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Vic Mensa Revisits The Past At Riot Fest

Written by on September 28, 2021

Chicago’s own Vic Mensa made a triumphant return to live performance with a fiery hometown show at Riot Fest.

On Saturday, Sept. 18, Chicago rapper Vic Mensa both broke out new songs and threw it back all the way to the beginning of his career with music from his first mixtape, Innanetape, during his performance at Riot Fest 2021. Vocalo Afternoon host Jill Hopkins caught up with Mensa to discuss his festival performance, how he deals with the loss of privacy tied to fame and new artistic ventures he is pursuing.

Recording artist Vic Mensa attends the 40/40 Club’s 18th year anniversary celebration on Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021, in New York. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP)

Jill Hopkins: Let’s talk about Riot Fest. It’s one of those festivals that really prides itself on embracing a wide array of of acts. Were you excited about getting to see some other people and getting to show off to another group of people that maybe you weren’t always getting to show off to?

Vic Mensa: Well, first of all, you know I love Riot Fest. It’s one of my favorite festivals in the city, so I was excited to perform it. It’s my second time performing it. Last time I was at Riot Fest I was not performing, but I’ve had a lot of fun there just as a fan. This year, I was just way more focused on performance.

JH: I was in the photo pit for the first three songs, and I clocked the sign language interpreter.

VM: Ah, I love those sign language interpreters.

JH: What a great job, first of all, but yeah, it was this big white man. I locked eyes with him, and I gave him that thing where you point at your two eyes and then I pointed at his two eyes. I don’t know how this dude is gonna navigate the N word, but he’s got his work cut out for him today.

VM: I would love to know what the sign language symbol for n**** is, that’d be tight.

JH: I really appreciated, though, having followed your career for a long time, and being really familiar with all of your work, I really appreciated the the graphics of all the old videos, [your former hip-hop group] Kids These Days‘ videos, and you’re speaking out about, you know, how it kind of made you feel when the group all went their separate ways. Why was that important for you to showcase?

VM: Well, the basis of my performance was a revisiting of my 2013 mixtape, Innanetape, which was directly off the heels of Kids These Days’ breakup [in May 2013] and was largely informed by the emotional wake of that experience. In channeling that music in that spirit, it’s necessary to address Kids These Days, and I knew that there would be a large amount of people in the crowd that had been to a Kids These Days concert, because Kids These Days really was such a youth movement when we were in high school. If you were a kid that was into music in the city of Chicago and you were into live music, [you were] aware of Kids These Days and had been to a concert or something at some point. We were performing at all the high schools. We were selling our tickets at the high school, so it’s like we touched a lot of people, and everybody has their own experience or their own memories with something like that. I wanted to share some of mine.

JH: Speaking of Innanetape, I want to talk about the internet. And I don’t want to talk about your personal life, but I do want to talk about this interest in your personal life when you drop the images from the new video. People got their gums flapping about your love life and, “Who is this?” and, “Blah, blah, blah.” How does that make you feel, to have your life speculated upon and nosed around in like that?

VM: I actually don’t read any comments.

JH: Oh, good for you.

VM: I’ve heard once or twice from a couple people that like, a lot of South Africans were like, you know what I’m saying … and leaving comments. But you know, I just don’t read it. As far as how it makes me feel, I feel really good. I’m in a period of sobriety right now. I’ve been meditating more than ever. I’ve been, like, micro-dosing. I’m in a good healthy relationship. I’m in the studio, and I’m loving the music I’m making. I’m working on myself a lot and exercise and discipline, so I feel really good. As far as the internet and like people being involved in my personal life, I cannot resent it because I chose to be a musician and the accompanying experience that follows any amount of success in that arena is typically fame and loss of privacy on some level, and so I can’t resent it. I feel really good, yeah.

JH: I want to talk about this new single, because I think that it kind of reflects this this inner peace that you’re feeling. “The Taste” is lovely. And it’s such a love letter to the city — a city that can, at the same time, feel so rough and feel like it’s hurting us on purpose sometimes, but it’s still the most wonderful place in the world. What made you want to take some time out and just kind of compose this this love note?

VM: It was a beautiful day — summertime Chicago — and I have some friends coming to the studio, and I just went outside on the back porch with a notebook and just started writing down some lyrics, kind of wrote it as a poem, and it became that song. Chicago is just so gorgeous in the summertime. It’s unreal, and I wanted to celebrate it.

JH: Summertime in Chicago is what keeps us all from going absolutely nuts during the winter, as long as you have something to look forward to. I want to know what the next steps for you are. I mean it’s fall, we’re still in this panini, but I mean you can still tour, you can still play shows, you can still get into the studio. What are you working on?

VM: Well, I’m gonna do some anniversary Innanetape stuff, putting together an Innanetape anniversary show and experience and some merch and stuff like that. That should be announced within the next few days because the anniversary is [Sept.] 30, so we’ll do those things. I’m feeling really good about the things I’m making in studio right now, so I’m really just staying on that path and doing another project and honestly, so, so many things from a wide overview. A film and TV stuff and I’m working on a book, but right now I’m kind of taking it a day at a time to just stay focused and stay on a good path.

JH: As long as you keep us in mind while you’re on that path! We love that you’re always willing to talk to us, no matter how big you get, and we are having such a great time watching the world figure it out.

VM: Thank you, I appreciate you.

Interview by Jill Hopkins, edited for length and clarity by Erik Anderson.

Follow Vic Mensa on Twitter and Instagram.

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