Vic Mensa Rocks Secret Show in Chicago

Originally Appeared for XXL Magazine

The ripples of Kanye West were abundant at the Chop Shop in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood Friday night for 21-year-old Vic Mensa’s homecoming. That the show sold out in under 20 minutes was no surprise given the hometown hero’s recent ascendance via Yeezy. Fresh off unveiling “Wolves” alongside ‘Ye at Saturday Night Live and then again the following week in London, the show was the city’s first glimpse of Vic as a bonafide star that many watched grow from day one.

Those who were lucky enough to pull one of the limited tickets waited outside an extra half hour as Mensa fine-tuned everything up until the last minute, but it didn’t seem to matter. From the jump Vic, his sleeves rolled up, had the capacity crowd on their feet, a sole hardly touching the ground. The show carried the feeling of a theater performance. The lights went down as Mensa took the stage, the only act to do so on this night. Suddenly, it was all flipped as he launched into the party-starting “Feel That.” He jumped into the Kaytranada-produced “Wimme Nah” before, as he put it, “Starting where this all began” with the boom-bap of “Orange Soda.” During the second verse, Mensa continued to tease the recent affiliation with the city’s crown prince, freestyling, “I was out in Paris last week with Kanye,” which got a shrill response from the crowd who seemed to steal the lyrics right from Mensa’s mouth.

If one thing was evident throughout, it was the poise and confidence Vic exuded onstage. Many of his performances around Innanetape felt a bit rushed, almost hurried at times as if he was already moving on to the next thing. It was refreshing to see the hometown kid in his element: cool, calm and collected as he led the crowd through an increasingly long list of hits. During a pause in the action Mensa stopped to explain his reasoning for the unexpected show. “I wanted to do something where I could see all of your faces,” he said. “You all are family to me, I went to CPS, I rode the same buses and trains as y’all.”

Making sure to put on for the rest of his SaveMoney team, Vic was joined onstage first by Towkio who helped out on the pair’s recent single “Involved” before launching into “Irie Trill Vibes” with the duo of Kami De Chukwu and Joey Purp.

The experience was a culmination of a long road for Vic Mensa, who began rapping seriously before he entered high school. A student of Kanye, it seems forever fitting that it is ‘Ye who has tapped him moving forward. Before performing the first semblance of “Wolves,” the lead single from Kanye’s upcoming project, Mensa clutched the microphone close to his face and peered out at the fans before him. “As an artist there’s that moment when you step onto a playing field with your idols, and it truly is an amazing thing,” he said. It was obvious Friday night that Vic had leveled up significantly and it meant something for him to throw a local show on the heels of such high-profile appearances. For those of us who had been watching him since Kids These Days, though, this was all just a matter of time. —Jake Krzeczowski

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