Since “U Mad” I’ve been quick to get on Vic Mensa's case. I’ve written, tweeted, and talked with anyone who would listen about the fall of Vic Mensa during his rise. I lovedInnanetape, and Kids These Days will forever hold a special place in my heart, so to feel like that same unique emcee was turning into just another rapper cut me deep. Out of more obligation than interest, I checked out Vic’s new project, There’s Alot Going On, hoping I could find some ammunition for a hot take, but instead I was treated to a six-minute title track that featured Mensa pouring his soul onto the floor for us to swim through.
The fan-artist relationship is strange and complex. We become fans of an artist because they let us into their most intimate moments and deepest thoughts. We feel like we know them, and in some sense we do. But behind the artist that we know there’s a real person who often gets obscured or pushed aside by a carefully crafted and presented image.
When I say “Vic Mensa changed” it feels personal because of my passion for his music, but in taking it so personally, I forgot that Vic Mensa is also a real person. I hear “U Mad” and think he’s a sell-out, I hear that Ray Rice elevator line and think he’s an asshole. I think of how different his music is now and wonder what happened. But earlier today, when I learned what actually did happen on the incredibly personal, jarringly vulnerable "There's Alot Going On," I got much more than I expected.
It was like, May, I just moved to L.A., I was tryna figure it out / Medication for depression that I cut cold turkey, had the kid manic
The Adderall started wearin' off and I went into a deep writer's block / All over a song that I couldn't finish that I wrote about signin' to the Roc / Isn't that ironic? I was feelin' so psychotic
The violence and the lies slipped suicide into my mental health / I did acid in the studio one day and almost killed myself
"There's Alot Going On" the record made me rethink everything I had ever written about Vic. He was no longer an artist who had sold his soul for a record deal and a Roc chain, he was a 22-year-old kid, dealing with serious issues in an industry that will chew you up and spit you out. To think I played a part (albeit an indirect and minuscule one) in putting more pressure on Mensa makes me feel like the asshole.
I love music, I take it very seriously--that's where my passion for Mensa's music, good or bad, comes from. But no amount of music, no album, no song, is ever worth the health of the artist behind it. One line that really stuck with me, one that stopped me dead in my tracks, was when Vic raps:
The next month I dropped 'Down on My Luck' and had Europe goin' nuts / But I couldn't even appreciate it at the time, I was goin' through too much.
I never wanted Vic to fail, and to think he couldn't enjoy one of his biggest successes, it really hit me. It can be hard to share your deepest demons with your closet friends, let alone a public audience, and I applaud Vic for his unflinching honesty.
Not that he will read this article, or has read any of the other things I've written, but I feel like I owe him an apology. With no real knowledge of what was going on, I leaped to conclusions. I would never kick someone while they are down, I know what a struggle mental health can be, and while I can't change what happened, moving forward I'll certainly be more cautious in considering the human being behind the artist.
Too often we take and don't give, placing outlandish and unfair expectations on artists. We expect them to deliver classic album after classic album and when they don't, we blame them without any benefit of the doubt. Artists change, life is a constant battle between highs and lows, and to expect consistent perfection is unfair and unrealistic. If we care about the music so much, we need to care about who makes it.
Pay some mind to the man behind the curtain.