By Hayden Wright
Vic Mensa released his solo debut album The Autobiography on July 28. The title is appropriate as the songs address mental illness and other deeply personal issues.
In a new interview, Mensa reveals why he decided to take such a confessional route with the new material and addressed his efforts to break the stigma about depression in the hip-hop community. He also discusses JAY-Z, and the role Hova played in shaping the new material.
“First and foremost, writing about my struggles with mental health and drug dependence is confessional and healing for me,” he told Complex. “…I think that being from a community, in which mental health issues are so stigmatized that it’s important to open up channels to that conversation. Because everybody heard it and dealing with things in their own way. A lot of it is self-medication. I feel like that’s just the top layer of this pain. The community is very open in rap and music about the drugs that are very much apart of the lifestyle, but not so much open about what’s underneath drug use.”
Throughout the recording process, Mensa says JAY-Z was an “essential” advisor.
“[Jay] heard all of the music as it was in the process of being written and produced,” Mensa said. “His feedback and different directions inspired me in different ways. Then, as we neared the end of the album process, he specifically listened to me, how much he liked that I kept my head down in this process as a grio of sorts.”
Ultimately, mining the more vulnerable corners of his subconscious on The Autobiography has turned Mensa against the notion of a “rap beef.” At least, on this album. “By nature I can be a confrontational person,” he confessed. “I don’t feel like there’s anything wrong with that. As far as putting that in the music sometimes, it can detract from the bigger purpose, the purpose and power that is within the music.”