How Vic Mensa Found Peace Through His Pursuit of Happiness
Photos by Keeley Parenteau
Originally Appeared as Summer Cover Story for Elevator Magazine
In the early morning hours of a brisk Los Angeles February 2018, Vic Mensa sat in his car on Mulholland Drive wondering if he should drive it over the edge. Seemingly on top of the world, with a Kanye cosign, Saturday Night Live appearance, and all the shows, followers, and attention one could want, Mensa was ready to call it.
The drugs, the women, the fast life had become too much. It’s not easy to reach your dreams before you can really understand them. Feeling attacked, misunderstood, and uninspired in life while dealing with all the addictions possible, he gripped the wheel, moved his foot off the gas, and took a deep breath.
“Everything was magnified and that shit just got to be too much where it was like I didn’t love it. I remember I was sitting in my car and I was like man I’m driving this bitch off the cliff,” Vic said, explaining his thinking at the time. “ at that time resistance was kicking my ass and whenever I felt resistance I would just go snort some pills or some goddamn molly or drink and fuck some pornstars, do a club appearance. But I was doing everything except for honestly and satisfyingly expressing myself, doing what I love to do.”
A while back Mensa got“Still Alive” tattooed across his stomach, a personal mantra that kicked in when he was at his lowest.
“I was like man I’m driving this motherfucker off the cliff and then the next month after being really fucking low I got through it.”
Recently, Chicago rapper Sterling Hayes was ready to retire. At 28, after over a decade making music alongside SaveMoney, his talented group of friends that have held sway over their hometown since around 2011. After losing money on a couple projects and with a daughter on the way, he was at a point in life where going to school and working a job seemed the right route. So he did. In the last year and a half Hayes has built a life for himself got married and has a child who’s birth is any day now. Despite the success in his personal life, he had an itch to get back to the music and was encouraged by artists like Peter CottonTale who urged him to get back into it. After blistering writing sessions and self-discovery, the result is Beam Scale, a 12-track collection that speaks to the passion behind Hayes here. You can feel the hunger and the ups and the downs and he wears it loosely on his sleeve. To get a better sense of the project itself and what went into it we sat down with Sterling to find out more. Check out our Q&A and the full project streaming below.
By now, you’ve likely seen or heard the letters NFT. Whether from a “tastemaker” on Clubhouse, account on Twitter, or a think piece in a tech magazine, it’s clear: NFTs are the new “it” thing on the internet. But what the fuck are they? And what are you buying?
The concept of NFTs can be fairly confusing. That’s partly due to the fact that they so recently found applications in art, crypto, and music, vaulting them into public consciousness. Without a clear understanding of how NFTs will eventually operate, those diving in right now are entering unmapped territory.
Simply put, NFTs are a unique digital representation of an item, whose ownership is tracked and verified on a digital ledger, aka a blockchain. NFT stands for Non Fungible – meaning not able to be replaced or duplicated – Token. And that’s exactly what NFTs are: a digital token whose value of ownership is derived from its limited quantity that’s verified and tracked via blockchain.
Last year was the first time since the early 20th century that the entire world was simultaneously dealing with an issue. A collective experience not bound by borders nor politics, gender nor ethnicity. We all had to go through the same uncertainty. Locked down in his home in Los Angeles, painter Keezerfeld began working with found materials to create works that reflected a communal emotional and mental toll 2020 took on all of us and he appropriately named it The Quarantine Chronicles (TQC). With the series complete, the burgeoning expressionist painter is putting it forward as his first exposition and utilizing the burgeoning technology of NFTs to allow everyone an opportunity to own a piece of our story.
Defined as “nature personified as a creative and controlling force,” no term better describes the rap duo of Klevah and TRUTH, than Mother Nature.
The Chicago rap pairing has been manifesting their realities through their creativity for years and continued to do so with the release of their full-length album, SZNZ, with local record label Closed Sessions.
Since arriving in Chicago, Mother Nature has gone about growing deep roots in the city that go beyond the music scene. True students of hip-hop that believe in and preach the power of the genre, they’ve established themselves as progressive idealists that do the work. That’s all reflected in their music.
People always say write what you know and that’s why I typically like to stick to covering artists I know in some regard. With that in mind, I found myself on a Zoom call a couple of months ago late at night with a singer from Seoul. Over a brief conversation, I was introduced to burgeoning K-Pop star MRSHLL and been paying attention since. The multifaceted singer/songwriter has garnered a massive following in South Korea where his unique blend of soul-influenced pop has found a welcome audience. With a new full-length on the horizon, he released Archives 1 last week, a collection of previously recorded singles, bundled together for the first time.
For Chicago artist Rich Robbins, music is a journey.
Anyone who creates anything uses their own experiences to make it, but Robbins truly pours his soul into his work. Navigating this thing called life while dealing with inner monologues, anxiety, and the general sense of possible failure, Robbins mines his reality to create a sonic dissonance that connects his listeners to what he he was feeling in a moment. But, it also gives way to a larger thought experiment on actually giving it a shot regardless of the consequences. It’s what he refers to as a fluid cycle of inspiration.
The best part is, in an age when self-care and shortcomings are often manufactured, Robbins wears his heart on his sleeve and lets things come as they should.
(February 27, 2019) Amare Symone introduces herself to the world by alternating between hellos and goodbyes on her latest album, Hello Heathrow. It’s fitting. She’s been doing both through her music for most of her life. Bouncing from one coast to the next before settling in Chicago, Symoné’s family naturally instilled a sense of wanderlust in young Amare that has manifested itself into a centerpiece of the music she’s creating two decades later.
At different points in life, it was fair to wonder where you might run into Amare: hanging off Division near Young Chicago Authors, on the subway back to Brooklyn, crossing the Thames. With an array of experiences in her rearview, she’s setting up shop back here in Chicago, settling for a moment, looking determinedly forward.
(June 19, 2019) Chicago’s a city long known for both its unique musical diversity as well as its ability to innovate from them. It’s never too hard to spot an artist that’s spent time here. For classically-trained jazz musician Lili K arriving on the cusp of the local Chicago creative renaissance that would span nearly a decade, the city has been a huge part of her growth over the years. But to truly breakthrough both with herself and the world at large, it took getting away . Her long-awaited return came last month in the form of her first album since 2015, the eclectically free-spirited and aptly-named, Songs with Friends.
With nearly a decade in the game, the Milwaukee native has scouted the top and bottom end of what the music industry has to offer. Having built a name and an extensive catalogue over the last five years, she’s checked most of the boxes possible for an independent act. Now, four years removed from her last release, Ruby, the multifaceted vocalist is primed for what many might consider a comeback. Being forgotten is easy. It happens everyday. Persevering, meanwhile, is often harder to do. With Songs With Friends in the world, she isn’t worried about any of that. Lili’s just now starting to have fun with it.
Two years ago, burgeoning local artist Hebru Brantley was just that: local. Today, the towering pillar of art with the toothy grin has established himself amongst the pre-eminent in the country. His art is a commentary on childhood and the forces at work around that experience and you would be hard-pressed to walk through a neighborhood in his hometown and not see one of his characters.