First Listen: Vic Mensa, x 'The Autobiography'
He’s realized it all & almost lost it all: Vic Mensa, ‘The Autobiography’
Love, Lost, Injustice, and Suicide.
Vic Mensa goes through it all on his one-hour debut, The Autobiography. Instead of hiding from his demons, Mensa puts them on display. The project itself executive produced by No I.D. is a story of realization. Didn't he say he'd do it? He makes sure that you give him credit for it on the album’s intro: Didn’t I (Say I Didn’t). “Because even as a boy / I always knew I’d be the man” Mensa proclaims on Memories on 47th St. In knowing all of this at a young age, it did not hide from him the injustices of the police system. Mensa recounts being thrown to the ground by the cops as early as the age of twelve. Building on the success of his last two EP’s, There’s Alot Going On & The Manuscript Mensa makes sure not to shy away from the subjects that are currently burdening the black youth. Mensa comes off his high horse on Rollin Like A Stoner and shines a light on how normal it is nowadays to disguise problems that one may be facing behind the use of drugs and alcohol. This continues the opening theme of the album; Mensa is realizing things about himself that he is just not yet ready to address.
Chicago is embedded deeply on Mensa’s first LP as he walks us through not only what he is battling but the battles the city continues to face itself. Mensa memorializes a murdered friend from multiple viewpoints on The-Dream assisted, Heaven on Earth. Mensa’s first verse is undoubtedly akin to the feelings of several other young men and women who have lost loved ones too soon. Mensa reprises his fallen homie on the second verse who has reminders for him: “But you know you got to stay off them drugs man, they no good for you / I see you in that bathroom stall suicidal with that gun in hand / How could you wanna die? Shit is so good for you.”
This is the point in the album where Mensa’s suicidal antics that were lightly laced in Rollin Like A Stoner are criticized. The Pharrell Williams and Saul Williams assisted track Wings pit Mensa against the voices in his head. Mensa is questioning himself heavily here like all of us do at certain points in our lives. The Vic Mensa mask is removed here as we are introduced to Victor: “Introduction to Victor, not Vic Mensa / The one you never meet in an XXL issue.” His thoughts are daring him. “Go and run to your sedatives, you can’t run forever Vic / Climb the tallest building and spread your wings.”
The-Dream is back on Heaven on Earth (Reprise) to talk Mensa off the ledge. Mensa recounts his lowest moments as now he is far from realization. He is in the act. Suicide, a topic that is not often discussed in the black community is in the foreground on The Autobiography. “As I stood in the bathroom with a 9 millimeter in my mouth / Empty Henny bottle on the couch / The mirror in front of me reflected everything I hated in those around me.” He realized it all. He almost lost it all. Is there room for a rebirth?
The Fire Next Time is the rebirth of Vic Mensa. “Out of the fire I found a fire inside,” Mensa opens. He has lived and he has learned. He won’t stop and he can’t stop now. Mensa finds his confidence just in time to wrap up the album. There is a beauty here as we see the story of The Autobiography transform from realization, loss, and rebirth. And after experiencing such things it is time to recollect on We Could Be Free. “Why I survived all the days that I could have died / Who am I to contemplate suicide?” Mensa finally accepts his purpose. We could be free if we only knew that we are slaves to the pains of each other Mensa states. The Autobiography is a defining moment where the Chicago rapper focuses in on the pains that we all face daily, not as a meaning of mourning, but to show that in using our pain in a way to positively affect change is when we will truly be free.