Track Meet: Vic Mensa's "V Tape" Balances Bravado & Raw Emotion
Updated: Jan 26
In the "Track Meet" series, we break down albums or projects track by track to show where sports and hip-hop meet.
A group of '90s kids from Chicago have staked their claim in the rap game. Among them is Vic Mensa, a fiery MC signed to Jay Z's Roc Nation who went through a kind of experimental punk phase the past few years, but returned to his Optimus Prime rap form with his "V Tape" EP.
At only seven songs, the project reminds rap heads of Mensa's penchant for storytelling, detailing life in Chiraq and Drillinois facing discrimination and violence. His music has always been rich in sports references as Chicago is home to the GOAT Michael Jordan and he seems very aware of what's going on even beyond the three major sports of football, basketball and baseball. On his 2016 track "Dynasty," he compared himself to Holly Holm beating Ronda Rousey in a historic UFC upset to describe his own takeover.
Given that "V Tape" is an EP, this article will be a little shorter, but it's such a good project that fans of Vic's Save Money days and skeptics who need to hear some real bars will equally be pleased.
"Talk to James on the phone daily/He 26 in Dixon, they don't want him out until he turn 80/That's why I ain't patriotic, leave that to Tom Brady"
Vic Mensa has been using his platform to raise awareness about the discrepancies in the justice system and he continues that on "V Tape." On the opening track, "VENDETTA," he tells about his friend James who is in prison at the young age of 26 and is expected to serve a lengthy sentence. This is one of the reasons he says he isn't proud to be an American, so will leave the title of "Patriot" to NFL superstar quarterback Tom Brady. While he recently signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the six-time Super Bowl champion carved his legacy with the New England team. He also has a complex friendship with President Donald Trump.
Side note: Vic props fashion designers Virgil Abloh (Off-White), Kerby Jean-Raymond (Pyer Moss) and Jerry Lorenzo (Fear of God) for their contributions to the culture.
"Two-time felony charge, gun-toting/Smoke 'em like Lamar, ball like a young Odom/Where crack hit the Chi the same year as Michael Jordan/My trap phone got more rings than Robert Horry"
Mensa flexes some basketball knowledge on this track. He gives a shoutout to Lamar Odom, the Los Angeles Lakers star who was a decorated high school athlete before winning two NBA titles. Genius also suggests that the first reference to Lamar is meant as a nod to Baltimore Ravens star quarterback Lamar Jackson, who thrills with his speed on the turf as much as his precision with his arm.
Mensa flips the script to show the power of the crack epidemic and how the drug dominated the Windy City in the 1990s, the same time Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls were crafting their historic 3-peat championship runs. Weave those lines together and then come to Mensa boasting about his side hustle having as much success as Robert Horry who won seven NBA titles with various teams throughout his 16-year career.
"You rolled over and gave me the cold shoulder in your apartment/When just the night before you FaceTimed me at 4:30 a.m./Drunk from the club, lookin' for someone to love/Lotta ballers in the city for All-Star, but it just ain't them"
In this pained love song, Vic Mensa enlists Snoh Aalegra as they try to navigate messy relationships, questions of commitment and temptations of the city. The NBA All-Star Game was in Chicago this year, so Vic's love interest obviously had options. Who doesn't want a baller? Mensa was actually a part of the festivities and did a collaboration pop-up with streetwear queen Melody Ehsani.
Ok, so there aren't any obvious sports references on the concluding track of "V Tape," but "REBIRTH" is such a beautiful song, we just want to give you the opportunity to listen for yourself. Mensa bares his soul as he reflects on his ascendant career while dealing with personal trials. He ends with a note of hope that we could all use right now.