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ACL Fest: Vic Mensa shows up late, turns up high

Staff Writer
Austin 360

Let’s start with this, Chicago’s SaveMoney Crew is one of the most interesting hip hop collectives working right now. Best known for Chance the Rapper and represented at ACL Fest by Vic Mensa, their sing-song hip hop hybrid bests most of today’s standard radio rap by a longshot. Also, gotta love their motto, “save money.” Apart from being straight up smart, it flies in the face of the crass commercialism that has largely dominated rap for at least a decade. Having said that, I’m not convinced Mensa was ready for an ACL Fest set.

His set was marked by a delayed start. A sizable crowd (average age 18) gathered around the stage as his DJ played hype man for a good 20 minutes. The crowd was unfazed. They danced to the body-shaking bass, threw their hands up on command and chanted when asked, but it seemed like either a waste of time or a cover for a lack of material. When the 21-year-old  rapper finally hit the stage, it was to a raucous response. The crowd was turnt up, as was Mensa, who bounced around the stage madly, but for the first few songs it seemed like either his mic level was too low, the bass was too high or his technique isn’t quite there yet. It was hard to hear his lyrics. He mumbled through a version of “Cocoa Butter Kisses” a collab with Chance the Rapper and his delivery on the ode to a threesome “Major Payne” was just ok.

As the set went on there were definite high points. “Hollywood, L.A.” was a banger and “Holy Holy” a track dedicated to a fallen friend Killa Cam, found him contemplating life and death in a way that was downright profound. The energy of his set was fantastic. He declared his love of Austin multiple times in a way that seemed quite genuine. He whipped the front section into a near mosh pit frenzy, led a battle between the sides of the crowd and jumped in a surfed a bit himself. Mixing hip hop with house, electro and a dose of thrash he’s part of the new generation pushing music and youth culture in general in new directions and the internet hype behind him definitely put the crowd solidly on his side. But at multiple points during his set I found myself wondering what would have happened if this set had been given to one of the rapidly rising local hip-hop acts. My money says someone like Kydd Jones or Zeale could have easily filled an hour with rock solid hype and no lulls whatsoever.