No Balls, No Glory; A Polaroid Story
Very happy to introduce you to VICTOR MENSAH aka VIC MENSA, hailing from Chicago (Hyde Park) and next to Chief Keef, Chance The Rapper, Lil Durk and Lil Bibby, quite possibly another emerging or dare I say already rising star from a pack of young rappers coming from ‘The Windy City’. Yeezy better watch out. The youngins are coming.
As usual, if you are not familiar with Vic Mensa, allow me to introduce him real quick?
With an African father (originally from Ghana) who works as an Economic Professor at the University of Illinois in Chicago and a mother who works as a physical therapist in the Chicago Public Schools system, it’s a bit hard to pinpoint Vic as a rapper from what is currently labeled as the Chiraq wave. Ok, he hustled marijuana for a while and was a punk in high school who – once he got suspended – somewhat made a sport out if to remain suspended but although he was surrounded by peers who did fall into that way life, he wasn’t really blazing guns as a kid neither. Reaching out to music at a very early age, Vic released his first solo mix tape called ‘Straight Up‘ in 2010 creating his first real buzz online.
A few years later an opportunity came along to join a band called Kids These Days, a collective of musically very talented kids, a chance Vic took with both hands, hoping the band was going to take over the world.
I only found out about Kids These Days after I stumbled over Vic Mensa and personally for me, watching their videos, it’s very obvious you witness the rise of a frontman, an artist and a young individual ready to take ownership of his own artistry rather than being part of a group, especially in the ‘Don’t Harsh My Mellow’ video. ‘Kids These Days’ didn’t change the world, much to Vic’s disappointment, the group fell apart internally and Vic Mensa left the group after some irreconcilable differences. If that choice of words sounds like an emotional divorce, that’s probably exactly how it felt for Vic Mensa. Vic, determined to evolve from that situation, retreated and quickly reinvented himself via his alter ego that he called ‘The internet’ slowly but surely working on new music, determined to make a name for himself. Right before the release of his second solo mixtape Vic subtly announced his coming up quite impressively on a Chance The Rapper’s ACID RAP mixtape featured track called ‘Cocoa Butter Kisses’ a track with guest features from the lyrical Speedy Gonzalez that is Twista ànd…Vic Mensa.
In September 2013 , VIC MENSA, hungry and ready to leave the kid in ‘Kids These Days’ behind, released INNANETAPE. Personal standout tracks for me are:
LOVELY DAY (starring Vic’s girlfriend Nathalie)
Vic just wrapped an European tour supporting Danny Brown, already finished a tour with J Cole and was recently interviewed by Nardwuar at SXSW:
Not too long ago he released this club banger FEEL THAT
Vic is currently in the running for the XXL Freshmen’s 2014 list.
Now. If you are still with me until this point, it means that you are ready for the story behind the Polaroid.
This is the story.
I first heard about Vic Mensa after a coincidental meeting (there is no such thing as coincidence tho) with Luca Fauzia, an interesting fella from Antwerp who I ended up talking with during a random conversation about the current state of rap and hiphop music and the lack of substance and depth the genre is going through according to critics. He told me to check out one rapper he was into at the moment, called Vic Mensa. He sent me the link to Vic Mensa’s INNANETAPE and like that the mixtape landed between my soundcloud collection. I caught myself playing ‘HollyWood LA’ every time I select music at store openings or do warm-ups at parties, and I noticed that different people and ages react to the song.
I only found out about Vic Mensa’s passage in Belgium two days in advance. Turns out he was touring with Danny Brown opening his shows all over Europe for three weeks. I couldn’t understand how this concert totally passed me by promo wise and immediately contacted Vic Mensa’s management and did my usual pitch without expecting a response. As I always do, (not sure why I even do that anymore, but hey) I try to see if there is a possibility to pitch my request for a Polaroid and/or an interview via the pr & communication channels of the concert venue.
I was super surprised when I quickly got a response back from Vic’s management who obviously really took a look at what ‘A Polaroid Story’ is about and said that they were totally down to work together and I quote: “let’s make something impactful and awesome, I want you to have all access.”
Music to my ears…
Meanwhile, I got a response back from the ‘communication and press’ manager over at Botanique with the message that my request was impossible for these concerts. The irony, right? So many people in the music business not doing their job, it’s mind-boggling really. Did this man even bother to send my request to the significant managements? I’ve always been very subtle and discrete in my communication when it comes to my continuous disappointing contact with labels, venues and music industry people. This summer I’ll be doing A Polaroid Story for 5 year straight, creating content on my own, by my own, with very little to zero help from labels or concert venues and I’m kinda done with being discrete in my communication. Some people who work in music, really, REALLY, need to do start doing their job or switch careers.
As mentioned before, this summer I will be doing this blog for five years. Never in the history of this blog I had the opportunity to be a fly on the wall with a camera. I grew together with this blog, so I do realise that I wasn’t ready for that the first years I came up doing APS, I had to pay my dues, put in the work and create stories with words and pictures. But if you follow me and my work, you know I have been waiting for opportunities to explore APS video content more and after my first run with Kendrick Lamar, which was – personally for me – not my best work, (although we did the best we could do, with the means we had; in the circumstances we had to work in) I’ve been waiting patiently to prove to myself and my camera bro Leonardo Van Dijl that we could, can and will do better when another opportunity came along. So I contacted my trusted camera man and director Leonardo Van Dijl again and a day later I found myself in front of the doors of the Botanique venue in Brussels. I could hear Vic Mensa doing his sound check while not much later the doors of the venue opened and Cody Kazarian, Vic’s friend and manager welcomed me.
