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Vic Mensa is an American rapper from Chicago, Illinois, United States. His style is broad and cross referential. At times his music embraces a carefree, humorous and even upbeat nature, while some of his other works touches on darker and more complex subject matter such as drug culture and violence.
Mensa was born Victor Kwesi Mensah on 6 June 1993 and was raised by a multi-racial family in the Chicago Area. Both of his parents are involved in the education system. His mother is an employee of the the Chicago Public Schools System and his father is an economics teacher at the University of Illinois. Mensa has been described as a dextrous student who excelled in his studies; however, he eventually became entangled in hocking weed and the occasional shoplifting spree. This all soon came to end once Mensa pursued his music career.
During his childhood he grew up listening to iconic classic rock artists like the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix and influential jazz virtuosos such as Miles Davis. Mensa’s music does not exhibit a direct relay of any of these sources, at least in the sense that he is not considered a jazz or rock musician; however like these artists he taps into several different genres while never being bound to the conventions of any particular one. Mensa also cites AC/DC, Guns N’ Roses, and Nirvana as influences outside hip-hop. Concerning this genre he lists Nas, Eminem, 2Pac, Jay Z, UKG, Missy Elliott, J Dilla, A Tribe Called Quest, and the Pharcyde as major sources of inspiration.
Towards the beginning of Mensa’s career he founded the rap collective Kids These Days alongside Liam Cunningham, Lane Beckstrom, Greg Landfair, Macie Stewart, Nico Segal, and J.P. Floyd. The group lasted from 2009 to 2013 and within that span of time they took 1st place in the Next Big Thing competition, made an appearance on Conan O’Brien’s talk show, recorded their studio debut with the production guidance of Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy and performed at several high profile festivals such as South by Southwest, Lollapalooza, The Roots Picnic, and Milwaukee’s Summerfest. In addition to his work with Kids These Days, Mensa also frequently collaborated with Chance the Rapper and started the group SAVEMONEY with him. While Mensa made a strong impression with both these groups he particularly left a mark on the hip-scene with his guest feature on Chance the Rapper’s song “Cocoa Butter Kisses”.
Following the break up of Kids These Days, Mensa initiated his solo rap career. On 30 September 2013 he issued the mixtape “INANETAPE”, which included guest spots from Rockie Fresh, Ab-Soul, Chance the Rapper, and Thundercat. The mixtape was a huge successes for Mensa, receiving over 35,000 downloads.
Mensa toured extensively in support of this release and has since shared the stage with prominent artists like Danny Brown, J. Cole, Wale and Damon Albarn. In 2015 it was made public that Mensa had collaborated with Kanye West on the track “Wolves”, the opening song on West’s 7th studio album.