There’s been a notable absence in regards to Vic Mensa and his last release, 2013’s Innanetape. The mixtape was met with wide acclaim and showed the dichotomy of Mensa’s harsher lyrics in relation to his Chicago upbringing and crossover appeal. Time has proven that if you create strong material, even if you do take a brief absence, you will always have some semblance with your core base. Fans have been anticipating a full album release from Mensa for a couple of years, aside from a guest spot on Kanye West‘s The Life Of Pablo cut, “Wolves” and the single with Skrillex, “No Chill”, there has been silence in regards to his Roc Nation debut, Traffic.
Three years is a lifetime within an artist’s lifespan. Mensa explained in an interview with Billboard about the title of the EP and the pressures that are concurrent with being an artist on the rise and displaying emotional vigor about subjects like the Flint water crisis and police brutality. In process of making Traffic, we get the seven song EP that displays the wide array of emotions given so much that’s gone on in the first half of 2016. The title track, “Dynasty” serves as an overall status update on what has been happening in his own life laced with witty word play (“I was waitin’ in the wing like a bird on the windowsil/Now, I’m the fresh prince/I think I know how my uncle feel“) over Papi Beats production that builds to its climax into the second verse. The song is reminiscent of Jay-Z‘s intro track off of his 2000 album, The Dynasty: Roc La Familia in the way that it shows that Roc Nation is the new incarnation with a new generation of artists.
“16 Shots” is one of the most heavy songs off the EP as far as content. Mensa voraciously raps his displeasure regarding the shooting of Laquan McDonald and how it pertains to Chicago. This is where Mensa’s passionate narrative serves best addressing the plights occurring within many communities of minorities around the U.S. “Shades of Blue” which was debuted at Ryan Coogler‘s Justice For Flint rally back in February.
There’s minimal production present for the most part – a simple piano loop with a discreet sample of voices that the listener can pay attention to the strength of the words. Not only does Mensa speak about the dangers of the Flint crisis in particular, he gives social commentary, both as a whole and within Chicago. With these words, there is no holding back as the shades of “blue” take on many interpretations referencing the crimes against minorities whether it be police brutality, wealth disparity, or media coverage as a whole.
The EP does have it lighter moments with songs like “New Bae” and the Ty Dolla $ign assisted “Liquor Locker”. These tracks serve as a reprieve from the heavier content that’s a little bit more lighthearted in nature. TALGO ends with the title track which serves at a venting session. Mensa strives to exercise his past demons and look towards the future. It’s almost like your peering through a window where Mensa gives you a visual of his low points in an unapologetic manner. (“It’s bigger than us, these kids listen to us/That’s why I give ’em that truth cause they don’t get it enough”)
We have not heard “Rage”, an unreleased song off the forthcoming album – but you get a little taste of Mensa’s vigor and passion within a seven song narrative. It was stated that song of these songs were leftovers that did not make the anticipated debut. Although we may not have a release date to Traffic as of yet, but the prelude gives an overall view on an artist that is fueling his anger through protest and self medication fortified in music.
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