Have you ever had an ex get engaged?
Have you ever had an ex get engaged 10 months after you broke up?
Trust me, I know from experience.
I'm happy with where I'm at and I'm definitely happy we broke up. We're still friends. But still, there is a weird feeling when you walked the same path with someone and then realize how far apart you now are. We never considered getting engaged, because it wasn't right for both of us. I'm a romantic, but don't want to even think about a ring until I am standing strong on my own two; I mean, I still eat cereal out of a cup, and based on how she viewed marriage, matrimony wasn't in the cards. That's why her new engagement is surprising, Not because I want her back, not because I still am in love with her, but because I'm forced to confront the fact that we're now in such different places. I wish her the best and hope it all works out, but it doesn't take away from that weird feeling of seeing someone who used to be a part of my identity change her identity by becoming a part of someone else's identity.
We may have dated for four years, but when I met her, it wasn't love at first sight. We came together slowly. On the other hand, when I saw/heard Kids These Days it was instant. I've been with plenty of women gone to enough shows to I know a truly special act when I see it. When the show started the sweaty, young crowd crammed into the tiniest venue in D.C. and the stage was illuminated. Time stopped. Since that night Kids These Days became one of my favorite bands of all-time. They interpolated classics from Curtis Mayfield to Nirvana, there was "Bud Billiken." It was perfect, it was musical love. I wasn't so removed from my teenage years, and for a group of teenagers to be able to create an album that diverse and that exciting was astounding to me. Unlike my prior relationship, I was making future plans for us. I couldn't wait to see them live again. I couldn't wait for what the future held.
And then they broke up.
Though my love for Kids These Days knew no boundaries, it wasn't meant to be. What made the Kids These Days break-up sting more than any other break-up was that I was helpless. At least when I ended things with my former trap queen it was the right thing to do, but I couldn't make sense of this one. There was no grand gesture I could make to win 'em back. I couldn't stand outside their window with a boom box blasting "Talk To You." I couldn't show up at their door in the rain; it was completely out of my hands.
The pain of the break-up to my now engaged ex lingered for longer than I had hoped but it's gone now, yet the Kid The Days break-up still stings. When I go back and listen to "GHETTO" I can't help but think what could have been. The same thing happens when I listen to Vic Mensa's solo material. Even after Kids These Days, I was a fan of songs like "Orange Soda" and "Hollywood LA." The way he blended jazz into his music was great and in addition to a flow that resembled a babbling brook—constant yet serene—he could even sing.
More than any note he could hit it was the heart in his music that drew me in. Take "Holy Holy." The song has a carefree vibe and yet Vic gets pretty existential with lines like, "What would people think about if I died?" that was heavy and yet still perfect for a sunny day. Or also on "Hollywood LA" where he so eloquently raps:
"Drank in my cup while I'm cutting my wrists / Because all these rap niggas all sound so same / I'm going to stay this just one last time / This one last thing / People are sheep to the radio heard it don't take too much to make a dumb ass sing"
That line was a nice reminder that Vic Mensa would never make a song because it's the hot sound because it's popular. Though we were not the same as we once were we could still be friends because he would never be that cookie-cutter, carbon copy emcee. I may not have loved "Wolves," I definitely didn't like "Wimme Nah" or "Major Payne," but they could be forgiven. I dug "Down On My Luck" even though it was totally unexpected. I told myself those songs were outliers, brief departures, so I didn't have to face the truth that Vic may not be the artist I thought he was, the artist I wanted him to be. I was happy living in ignorance.
And then "U Mad" dropped.
It was the engagement. Like when she moved in with her fiancé I now recognize that the writing was on the wall, but "U Mad" is a sign I can't ignore, no matter how delusional I try to be. The beat knocks for the club, but I don't want Vic Mensa in the club. I listen for those heartfelt, honest and jazzy cuts. "U Mad" is such a disappointment because I fell in love with Vic's music because it wasn't "U Mad." Whether it be my ex or Vic, they both seem to be making decisions that go against who they were; or maybe more accurately who I thought they were. Even with Vic's questionable songs listed above, I never thought things would go this far. I never expected Vic to make an ignorant club banger where he sounds like an Auto-Tune-less Future and then makes Ray Rice elevator references at a failed, contrived attempt to be shocking and brash. I thought he was better than this:
"And all my women in doubles, I'm at the DoubleTree / All I hear hoes callin' out wildin', on the road like every day / We everywhere, any day and anywhere that the money say / No questions, no questions please, just on your knees / Blow, don't sneeze, bitch shut up, don't breathe"
How could the man who helped make Kids These Days, one of the most unique, original sounds I have heard, turn into every rapper that I listened to KTD to get away from? To be fair, if Kanye wanted to make a song with me I'd make whatever song he wanted to. To have your name next to his is an incredible accomplishment. I just wish Vic didn't sell his soul to the Devil In a New Dress. Strip away the banger of a beat and "U Mad" is generic, bland and feels forced. Vic shines on more colorful, jazzy instrumentals because it fits his skill set. He has a very flexible cadence, a unique flow—a perfect blend of gravelly and nasally—and a solid singing voice. None of that is on display here; a song like "U Mad" requires a more rigid, forceful flow. That heart and that passion that once drew me in is nowhere to be found. "U Mad" sounds forced, artificial, like he got in the studio and did whatever Kanye wanted.
This isn't a Vic Mensa record.
Or maybe it is. Maybe he's changed, or maybe I never really knew him. Maybe like I find myself doing with my ex, I'm living in the past. She very well could be ready for a lifetime commitment and Vic very well could be more Kid Ink than Kids These days now. Maybe Vic is engaged to G.O.O.D. Music now. How many other artists has Kanye invested this much time into? It would not surprise me in the least bit if this Vic Mensa/G.O.O.D. Music thing is a mindie situation. As much as it doesn't fit in my eyes, it might be the future. If that's the case, I'll settle for a relationship like I have with my ex; Vic and I will grab a coffee or Chipotle every once and a while, but we will never be as close as we once where.
So no, I'm not mad Vic. Whether it's music or relationships, you can't control someone else, they have to live their life for them, not you. The disappointment still stings though. Sometimes it just doesn't work out, but there's always a part of you that still hopes.