—story by Jesse Wiles
It's been three years since we last and first got a full-length project from Vic Mensa. So it's fair to say that his fans deserved a new project and when that project finally came—Vic came through. There’s Alot Going On is the perfect release for Vic Mensa. The project, which serves as an hors d’oeuvre for his forthcoming debut album Traffic, is filled with soaring triumphs and glaring weaknesses.
Things get off to a hot start with the Papi Beatz produced track “Dynasty.” The song serves as a nice change of pace from the upbeat singles, like “U Mad” and “No Chill,” and finds an introspective Mensa lamenting on the days before Chicago was Chiraq, the stress of signing to a major label, and the unremitting violence that has engulfed the Southside. His last line serves as a warning to other rappers, “They should call the rap game my name. This is my game. Vic!” The song concludes with the ominous chanting of “16 shots,” the number of times that 17-year-old Laquan McDonald was shot by a Chicago police officer in October of 2014.
That chant leads into the album’s second song “16 Shots.” Mensa airs out his grievances toward the Chicago Police Department with an unapologetic chorus that gets straight to the point, “1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-11-f*ck 12!” Mensa ends the song emphatically stating, “This for Laquan on sight! When you see Van Dyke tell him I don’t bring a knife to a gun fight!” Van Dyke is the officer who murdered Laquan McDonald, who was carrying a three-inch knife.
The next two tracks on the album are easily its low points. “Danger,” the third song, seems out of place, especially after the serious nature of “16 Shots,” and the introspection of what is to follow. It would have served Mensa better as a loose single. With references to bitches and hoes and an uninspired second verse that starts off with glorifying drunk driving, it idles the progression of the project.
Next up is “New Bae” which sounds more like a rip off Young Thug or Travis Scott and showcases Mensa’s atrocious off-key singing voice. The song plays like a faux R&B hit with too many raunchy lines that lead to nowhere and a hook that sounds like every 17-year-old experimenting with auto tune.
Fortunately, those two songs are followed by “Liquor Locker” and “Shades of Blue.” “Liquor Locker,” an ode to a liquor delivery app, holds the only feature on the entire project, coming from Ty Dolla $ign. The song is a good way to begin the close out of the album as it’s laid back and sounds like a subtle, late-night, summertime hit.
“Shades of Blue” gives the tone of the project a total makeover. The piano creates a soundscape for Mensa to paint a graphic picture of the daily grind of Black America. Mensa is at his best when he raps over minimalistic production like this.
The project culminates with the title track “There’s Alot Going On.” Here, Mensa lays everything on the table; pain, addiction, mental health problems, the poisonous relationship with his ex- girlfriend, the break up of Kids These Days—his former band— and the stress of deciding which label to sign with.
Despite being just seven tracks long and having two songs that fall flat, There’s Alot Going On is just what the world needed from Vic Mensa. Any conscious listener can see the struggle through his music. That being said, his first official Rocafella debut Traffic, must be better.