There’s honest, there’s blunt, and then there’s Vic Spencer.
The self-proclaimed Rapping Bastard’s stock in trade is an unfiltered rawness and humor stacked on top of fierce lyrical skill that’s likened him to Sean Price and Redman. There’s caustic wit in lines like “He didn’t want nothing but the worst for niggas / He sat up in the church with Swishers” from the self-eulogy “Vic Spencer Is Dead.”
He doesn’t rap on songs as much as he barrels through them on his own terms like the brick wall on the cover of Doc’s Da Name 2000, a skill he attributes to his adventurousness with flows and bars:
“I know that I’m doing a lotta rapping, so instead of keeping it traditional with hooks and what not, I just write what the beat tells me. I think music is an artform, and it’s your creativity and how you create things and how people gravitate to your sound. If I do take a beat and start rapping crazy and coming with different flows, that’s because I know I ain’t have no hooks on deck [laughs]. So I got tons of bars to keep you intrigued and keep you in that moment and still paint a picture.”
When Spencer began work on his latest single, “Ultra Magnetic Bodybags,” premiering exclusively at DJBooth, those same rap spirits caught him. Like most of his songs, it’s a buffet of lyrical punches, some absurd (“I make shit that make niggas park the Mercedes / And kill you, your security, and your baby”), some self-aggrandizing (“I toe tag beats / I’m gettin strong as shit, I can lift a car soon”) but still potent as a Chicago freight train and carried by Spencer’s rich baritone. It takes a certain kind of MC to turn lyrical shadowboxing into a UFC-ready spectacle and add their own tint to golden age nostalgia.
Spencer found the beat—produced and split in half by Boston beatmaker EvillDewer—on SoundCloud after listening to his latest project, the SonnyJim collaboration Spencer For Higher. One boisterous tweet later (“I would body this. Period."), the two moved to whittle the five-minute instrumental down to suit his cadence. He originally wanted to only rap over the hazy drum kicks of the first part but was eventually drawn to the more menacing back half as well. Both sides lurch and bend around the 4/4 time signature sweet spot most rappers are scared to leave, but Spencer wrangles it with a bitter smirk.
As plain-spoken as his lyrics are, Vic still feels misunderstood by a scene that doesn’t support him and gatekeepers and fans eager to write him off as a “trash starter.” He rarely holds his tongue both in his music and on social media, a habit that’s burned plenty of bridges in the past. But seeing the crowds scatter when there’s no shit left to be talked continues to get under his skin:
“I feel like Chicago doesn’t have a 'Chicago’s Redman' or a balance to where the type of music that I make is an option. That bothers me more than anything. Like, you see a person working hard and selling out vinyls, doing this and that. But you don’t give me no love when I’m doing that. But when I’m at these rapper’s heads and speaking my mind and speaking my truth, you got all the words for me. I believe that it’s a consensus and I just use it to my advantage. They don’t understand why I’m doing that. I used to be cool with some of these people. They did some things that struck a nerve and they can’t be fixed at this point, so I’m misunderstood because people ask, 'You heard of Vic Spencer?' and they say, 'Oh yeah, Vic Spencer is that guy that be hating on all the other guys.' It’s people that’s in positions to get the music out there that believe this stuff. When you really get to know me, you know it’s not like that, but it’s a shame that it’s people’s perception based off of social media and not real life, so I just take the berries with the lemons and make some type of concoction.”
As our conversation ended, it dawned on me how far Vic has come as an artist. He forged a bond with Sean Price and his family shortly before Price suddenly passed in 2015. He found a kindred spirit in fellow Chicagoan Chris Crack and formed one of the most lyrically vicious duos this side of Run The Jewels with Chris $pencer. He formed a relationship with European label Daupe! Media, which specializes in limited CD/vinyl runs that sell out in seconds. He’s released no less than 10 projects over the last six years, with dozens of other songs burning holes in a stack of hard drives. And this is before you consider his work in Chicago’s public school system.
On paper, Spencer has little left to prove. Sure, keeping it real can go wrong sometimes, but every once in a while, Vic just needs to lay out a lyrical body bag.