The Lowdown: Entering the 10th year of his musical career, Chicago native Vic Mensa has become one of the most genuine acts in contemporary rap. This recognition is due in part to his remarkable ability to weave creative wordplay into personal and socially conscious storytelling. Like A Tribe Called Quest or fellow Chicagoan Lupe Fiasco before him, Mensa consistently delivers a balance in his art that is both entertaining and rich with insight. His latest EP, Hooligans, offers further proof of the artist’s emotional depth and talent.
The Good: In “Dancing in the Streetz”, Mensa states, “If the law don’t kill me first, the doors commit suicide/ They gon’ shoot me if I don’t or if I do comply.” In the track’s short runtime, Mensa dives into police brutality and violent street life. The lyrics make for a bombardment of sensory detail, alluding to violent crime scenes and cries of heartache. In “Dark Things”, he shares his struggles with mental health and addiction. Brilliant lines such as, “Fuck the pain away, beat it like a 808,” along with, “I need you to love me like I never loved me,” tap into the loneliness and desperation brought on by such struggles. When Mensa speaks, it feels like he’s giving a part of himself (and a variety of emotions) to the listener.
In “Klonopin”, Mensa shares his difficulties dealing with anxiety while also referencing medication use. The song’s instrumental has a semi-playful nature, with the lyricism establishing a somber edge to the material. “Deserve It” is a superb finisher, summing up the artistic integrity of the EP. Stepping away from being a generic hype track, Mensa provides a more realistic and sincere depiction of fame and determination (“Even when I’m feelin’ worthless, underneath the surface/ I know that I deserve it.”) It’s a level of introspection listeners have come to appreciate from him.
The Bad: At times, Hooligans suffers from monotony. Tracks like “In Some Trouble”, “Reverse”, and “Rowdy” lack the intrigue of their neighbors; while one can feel the adrenaline and mood of each song, the lyrics don’t get across the same sincerity that comes with Mensa’s more revealing moments or his social commentary.
The Verdict: While Hooligans is not without its bland moments, it’s still a work that displays what makes Vic Mensa an important voice in today’s rap scene. Whether it’s through his lyrics about addiction, police brutality, or mental health, he’s an artist that writes authentic stories with intimate depth. Hooligans is an honest and emotional addition to Mensa’s catalog, the type that should keep listeners excited for the next installment in his story.
Essential Tracks: “Dark Things”, “Klonopin”, and “Deserve It”