Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Vic Mensa - The Manuscript Review

In my eyes, there's no relevant rapper in Hip-Hop today who's more mediocre than Vic Mensa. And by my standards of artistic appreciation, nothing is worse than forgettable. That much was evident last year when Mensa released There's Alot Going On, a cliche-riddled EP that contained the most avoidable typo in the English language in the title. Coming from a supposed soothsayer, someone decrying the actions of modern society while acting holier than it all, failing to spell a word taught in grade school correctly was inexcusable. But I digress. While the Alot blunder swiftly explains Vic Mensa's persona far greater than any write-up could, time needed to be taken with The Manuscript to see if Mensa's corrected his wrongs. Long story short; he hasn't. Supposedly the first of two EP's set for this summer, with an official debut album still looming in the wake, Mensa's made some minor improvements as an emcee, but still comes with baggage that drowns out any growth. The Manuscript, ironically, fairs better than There's Alot Going On because of the fact that these four songs are merely throwaways, not a collection meant to enact social change. They capture Mensa in a never-ending parade of pseudo-struggles and pseudo-successes.

Much like There's Alot Going On, The Manuscript begins with a surmise of Mensa's recent trials and tribulations. Like a "previously on..." intro to a television show, 'Almost There' works as an average kick-starter to fire Mensa, and his devoted fans, up. The classic Boom Bap beat works with Mensa's declaration that "this is for the fans who said they want the old Vic," even though he'd go on to deny them their pleasures by saying "I've grown too much to ever be the old Vic." I like this, if only for the fact that Mensa acknowledges continued growth as the way to prosperity. For the most part, 'Almost There's' a fairly standard hype track, if we're excluding Mr. Hudson's clashing hook that benefits the song in approximately zero ways. And lest we forget Mensa's insistence on taking ten leaps back with any step of progress, taking from Eminem's book of self-congratulatory lines with "my piece of American Pie is never ending, you know pi, never ending, that's a slick line." No Vic, no it isn't. And it still wouldn't have been if you didn't announce it to us immediately afterwards. Thankfully, Mensa manages to stay on point flow-wise for the majority of the track, something he'll continue with on 'Omg.'

Featuring Pusha T and Pharrell Williams on production, 'Omg' feels like a Clipse track, which might be the first time Mensa has imitated an artist who wasn't evidently prominent. The song works, and may be his best yet, although that's not saying much. However, any promise of a changed man quickly evaporates with 'Rolling Like A Stoner,' which is a pitiful song both musically and lyrically. With irritating production that screams dreadful frat party, autotuned yelping, and an announcement that he's somehow antisocial (this is gold to someone who actually is), 'Rolling Like A Stoner' might be one of the worst songs of 2017. Hilariously enough, Mensa proclaiming that he's "got a problem nobody knows" on a song about drug intake immediately reminded me of Danny Brown's 'Ain't It Funny,' and how poorly handled 'Rolling Like A Stoner' is in comparison. Making matters worse, 'Rage' closes out The Manuscript with something I had hoped we could avoid; Mensa and his social commentary. Topics range from depression to technology to drug addiction to police brutality to our government. 'Rage's' blunderbuss only feels necessary as a means to convince listeners that Mensa's troubled, and so is the world. Which, like The Manuscript as a whole, is pretty pathetic.

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