Vic Mensa has been a staple figure in hip-hop since his 2013 mixtape, INNANETAPE. He went on to stun the world, particularly Europe, with the house hit “Down On My Luck,” and linked up with Kanye West for the banger “U Mad,” and then he fell off the radar.
The debut album Mensa had originally been building up to never came, and was ultimately scrapped in favor of the artist's official debut album The Autobiography. Speaking with Ssense, Mensa broke down how his 2017 debut was a release, one that gave him much-needed perspective on mental health.
“I wrote The Autobiography as a form of catharsis, but I also wanted to explain,” he said. “I’d done this song with Kanye and a lot of people were like, ‘What happened to the album?’ I wanted to be honest about my trajectory and my path. I wanted to say, ‘Yo, I wanted to give you an album but I was fucked up on drugs.’ I wanted to be transparent so I could heal because I was hurting myself and people around me. I also wanted to open a dialogue about subjects that felt unapproachable. A lot of young men of color have trauma that goes unaddressed for fear of being perceived as weakness. I’m not weak. I feel strong. I think honesty is paramount to strength. My experiences gave me something to say.”
With The Autobiography, and the 2016 EP There’s Alot Going On, Mensa took time to address the demons and vices that held him back from releasing his debut in hopes of setting himself free. Both projects tackled relationship issues, struggles with mental health and medication, and his drug abuse.
Struggling out in the open—and with major-label backing to spread the message—Mensa not only took responsibility for his shortcomings, but he also allowed his music to be a voice to people finding themselves in similar struggles. The truth of both records is that addiction and depression are not glamorous, but they’re also not weakness.
Mensa’s candidness on wax plays an important role in de-stigmatizing conversations around addiction and mental health. Seeking out help does not make anyone lesser, and if Vic Mensa can go on the record as having healed and feeling stronger, so can his fans. As Mensa alludes, strength comes from honesty, and honesty is the one requisite to asking for necessary help.
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