As always, I’ll keep it very low-key, took a place in the venue and watched Vic Mensa’s sound check while Leonardo was setting up his camera and checking out angles in the venue. I noticed a guy on stage who was very focused during his sound check and wasn’t afraid to go deep into certain sound and vocal details he wanted to optimise with his dj. After the sound check was done, Vic jumped of the stage and walked straight up to me and introduced himself, quite confident and fearless for a twenty year old, I must say! Not much later, Vic’s DJ introduced himself as Oreo and another fella with some surreal ‘caffè con leche’ eye game introduced himself as Smoko-Ono, the producer of Vic’s latest ‘Feel That’ track and personal friend of Vic who tagged along for the European tour.
That was the beginning of a very laid-back and interesting evening. I tagged along with the crew and after we dropped our stuff in the backstage lodge we all went to the Botanique restaurant where Vic and his crew grabbed some food. Vic wasn’t feeling hungry, so he skipped dinner. He told me that touring and having a healthy meal on a regular basis was one of the real challenges he came across while touring. Because it was our first time doing this documentary style approach with a camera, and the fact that I have to get used to having a camera constantly around myself, me and Leo decided not to film the dinner, simply because we didn’t want to draw too much attention and second, because I wanted to have a first genuine contact with Vic and his crew. Over dinner I got to know Vic and his crew a little better. Vic told me that they were going to Paris for the first time the next day and I suggested to teach him some basic French so he could impress his audience (and/or Parisian girls) along the way. I was rather impressed how quickly Vic picked up the French I taught him and the focus he had to really have the phrases burned in his mind, French accent and all. It wasn’t a joke to him, he really wanted to have that vocab in his mind. Vic Mensa is a pretty smart young fella, I can tell you that much.
After the crew had dinner we went back to the backstage lodge where Vic and his crew immediately prepped to go on stage. What happened for the rest of the night you can check out in my first mini APS documentary thingie I made together with Leonardo Van Dijl.
I hope you guys will like it…
Right after we took the Polaroids, Vic and his crew were contemplating to maybe hit a club in Brussels, but in the end, tour exhaustion and their first important visit to Paris made them decide wisely to call it a night. Vic had stomach issues he already went to the hospital for, their tour driver was really sick from exhaustion and Vic’s DJ was more than ready to call it a night. After we chilled over a beer, a smoke and some final small talk I decided to leave the guys alone. There are moments when I hang around artists and end up spending genuine quality time with them, just as individual normal people. I experienced moments like that with artists like Mark Ronson, ASAP Rocky , Miguel and Dev Hynes and I’ve learned along the way with A Polaroid Story to really keep the moment I have with them pure and not stretch things out too much just to hang around. It makes the memory intact and in a way, more perfect.
Along the night with Vic and his crew, I took some disposable pictures that I would love to share with you.
These disposable pictures are a perfect display of a side of tour life you might not always see. It’s not always sex, drugs, groupies and rock’n’roll.
Or at least not àll the time.
The future will tell what type of artist Vic Mensa will become. Is he the future of Chicago rap? Will he become just as big as his friend Chance The Rapper or even bigger? One thing is for sure, there is something about Mensa. He is smart, lyrically strong, has a significant and melodic flow, is charming for days, ambitious without being cocky, plus he knows a thing or two production wise ànd he had people like Hit-Boy, Om’mas Keith, Boi-1da & Michael Uzowuru (just to name a few) helping him out on the production part of INNANETAPE. Potential much?
At the age of only 20 years old, he already lived a music career of 4 years, released 2 mix tapes, found out that the music business is fickle and that artists disappear just as fast as they surface. As he stated himself: “I was 16 with a mixtape, now I’m 19 with a mixtape, tryna be 21 with a million dollars.”
We’ll see if he reaches that goal of world domination and money, cash, (hoes?) soon enough.
Special thanks go out to Daniel, Cody and Vic for the trust and the opportunity to make this together. Another big thank you goes out to my camera bro Leonardo Van Dijl and my sound guy Tarik Gibraltar who showed up at 11PM after his regular job as a sound man to do the interview sound for this feature with the basic set-up we had.
Last but not least, thank you for checking in and reading this story.
Because of the fact that I only had one day preparation (production – and research wise) and that I had to work the day of the concert, I’m pretty sure that my interview questions could have been slightly profounder. Then again, for my second video and first APS video story, I think this a pretty good example of how things may evolve in the future.
This is my first A Polaroid Story for 2014 and we are already hitting April. I refused to write anymore stories untill apolaroidstory.com is relaunched but I had to realise that – with me being an independent now and juggling a tiny start-up ‘business’ on my own – I had to come back on that decision. I’ve burdened myself with multiple deadlines when it comes to the relaunch of this blog and I had to realise my own deadlines were simply unrealistic to reach, so I’m hoping to transform A Polaroid Story in the next few months without putting a real timing on it both visually and content wise. Bringing video stories – whenever the opportunity will be granted to me – is something that I would love to do more in the future. I realised while making this video document, that I could be perfectly happy doing only this in my life. Taking portraits, directing videos and writing stories. Then again, I’m on that ‘another day, another dollar’ type of grind, so for now it will remain a passion for music that got out of hand.
Do let me know what you think of the video in the comment section, how you would like to see APS evolve in the future (long stories/short stories) and be patient for the relaunch. I hope to be back on my ‘one story per month game’ sooner than later.
Starting from May on, the A Polaroid Story season is officially open with a dozen artists passing in Belgium. I’ll be working my ass off the next few weeks to have APS ready to go.
Àfter I reach the target of the apolaroidstory.com relaunch, I just mìght consider a A Polaroid Story 5Y party…
But first things first..