Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Vic Mensa

  • Innanetape [self-released, 2013] ***
  • There's Alot Going On [self-released, 2016] A-
  • The Autobiography [Roc Nation, 2017] **
  • I Tape [Roc Nation, 2021] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Innanetape [self-released, 2013]
Pronounced as in "internet," not "inane," a word I guarantee was known to this more verbal than musical MC back when he was making his bones on a premature mixtape ("Yap Yap," "Tweakin") ***

There's Alot Going On [self-released, 2016]
The Spotify hit on this seven-track placeholder for Mensa's Roc Nation debut is, what a surprise, its sole sex track: I'll tie you up, you bring Kiki along, etc. But give him credit for ignoring the crack trade--his drug songs are cautionary tales about Adderall addiction and dropping acid in the studio. Credit too for the shape and spark he found rejoining producer and homeboy Papi Beatz. And all respect to "16 Shots," a Black Lives Matter anthem from a Chicagoan still outraged at the murder of Laquan McDonald so many police murders ago. The biracial son of a Ghanaian economics professor, Mensa isn't as smart as he thinks he is--"Everybody tryna be American idols/My X factor is I'm the only one with the voice" is supposed to be clever? But he's made something of his advantages, confessing and accusing in street language that doesn't downplay his literacy, articulating so conversationally you'd think he was just talking to ya. And he's definitely smart enough to know that the most riveting words here are spoken without rhyme or rhythm by McDonald's lawyer, Jeffrey Nuslund--69 seconds impassively, objectively describing every brutal detail of a videotaped attack that took so much less time than that. A-

The Autobiography [Roc Nation, 2017]
Moderately fluent rapper and observant storyteller reminds us yet again that conscious brothers dog around too ("Down for Some Ignorance," "Heaven on Earth") **

I Tape [Roc Nation, 2021]
This episodic tale of how a conscious rapper rose above post-hot oblivion mounts a surprisingly persuasive argument for the utility of religious belief, not least because the religion is Islam. Useful context is provided by the reminiscences of his Ghanaian father and extra texture by the Securus prepaid collect-call utility of the Illinois Department of Corrections. Doubters are advised to begin midway through: "Fr33dom"-"Moosa"-"Shelter." A-