?
Vic: Yes sir!
David: Before we get into in the album itself, I want to talk about the title. Because Traphouse Rock is more than a title. It’s a genre made by Kids These Days for Kids These Days. What is traphouse rock?
Vic: …Gimme a second on this one.
David: [Laughs] Take your time.
Vic: You know what traphouse rock is? Traphhouse rock is a loud fucking guitar amp in a 100 square foot room with the cat screaming into the microphone and some horns blowing into your ears. Subtlety at times, but that’s really what it is. Traphhouse rock is product of our escape, of our spot, of our space. Trap, and what goes on there, the energy and feeding off of each other. That’s how all the songs came about, how everything came about man, from just feeling the music.
David: Ok, I like that. And when can we expect the album?
Vic: Um, now it’s looking like September.
David: More importantly what can we expect from it musically? Are you gonna stay true to the Kids These Days sound? Or can we expect any surprises?
Vic: Nah [Laughs], I don’t think there is a Kids These Days sound yet, definitely not that the world has really heard. Traphouse Rock is gonna be something you never heard before. Type of shit that n*ggas never even fathomed. On some whole ‘nother level shit. Traphouse Rock is completely bending the parameters of commercial, underground, rap, rock, blues, whatever. Fuck all that. Traphouse Rock is a fucking middle finger to a genre. Straight up.
David: We’re looking forward to that! Along with making new music, Kids These Days had a big summer which included an appearance on Conan…
Vic: It was dope.
David: Yeah tell me more about that. And straight up being in Canada I have yet to find a working stream that allows us Canadian folk to see that video, so I haven’t even seen the performance…
Vic: Go on YouTube! That Coco shit got a YouTube page too.
David: [Laughs] But it still blocks off Canadians. You gotta be American to watch the Conan channel on YouTube.
Vic: Are you serious?
David: [Laughs] Yup!
Vic: That’s some bullshit. Who the fuck would do that?
David: Exactly. I looked forever to find that video, but just kind of gave up. I heard some seriously good things about the performance though, so if you want to touch a bit more on that experience and how it all came to be?
Vic: Conan was kinda like a victorious moment for myself of course, and Kids These Days. It was just new music, you know, young music, young n*gga shit. There was a lot of talk about Conan’s people wanting us to do a song called “Summerscent” from our EP which was written years ago, wrote that song when we were 15. And um, you know it really looked like that was what we were gonna have to do, it’s not what we necessarily wanted to do. That’s never what I wanted to do, I always felt like if we were gonna be on our biggest platform yet we should be doing something brand new and showing people what we’re doing now. Give the people a taste of who we are right now, not who I was when I was 15 years old, that shit was a while ago. It was a struggle man, really it was a grind, but we ended up being able to play a new song that hadn’t even been fucking finished writing or recorded up until like a week before the Conan show. We were on the road and I finally convinced our people to pitch it to them, to let us play something new. So the day we got back off the road we went to the trap recorded ourselves making the song called “Spottie”, n*ggas was in the studio till like 5am and shit, it was light as hell when I first went to sleep, you know, it ended up mad dope. I think I wrote my second verse which was newer for that song like fucking 3 days or some shit before Conan. Not that that shit’s like mad difficult or something, but it was super new though, I was feeling that, I was proud of that. It was a really proud moment.
* Perfect timing. A (Canadian friendly) video of the performance is finally available. Check out the performance below. SO dope.
David: Another big point in your summer was your performance at Lollapalooza. How was that experience?
Vic: Man performing at Lollapalooza was insane! That was probably the wildest shit I’ve done on stage. It was just, the energy was fucking ridiculous. 15 thousand people in our home town, you know it was a time when shit was really going well for us and we just turnt that shit the fuck up.
David: Ok, I’m sure you’ve been asked to tell this story a million times but I gotta do it…
Vic: About me falling off a bridge…?
David: You were trying to sneak in… but it ended in a near death experience. What happened?
