Vic Mensa holds impromptu concert at Canopy Club


Quentin Shaw

Vic Mensa performs at the Canopy Club Sunday night. This is the first time in over 4 years since Mensa has performed in Urbana, IL.

By Aaron Navarro, On-air news editor

The last time Chicago rapper Vic Mensa performed at the Canopy Club was in 2013 with his (now-defunct) band Kids These Days, accompanied by Chance the Rapper. Four years later, he graced the Urbana stage once again Sunday night, but this time, just him.

No band, no special guest, just all Vic Mensa, laying down everything he can with his microphone.

Before he embarks on the nationwide “4:44” tour with legendary rapper Jay-Z, Mensa has been doing various pop-up shows in Chicago and Iowa City, Iowa, this week.

The Urbana show was announced Oct. 2 and quickly sold out. Mensa has accumulated a pretty wide fan base through prior work, and could probably sell out the venue without Sunday’s ticket price of $6.

But the Roc Nation artist is a man of the people, and he made sure to give the restless Sunday night crowd what they wanted.

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Opening up with the first track off his debut album “The Autobiography,” Mensa immediately charged the crowd with energy. After performing the empowering “Didn’t I (Say I Didn’t),” he rolled right into one of his best-known and hard-hitting songs, “U Mad.”

Right away, the crowd’s excitement showed. Jumping along and moshing brought the crowd a lot closer together than some were expecting. But with an electrifying performer like Mensa, it is only fitting of the atmosphere.

Mensa’s performance chops continued as he rolled off the next couple of songs effortlessly, with him sneaking in a cover of NWA’s “F— Tha Police” right before his own track addressing police brutality and the murder of Laquan McDonald in “16 Shots.”

Whether it’s the fact that he’s been working stages since he was 16 with Kids These Days, just natural talent or a little of both, Mensa’s performance flow and voice are spot-on to his recordings.

Nikita Raheja, student in LAS, hadn’t heard a lot of these recordings prior to the concert, and said she still enjoyed it.

“I haven’t even listened to a song by him, except for one of them,” Raheja said. “And they were all still fun to me even without knowing the songs. I think it was the crowd and people I was with, and him. He was really good.” 

The set itself clocked in around 50 minutes, including an encore song after chants for one more echoed throughout the venue. But it was jam-packed with his catalog, mainly filled with tracks from “The Autobiography” and other songs from his prior EP “There’s Alot Going On” being peppered in.

He even did his verse off Chance the Rapper’s crowd-favorite “Cocoa Butter Kisses,” much to the delight of a college crowd that has probably heard the song during nights out.

And amidst all the songs, Mensa’s main messages were there. Internal turmoil, drug problems and police brutality were all themes in Mensa’s music that you could tell he did not want to get lost in the excitement.

An outspoken activist against police brutality and critic of Fox News, Mensa would let clips of the news channel play, highlighting their comments toward minorities.

However, Mensa said he didn’t want to cause a divide with the show.

“You watch the news sometimes and they would have you believe that we all hate each other, you know what I mean? That black people can’t be in this concert with white people, with Latinos, with Middle-Eastern people, with Asians,” Mensa said. “It’s all false man, all of that division is false. I see it right here, I see it right in front of my eyes. It’s unity.”

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