Vic Mensa's debut album, The Autobiography, is finally out—officially. The album sees Mensa enlisting guests that showcase his wide variety of influences, including Pharrell Williams and Weezer. In a new interview with The Breakfast Club, Mensa traced his roots all the way back to the very first hip-hop song he fell in love with: a classic KRS-One cut.
"I started listening to hip-hop through KRS-One," Mensa said. "I didn't like hip-hop before that. I didn't really understand: I didn't understand the attitude, I didn't understand the aggression. Around the time I was 11 years old, I started getting pushed around by the police, then I'm like, 'I identify with this, I understand this.' I found KRS-One, 'Step into a World,' through a Zoo York skateboard mixtape, with the legend Harold Hunter. ... That was the first hip-hop song that I really connected to myself."
Mensa also took the time to expand on his relationship with Jay Z, who called Mensa a "once-in-a-lifetime artist."
"Hov has just been somebody that has helped me to grow as a man," Mensa said. "He was an executive producer on this album and somebody that really heard the album from its creation, heard songs come and go. And would tell me what he thought about what I was doing, what he thought about this record, and how I might be able to get my point across more succinctly. He was somebody that really helped me with continuity and making the storyline and the arc of this album be cohesive."
Mensa said being a fan of Jay before meeting him ultimately benefited their working relationship.
"I've been a superfan of Hov's music before I ever met him," Mensa said. "That's one of those relationships where I felt like I knew him before I met him, because I was so in depth with the music. That's what rap is at its best, like you may really know a person. Even though Pac and Biggie passed, I feel as if, in a certain sense, I know those men. That's the same way I knew Hov before meeting him. He's really that person that he is on record. ... Working with him, he's imparting this wisdom on me man-to-man and not just through lyrics."
It wouldn't be a Breakfast Club interview without an uncomfortable question being tossed into the mix, and that's just what Charlamagne did toward the end, at the 47:08 mark. He addressed the broken relationship between Vic and Chance The Rapper, which has been festering since last year. Charlamagne begged the two to make amends, and Mensa responded by saying they were already ahead of him.
"We’ve been talking," Mensa said. "I feel like that's also a part of my journey—putting this positive energy into the world. Chance is my brother. We grew up together. If you have a brother, if you've ever had a brother, you know brothers fight, man. That happens. Especially growing up and everybody is there to watch it. That's what I'm unpacking in this album, so many situations that were hectic and toxic, as life can be sometimes. ... We ain't supposed to beef. The city needs us to be unified. That’s the place that I'm at."
Despite their rocky relationship, Chance posted on Instagram earlier this month, urging his followers to support Mensa's debut.
“Me & Vic met at a high school open mic when we were 14," he wrote. "We’ve been on this journey for along time. This is much bigger than a moment THIS IS MY BROTHERS DEBUT ALBUM. I've decided I'm waiting til it drops to listen. I've been through a lot with him but I want to hear it told in his words."
Early Monday morning, Chance took to Instagram again to big up his fellow Chicagoan for what he called a "special" project.
In the rest of the Breakfast Club interview, Mensa dives into the real-life stories that inspired his album, and recalls when Hov told him to remove a line from one of the tracks. He also takes a minute to talk about the influence other hip-hop pioneers like Public Enemy, N.W.A, and Grandmaster Flash had on his style. Peep the whole conversation in the video above.