David: Fell of a bridge more or less, and got electrocuted by a lot of electricity. I fell onto the train tracks like 30 feet below me. I didn’t break any bones, I did blow a hole out my elbow. Um fucking, I got arrested [Laughs] with a hole through my elbow, I couldn’t move my arms. I got arrested for like trespassing on the Chicago transit system for being down there. It was kinda funny actually, I fell down and you know I was in shock from the shit, I didn’t really know the severity of what was going on. The people were looking down and shit off the bridge like “ah, you okay? You need the hospital?” And um, I was trying to wave them off like “nah, nah you’re blowing my spot up I’m still trying to sneak in and shit.” And then I started walking and I realized I couldn’t move my arms and I just got sick to my stomach and I sat down which is when a rent-a-cop pulled up on me and fucking threw me on the hood of the car, cuffed me up and shit, threw me in the back. And then I was in the hospital, motherfuckers had to cut my clothes off and everything cause of how far I fell, had to keep my back stable, [doctors] think I might have spine injuries. Police were in there filing police reports and shit. That shit was crazy. Shout out to my homegirl who brought me a slab of ribs when I was in the hospital, my homegirl Brandy, that shit was love.
David: [Laughs] Shout out to her. Along the lines of getting arrested I saw an interview from you a while back where you mentioned your first time getting arrested was when you were 13. Is there a story behind that?
Vic: That’s from a song, I dunno if I ever said that in an interview. [Laughs] You know, I had some run ins with the police and shit. Kid shit, I told you I used to write graffiti, so little kids can’t be out fucking 3am, 4am running around with spray cans. I definitely got pulled over, shit like that. But what I was talking about I think was actually when I was um, [Laughs] I was with Niko [the trumpet player] and a couple of our boys and I don’t know what the fuck is up with this cause it seems mad stupid to me, but when I was a kid they wouldn’t sell me condoms, they wouldn’t sell me rubbers, so I’d steal that shit. I don’t even think I was fucking, I was just bullshittin’, I wanted to put a condom in mailbox of this girl I used to talk to. Spit in it, on some nasty shit [Laughs]. So I stole them and then the Arab dude that ran the store was like “you stop right there” and I just started backing against the door, I mean we were Savemoney already pretty much, that’s what n*ggas was doing, just doing shit acting bad. I juked the fuck out this one n*gga, tried to grab me and shit, I juked the fuck outta him and bounced. They held my boys in there though, so it was like you gotta come back to help my boys in there. Then I just came back and then we got arrested…
David: [Laughs] Definitely a good story. Back to the music. You just recently released a new song called “Naked Pictures”. I know the video is blowing up on twitter and deservedly so. You definitely need to speak on the concept of the video and shout out to those actresses who get an A+ for their work.
Vic: [Laughs] Yeah shout out to Mia, Playboy model…
David: So if you could touch on the song, the video and also what project the song is going to be on?
Vic: That was one of my numerous collaborations with my homie Thelonious Martin on the beats. A select few of those joints is going to be put into a small EP that we’re gonna put out pretty soon. I don’t have a date yet for that yet but it’s called Part Two. I made [Naked Pictures] when I was going on a road trip with my family. I made it about a year ago, maybe a bit more honestly. I took a flight out to New York, but the night before I was staying up late cause I had to catch a flight early in the morning and um, I just started writing that shit. Then I really really made the song when I was in New York I was in upstate New York kinda like in some real rural, middle of nowhere type shit and my uncle collects cars and I was just sitting on the hood of an old BMW he had, just looking out into the blackness, into nothing. It was like a real, I dunno, feeling of mystique and shit and I was talking to this girl… and I was trying to get her to send me some naked pictures [Laughs] and that’s how the song came about.
David: I want to talk more about your city. Tell me what you love about Chicago?
Vic: I love everything about Chicago. I think that Chicago is a place built off character. There’s just a certain realness to Chicago that you can feel as soon as you step onto the street. I’m in LA right now, I got love for LA, I don’t really know too much about the city, I haven’t been everywhere, I didn’t grow up here. But that feeling I get when I’m leaving LA and going back to Chicago I feel like I’m stepping back to reality cause everything is real in Chicago. It’s just a great city with heart and conviction. The cities just something that molds people into… rapping machines [Laughs]. Chicago’s the shit, man.
