Vic Mensa has grown up a lot over the past five years. While Mensa himself is responsible for most of that growth—the result of kicking a nasty drug addiction and improving his mental health—he also had some help along the way.
In a new interview with the Chicago Tribune, the Roc Nation emcee told music critic Greg Kot that Pharrell Williams, who Mensa worked with on his new single, "Wings," among several other records, implored Mensa to turn his self-loathing and self-doubt into ego death.
"Pharrell gave me a good piece of wisdom," said Mensa. "He told me, 'You're lucky to be in this situation. You're not the person who has to lie and steal from people, and you have the ability to move on.' He played this music that was perfect for me. It brought the story out of me, that internal monologue of self-loathing and doubt. Anyone dealing with depression and anxiety gets these fleeting thoughts that pollute your mind. I'm just tearing myself down in the verse, and in the chorus I'm climbing the tallest building and spreading wings, implying that I would jump off the building. It's not about death of the soul, but of the ego. It was about letting my ego jump off that building, a shadow of me jumping off, and another incarnation flying to the sky. I let my ego commit suicide, and the pain I had been carrying and turning into aggression against myself and others, the reckless drug abuse, the validation through promiscuous women, the crazy lifestyle—I was killing that side of myself."
In addition to Williams, No I.D., who is listed as an executive producer on Mensa's forthcoming debut, The Autobiography—due out this Friday, July 28—encouraged Mensa, like he did JAY-Z on 4:44, to be open, honest and vulnerable. "I believe people want to hear the truth, the vulnerability, and that's where Vic needed to get to make the kind of album he wanted to make," he told Kot.
The Chicago native might not be walking down the same path as his Roc Nation brethren, J. Cole, but following in the footsteps of his label boss, whose new album has been met with critical acclaim and adoration, isn't a bad alternative.