Chicago has been releasing a lot of mixtapes/albums just in time for the Summer. Joey Purp’s under the radar but excellent iiiDrops and Chance the Rapper’s highly anticipated but overall disappointing third mixtape Coloring Book were both released recently and both have their fair share of tracks perfect for summer listening.
Yet in the chaos known as Summer, we got something that we didn’t think we would get: new Vic Mensa. Vic hasn’t released any sort of project since 2013’s Innanetape aside from a few singles here and there. While most of us expected Vic to release his highly anticipated debut LP Traffic, he instead blessed us with a new EP to tide us over until then.
There’s Alot Going On is a clear departure from Innanetape. There are no fun songs like “Orange Soda” or “Tweakin’” or even “Hollywood LA.” No. Vic’s newly adopted style is pure emotion; somber lyrics combined with depressing beats to provide a very different tone than we previously have seen from Vic. But somehow, it really works. Even if it isn’t the fun loving teenager from the south side that we’ve come to know and love, it’s easy to tell that a lot more thought and emotion went into this release.
On this EP Vic is laying it all on the line, tackling some very provocative and current themes. One that hits close to home is the song “16 Shots,” which is about Chicago teen Laquan McDonald who was shot 16 times by a police officer (hence the title of the song). In fact, police brutality and black rights (most noticeably on “Shades of Blue”) are recurring themes, as opposed to the days where Vic would rap about going to the club or doing drugs. As a self-proclaimed activist for the city of Chicago, it’s definitely commendable that Vic decided to address these issues and makes the EP more appealing to the masses.
In terms of the tracks themselves, it’s classic Vic Mensa. He can squeeze a lot of words into one line which is impressive. While many people have a problem with his flow, and to be fair it isn’t the greatest out there, it’s still good enough and works well with the beats. The beats lend to some run-off and Vic is rewarded with an album that doesn’t sound as disjointed compared to Innanetape. He’s clearly matured from his last effort and while the themes and sound are a departure, it doesn’t hurt the project at all and Vic fans should be happy with the final product.
The wordplay is the best thing about the project. It’s very enjoyable to listen to, and while it isn’t nearly as “fun” as Innanetape, it’s just as clever if not more so. Lines like “Rookie season, Steve Nash, they are just my sons, Catchin’ Alley oops, catch ‘em in the alley, oops” off of “Dynasty” are abundant on the album. But the wordplay also addresses many of the album’s themes very well, with lines such as, “Shot ‘em 16 times, how fucked up is that? Now the police superintendent wanna double back, Cops speeding up to the block like a runnin’ back” on “16 Shots” or “Kids in America don’t have clean water to drink, Like they cut the EBT, took ‘em off of the link” on “Shades of Blue” sending a very powerful and current message that need to be addressed. As a sucker for conscious and political rap, I probably enjoy way more than others but it’s still enjoyable even for a casual hip-hop fan.
Even though it’s a seven track EP, the lack of features is still shocking, especially for an artist like Vic Mensa who loves his features. The one feature is a verse from Ty Dolla $ign on “Liquor Locker” which is good enough; not the best feature but not the worst either. For someone signed to ROC Nation who could get the likes of Jay-Z or his new best friend Kanye West on this project, it was surprising to say the least. Maybe he’s saving all of these features for his debut LP, but we can’t really know.
The hooks on most of the songs are the worst part about the release. They sound very “radio-y” which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but they are overproduced and frankly don’t sound very good. Especially on “Danger” and “16 Shots,” both hooks try to fit the trap label without really having any knowledge of the genre; not to mention the fact that Vic’s flow doesn’t really work in this context. Also, the length of every song is kind of unnecessary. There are a lot of outros that last way too long, and make me want to skip to the next song as soon as the lyrics are over.
With that being said, There’s Alot Going On is the perfect appetizer for what’s to come. The amount of maturity that Vic puts out on the EP is apparent and fans are rewarded with an album that, while not really “Summer-y” like Innanetape, is just as enjoyable. While we anxiously wait for Traffic to see if Vic Mensa propels himself to superstardom, we can continue to exhaust Innanetape and There’s Alot Going On.
Written by Max Borushek