David: Why do you think the music scene in Chicago is flourishing like it is? Especially recently in the hip-hop community. What do you guys do different?
Vic: I’ve heard people say it’s something in the water… Right now I’d probably attribute it to just n*ggas being hungry. You know, they see people getting it and there’s just a feeling in the air that something’s about to happen. And shit is happening, everyone wants to be a part of it. People want to get theirs and when you’re seeing people around you coming from the same city really starting to get it, no one wants to be that n*gga sitting on the sideline without shit, everybody wants to be in the game.
David: Good answer. Staying in Chicago, I know you’re a bulls fan, but do you really think they have a shot with Rose supposedly gone till March?
Vic: I think the Bulls play great together as a team, you know there was a run this past season when D Rose was out and they was just killing. With that said, I dunno if I really dig the direction of the NBA right now. I mean I know that major league sports is a franchise through and through, but right now that shit is infiltrating everything about the game to me. The n*ggas with the most money are just trying to stack their teams with crazy players. It just doesn’t feel like it’s gonna be the same game, it’s gonna be some different shit, but I guess we’ll see. I know the Bulls are going to do their thing however it goes.
David: Definitely, I do kind of agree that the direction seems to be…
Vic: It’s just crazy, man. Who does that shit? N*ggas used to have loyalty to their team. Not to say people can’t move around but it’s just like when you put these different players together and kinda stacking the league in a weird way, you know what I’m saying?
David: I was watching some Olympic basketball this morning, I watched the USA team kill France, and I’m thinking is this team comparable to the 92’ dream team? Do you think they’re comparable?
Vic: Um, you know I think I would say that they are. The game has progressed like anything does. There were crazy players obviously in 92’, but things have progressed in terms of talent and skill. I think that the leagues got some insane talent in it right now, so I would say it’s comparable.
David: A couple more Chicago questions. Lupe or Kanye?
Vic: Why I got too choose? I love Lupe and Kanye’s music, I probably dig Kanye’s newer music more. Lupe destroys that shit live though. When that music he said he didn’t want to make, the Lasers music, he killed it live. I haven’t seen Kanye perform since Glow In The Dark, but I saw Lupe performing not too long ago and he’s undoubtedly one of the best performers in the game.
David: Staying with Chicago artists. Do you have a top 5 Chicago artists of all time? Throw out some names..
Vic: Do they gotta be rappers?
Vic: Um… I’m gonna do rappers and just throw Curtis Mayfield in there because that n*gga was a pimp. Ye, Curtis Mayfield, Kanye, Lupe, Common, um… R. Kelly [Laughs] I fuck with that n*gga.
David: I know you’re caught up with Savemoney and working with those guys. But who are some artists outside of Savemoney and even the Chicago area that you want to work with in the future?
Vic: Would love to do some shit with Kendrick Lamar obviously, that n*ggas the best rapper rapping. I think it’d be dope for Kids These Days to do some music with Andre 3000. I’d also like to do some shit with Cody Chesnutt, I fuck with Cody Chesnutt.
David: I think an Andre 3000 and Kids These Days collab needs to go down. That would be crazy! Alright so Drake, J. Cole, I’ve seen some Blu mentions, how do you feel about these comparisons constantly getting thrown at you?
Vic: All those n*ggas are dope. I don’t really care about comparisons.
David: That’s it? Does it motivate you?
Vic: Yeah I really just don’t give a fuck. Everybody’s gonna find someone to compare some shit to always.
David: What is your favourite Vic Mensa song?
Vic: Man, it might be this song called “Drop Top BM”, me and Thelonious shit. I still gotta get it down right I still don’t have a recording of it though.
David: And we’ll find that on the upcoming project with Thelonious [Part Two]?
Vic: Yeah, that’ll be coming pretty soon.
David: Looking forward to that. That’s all I got, so before you get out of here any last words for the people, for Canada.
Vic: Traphouse Rock coming soon. Savemoney still alive.
David: There it is. Where can we stay up to date with all things Vic Mensa and Kids These Days?