Whenever I review an album I need to sit with it for I while, I need to hear to it a few times, it’s only after multiple listens that can I digest it. My thoughts? In his twenty-some-odd years on this Earth, Vic Mensa has had to deal with pain, personal struggles, loss, and addiction all of which he puts into this album… the result? A debut album (A Hip Hop Memoir, if you will) capable of holding its own weight.
Vic Mensa dropped his much awaited debut album The Autobiography in July. If you’ve been following Vic (Victor) music since he stepped on the scene then you already know he is not new to this. Before releasing his first album Vic collaborated with several heavyweights in Hip Hop including fellow Chicago natives Kanye West and Chance the Rapper.
Despite his connection to some of these Hip Hop’s elite, Vic keeps his album pretty sparse on features and I think new MCs could really take a lesson from this. Debut albums are the reset in music; regardless of who you’ve collaborated with in the past, which label you are on, or who ‘backs’ you. If your initial solo album can’t stand on its own… you are going to have a very short lived run in Hip Hop.
Opening the the album is the vintage-esque track Didn’t I (Say I didn’t). What better way to chronologically open this album than with a nod to the past? Sampling Darando’s 1970 track Didn’t I, Vic remembers family and friends who have had a hand in his upbringing in Chicago. From the onset The Autobiography as Told by Vic Mensa, plays like a memoir. Lyrics like “I know that I don’t call like I should… I hope everything’s good” sets the stage for the album and feels more like a personal apology/thank-you letter rather than the opening to a Hip Hop album… but that is the vibe he is trying to set.
As the album plays we really get to know Vic Mensa the man, the lover, and the friend. He takes us on a journey through the streets of Chicago where we witness the death of a loved one. And we ride with him as he transitions into the music industry as battles internal and external demons. All in all, the album is raw and real.
It would have been easy enough for Vic to shy away from certain touchy topics (like being addicted to pills) but like a real memoir, you don’t get to select what to share. The realest therapeutic albums bare it all and Mensa doesn’t short change or shy away from these moments. In Rollin’ Like a Stoner he reveals his battle with depression and in Wings/Heaven on Earth (Reprise) he talks about his addiction to pills and thoughts of suicide.
With that said, sometimes going too far down one lane means that you may not be able to go down another. Needing this album be the raw debut that it is means there are very few track that will crossover to the pop charts (which is not a bad thing for a rapper like Mensa). That’s not to say there aren’t some tracks that you will see on the charts because I think OMG, Rage, Rollin’ Like a Stoner, and The Fire Next Time (which I think is the best track on the album) have the ability to do just that.
Overall album rating- 8.5/10
Lyrical content/cohesiveness- 9/10
Pop chart appeal- 6.5/10
Most conscious track- We Could Be Free
Best storytelling track- Heaven on Earth and Down For Some Ignorance (Ghetto Lullaby)