Interview: Vic Mensa Talks about High School, His Alterego, and more

Rap has always been a young man’s game. With the Internet leveling the playing field in recent years, that sentiment has never been more true. The Masked Gorilla is the definitive youth voice in hip­hop, covering emerging rappers and producing exclusive interviews since 2009. With that being said, we fittingly teamed up with Green Label for a bi­monthly interview series focusing on young rappers who are on the brink of grabbing mainstream attention.

Before Vic Mensa could even drive he was circulating the blogosphere with his music. However the Chicago rapper truly gained traction later in high school, with his band Kids These Days. The seven­piece alt­rock/ rap outfit toured the country, starred in a Nation­wide commercial, and played on Conan, all before breaking up this past May.

With the band behind him, the now 19 year old rapper is preparing the release of a new mixtape. We spoke with Vic about the Kids These Days breakup, Chance The Rapper, his alter­ego, and more.

You’re only 19 years old. We remember you back when you were 15 rapping with the Braniac Society. What were some of the difficulties being both a highschool student and a rapper with a budding career?

­ I mean, it wasn’t necessarily challenging. There were times when my peoples wanted me to be more focused on school, you know, and I was more focused on making music. But really I was able to do my thing though. So I think the biggest challenges, you know are those that you put upon yourself really and also just not having the money to do everything that I might want to do. But really that’s all part of the game, just maneuvering and working with what you got. That’s what Save Money is all about, nah mean.

Your band Kids These Days started when you were in high school as well, how exactly did you all come together?

A couple of the cats, Nico the trumpet player, Liam who played guitar and sang, and the bass player and the drummer, they all met at this music program, their Saturday music program. And Nico had known each other for a lot of years, that’s like my brother, so when they started that band he hit me up to come through and then ever since I came through it just clicked and that was it.

With Kids These Days you toured the country, starred in a nationwide commercial, played on Conan, and were covered by Rolling Stone. After all that success, what exactly led to KTD breaking up?

The group disbanded because of creative differences. You know, not seeing eye­to­eye on direction and really there was just so many talented people in the group, too many talented people for all of our songwriting abilities and just creative output to really blossom while having to make space for the others.

You met Chance The Rapper in high school too, right?

Yeah.

Did Chance’s recent success influence your decision to end Kids These Days and really push forward with a solo career?

No. I didn’t break up the band first of all, it was another person’s initiative. Completely unrelated with what was going on with anybody else, it was really just internal.

It seems like every young Chicago rapper signed a major record deal in mid­2012, what was it like witnessing the scene which you spent years in all of the sudden garnering major nationwide attention?

I mean it was a completely different thing for me. At that point in time I was part of the band and that’s really what I was focusing on. Every young rapper in Chicago didn’t get a deal. GBE got signed, a bunch of trap rappers from the South Side. GBE and King Louie got record deals. What I understood at that point and time was that the path that I had embarked upon and what I was doing was just a lot different from what they were doing. Something with a lot more longevity, but also something that is less of a quick hit you know. So really I just applaud everybody doing their thing and big ups to GBE and their doing what their doing, but it didn’t really do much for me.

Did you feel any pressure to sign a major deal as well?

I don’t see other people signing deals as being like pressure to me to be like “oh I gotta sign a deal” because I’ve been offered a number of deals and I don’t want, you know I’m not signing to something that’s not correct. Something that somebody else thinks is right, may be right for them, but that doesn’t mean that that’s my path. And Kids These Days actually had a record deal! Right before we broke up, we signed a record deal. It wasn’t
even a skimpy petty record deal either, we signed a decently sized record deal before we broke up. Luckily we broke up close enough to it, to be able to get out of the record deal.

You’re getting ready to release your solo mixtape INNANETAPE, what’s the story behind that title?

The INNANETTAPE! Yeah, it’s kind of just, it revolves around this concept of a kind of alter­ego of mine know as “The INNANET.” It just represents continuous change, growth, and evolution. Because that’s what the internet is, but also myself as the INNANET and the INNANETTAPE music that I’m making is just really forward thinking and not easily classifiable as one thing. It breaks down boundaries and it’s just some next level stuff, so
that’s the INNANETTAPE.

When can we expect INNANETAPE to be released?

Release date coming soon!

You recently signed with ICM, what’s the plan after the mixtape release?

Yeah definitely catch your boy on the road. Overseas, got some cool stuff cooking up in the UK so you know just a lot of different ill stuff after the tape.