South Side Chicago has long been a place associated with gang violence and drug trafficking. The situation only got worse in 2013 when the rise in popularity of rapper, Chief Keef, glorified all the gang violence in the city. According to US crime statistics,” more Americans have been murdered in Chicago in the last 15 years than have died in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.” The unusual rate of murder on the South Side of Chicago has led to the area being nicknamed ‘Chiraq’. Chief Keef and his GBE crew mostly rap about killing rival gang members and selling drugs which later started being categorized as a sub-genre of hip-hop called Drill. The drill movement is similar to Atlanta’s trap scene where artists rap about their personal experiences living in the projects.
Despite all the negativity created by the drill scene, there are a few Chicago based rappers that have found a way to rap about the socio-economic problems in their neighborhoods without glorifying the street life. When talking about unconventional Chicago rappers, two names that immediately come to mind are always Kanye West and Chance the Rapper. While majority of people have heard Kanye and Chance music, many have not heard of Vic Mensa.
After dropping a mixtape titled Innanetape in 2013, Vic made some waves in the music industry. He was able to find the perfect balance between conscious rap and mainstream sounding music. Vic has the ability to change his flow up unlike any rapper I have ever heard. With a background in singing, he is able to drop crazy bars and transition straight into hooks like on his track Orange Soda. His lyrics are simple enough for a casual listener but utilizes insane wordplay when further analyzed. This is most apparent in the track Yap Yap where the terms “yap yap” and “slam” are personifications of gunshots.
Now that Vic Mensa is signed to Roc Nation, his debut studio album Traffic is in the works. With features from Kanye West on “U Mad” and Skrillex on “No Chill”, Traffic will no doubt be the sleeper album of the year. Keep an eye out for Traffic dropping sometime this year. 2016 is Traffic season.