There is a certain moment when a fan can tell if an artist is the real deal or just another industry clone to ride the coat tails of whom or whatever is trending to make a profit. Fortunately, after Vic Mensa’s high-energy performance at U Street Music Hall on July 24, fans can rest assured that he is serious about his craft. Making his big return to the rap scene with his latest EP release, “There’s Alot Going On,” the Chicago native embodies the same passion and drives on the project and the DC stage.
On the sweltering summer day, fans lined up around the block to get a chance to witness Mensa’s return to the capitol city. Ranging from teenagers to middle-aged adults, it was clear that the Roc Nation’s fandom reached all over the area in a massive way. If their dedication was not apparent enough in the fact that they did not mind waiting in over 90-degree weather with a humidity that made the streets feel like the inside of a morning breath ridden devil’s mouth, the lines that wrapped almost around the block should have made it obvious. Fans were ready for his return and, more importantly, were rocking with his new style and passionate flow.
As the doors opened shortly after half-past 6, concert goers hurried downstairs into the salvation of the heavily air-conditioned venue. Although the venue may be smaller in comparison to many of DC’s other clubs like 930 and Echostage, it is clear that that is not what makes it such a great venue. As concert-goers walk down the steep stairwell, posters of past performances decorate the wall and as they enter the basement-esque neighborhood bar. On one end there is the stage, already crowded with eager fans waiting to see Mensa perform.
The all-black decorum, dark lighting, renowned sound system and all around welcoming vibe of U Street Music Hall was a perfect setting for concert-goers and indie and mainstream acts alike. Since its start in 2010, there is no surprise how the basement club quickly became one of the most iconic spots for music lovers in the city. With acts passing through like the newly signed Goldlink, Gorgon City, Bass Camp, Chaz French, OVO’s DVSN, Corinne Bailey Rae, and many others, U Street Music Hall was the perfect spot for Mensa’s return to the city.
Before Mensa his the stage, the crowd was first blessed with the lyrical talents of Joey Purp of Leather Corduroys. The fellow Chitown emcee may be relatively new to the scene (most recent release of his “iiiDrops” earlier this year and a feature on Mensa’s 2013 “INNANETAPE”), the young rapper still delivered a great set. His set featured multiple tracks from his latest release and still had some of the crowd singing and swaying along. Mensa picked a great opener in Joey Purp. Although he may still be an unsigned rapper, Purp’s stage presence (with minimal help needed from his hype-man) and ability to deliver pun-filled bars with a rhythmic flow are skills that could find the young rapper making a name himself in the industry.
As Joey Purp’s set finished, the fog machine went into overtime and the lights got dimmer. The crowd began chanting Mensa’s name as time slowly progressed. The stage was perfectly set for Mensa to make his presence known and, like a bandit, the rapper made his voice heard on the mic before peeping through the fog as he opened with “Dynasty.” The crowd went wild and the momentum did not let up the whole time he graced the stage. Mostly revisiting his work from “There’s Alot Going On,” Mensa’s shining moment came during his performance of “16 Shots” and “U Mad.” The energy was on high and he had almost every audience member singing along to every word and harmonizing with every syllable. Mensa even felt comfortable enough to dive into the crowd with a signature rockstar crowd surf.
Even with all the excitement, Mensa still found a moment to do some reflecting and get a little politically during the Sunday party. In between keeping the crowd jumping to bringing down the momentum before “Shades of Blue,” Mensa made sure to draw the audience’s attention to the social injustices that still plague this nation and what he drew his inspiration from on his latest EP. One of the main issues Mensa touched on were the continued police violence and the Flint water crisis that is still affecting the area.
Unfortunately, just when the audience could further get into the set, it was over. Vic Mensa gave a slight encore of the crowd favorite “16 Shots,” before letting concert goers know that he would be waiting before the exit for a meet-and-greet. For a concert that began promptly around seven, the show was over half past eight. Considering it was a school night and all and a show for all ages, it was a decent time to finish. The show was nothing less than a great sampler and stop before his Lollapalooza show and just further showed that Mensa was back on his grind.
Opinion by Tyler Cole
Edited by Leigh Haugh
Chicago Tribune: Leather Corduroys keep it tight and loose all at once
U Street Music Hall: Calendar
Vic Mensa Official Website: Tour
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First Inline Image Courtesy of Hip Hop DX
Second Inline Image Courtesy of Green Label