Thursday, July 23, 2015

How Far They've Come: Vic Mensa & Chance the Rapper

Words by Michael Fish
2013 was a big year for these Chicago gentlemen. Both of their mixtapes released within months of each other and were successful in their own ways. Chance The Rapper"s album was reviewed well and given the cherry on top appeal. Vic Mensa's received high acclaim, but unfortunately did not attract the mainstream or have the extra spark. Chance had the opportunity and took it to tour extensively and promote himself. He is and was one of the few artists to become very successful releasing an independent album in today’s problematic music industry.

Fast forward to two years later, Chance has become a dominant figure in the Chicago scene; educating the youth and receiving recognition from Mayor Rahm Emanuel for his “Youth of the Year” award. Vic has released new collaborations from great artists like Kaytranada and Kanye West. Both artists have taken the opportunity to play major Chicago festivals like Lollapalooza in 2014 and Pitchfork Music Festival this past weekend. Watching each of their performances at Pitchfork showed the greatest contrasts between the two best friends.

This past weekend at Pitchfork Music Festival, Vic performed on Saturday closing out the small stage while Chance closed out the entire festival on Sunday. Vic’s set included singles he has released over the past year but only performed two songs from "Innanetape" (Holy Holy, Orange Soda). Vic was spotty between words of more well known songs to conserve energy throughout the performance to make for greater delivery of songs he has released recently and not at all. Vic sang a cover of Future’s hit “Codeine Crazy” to slow down the show and it was incredible. He put on a good performance of unreleased tracks which showed great potential for the upcoming album “Traffic” that is nearly complete, according to his banter in between songs. At the end of the show, he brought out the entire Savemoney crew to go crazy with the song “U Mad.” To everyone in the crowd’s surprise, he did not bring out West for his verse. Overall, Vic had an excellent performance that gave hope for a bright future of his solo career.

Chance’s performance was more of a show. It started with hometown collective The Bucket Boys (notably seen outside Wrigley and other high foot traffic areas in the city) doing a jam session for a few minutes. Then Chance comes on with his Arthur theme cover and blew through some "10 Day" and "Acid Rap" tracks that were age appropriate and themed respect and unity, such as Everybody’s Something and Hey Ma. After doing his thing for a while, he put the spotlight on The Social Experiment to perform some tracks from the album released earlier this summer. While introducing the band, Chance said something along the lines of not performing under the name of Chance the Rapper anymore. My assumption is he will still be touring but with and under the name The Social Experiment. Some tracks The Social Experiment performed included Wanna Be Cool, Slip Slide, and the wonderful, Sunday Candy. Donnie got out of his comfort zone and confidently played the trumpet well. Personally, I was fascinated by his live performance and stage presence. Chance was having fun on stage but merely yelling out words to songs, which irritated me after a while. Then Chance went back to his old solo stuff and played the rarely heard live song Acid Rain, to which he calmed down and changed up his flow a bit making it a great performance, and Chain Smoker. For his encore, he played the final Acid Rap track, Good Ass Outro. I am very excited to see the future of Chance and his SoX crew and hope they can successfully tour and promote Surf.

Back track to Chance’s performance of Acid Rain. When he rapped the line, “Vic still jealous of me,” my friend and I looked at each other and chuckled. Is Vic still jealous? Nope. He’s in the driver seat next to Chance and starting to speed ahead of him. Vic’s show proved he has greater potential as a hip-hop/R&B star with his closing performance on Saturday compared to Chance’s conducted, festival ending show with the Social Experiment. It is impossible to deny both artists are doing what they want to do. Chance is happy with the opportunities he has been given, passes them onto others, grateful for the recognition he receives, and gives back to his favorite city in the world. Vic is focused as an artist and collaborating with music greats. In the end, Vic will soon be a household name in hip hop and Chance will still be around but on a lower level than Vic.

 Below are two of my favorite songs from each of the performances:

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