Between touring Europe and hanging with names like Justin Bieber and Kanye West, the only real time the rapper Vic Mensa has had time to actually hang out in his hometown of Chicago since releasing his aptly titled EP There’s a Lot Going On this summer has been during the last few weeks, when he shot his new Ugg campaign. Mensa, 23, might not be the first person you’d associate with the sheepskin booties, but the brand has gotten a bit of a reboot recently, bringing together the likes of Mensa and Alexa Chung with an openness to collaborating. “Using one of my best friends, a photographer, and going to these locations on the South Side of Chicago where it’s all graffitied up — it was a little bit risky for a corporation,” Mensa said of the shoot. “Which I think makes it dope.”
Shirtless and flanked by a publicist and a man cutting his hair in a bathroom before a private performance near Penn Station in New York recently, Mensa shared what else has been going on lately with his culture diet, here.
First thing you read in the morning: Apple News. It’s been f–king frustrating reading the news, anxiety-inducing and depressing. I was reading a bunch of books by [the late science-fiction writer] Octavia Butler last month. So I’d wake up and read that first, which was a lot better for my sanity. But right now the first thing I read in the morning is the news.
Books on your bedside table right now: I read a lot of books on my phone. I just bought a Noam Chomsky book, Understanding Power. I’ve been reading Angela Davis, Women, Race, & Class; Octavia Butler, The Patternist Series; and Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow. And Dee Brown, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee — that’s a f–king heartbreaking book about America’s systematic destruction of Native American people.
The TV shows keeping you at night: I don’t watch TV. People keep telling me about all these shows I need to see like f–king “Westworld” and things like that, but I don’t watch it. I’m not anti-TV; I just don’t really have too much time. If I’m up late at night, which is every night, I’m probably in the studio working or reading or something.
Last movie you saw in theaters: Moonlight. That was sad, man. It was an amazing movie with amazing cinematography and a really engaging story, but it was so disheartening just to recognize how real of a situation it is that a lot of people go through their whole life without affection. That shit broke my heart.
Last museum exhibit that you loved: Kerry James Marshall at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. That f–king exhibit is so f–king amazing. And reading him talk about mastery and how he had to learn the ways of the masters of his craft — to be able to deconstruct them and interject what he felt — was an ideal reality was really inspiring. So dope.
Favorite places to shop: The most shopping I do is probably at flea markets and shit like that, vintage shopping. Like Rose Bowl Flea Market in L.A., Fairfax flea market — that’s most of the shopping I do. And Saint Laurent and Barney’s.
Go-to spots in Chicago: We shot this campaign in the places I hang out, and it was really dope going by the lake. It was a couple of blocks away from this park called the Point on the South Side that’s one of my favorite places in Chicago. We also shot at my studio because, you know, I feel like I’m not that interesting anymore. I just go to the studio these days, but I’ll just say the lake — that’s always a great place to go.
Last song that you had on repeat: Prodigy, “Keep It Thoro.”
Thoughts on the election: To summarize it: It’s a very good thing that we have an openly racist, sexist, Islamophobe, misogynistic bigot elected as president, because it forces us to look at what America really is at this point in time. We can’t continue to hide behind some ideal of post-racial society when we have an openly racist president. So now we have to face the funk and be honest, and I think that’s going to bring us a lot closer to real progress.
Favorite social media accounts to follow: I don’t do it, man. I rarely use social media. I don’t have Twitter or Instagram on my phone. I got tired of being influenced by all the unimportant things that a lot of people I don’t care about think. It just outweighed too much the things I actually wanted to know. I like to be uninfluenced by what other people are doing right now. I take inspiration from things that have happened in the past musically, and things that happen in the real world around me right now, but not social media trends and shit like that. I feel like it’s too fickle to let it consume our lives.
Last thing you do before you go to bed: I don’t know anymore. Maybe read. I used to talk to my girlfriend but that’s complicated, so I don’t really have anything to do. I’m f–king exhausted by the time I go to bed just because I usually work really late anyway.
Meet Vic Mensa, the Chicago Rapper in Alexander Wang’s Squad
Left and right: Vic Mensa wears his own shirt.
Left and right: Vic Mensa wears his own jeans and jewelry; Hanro of Switzerland boxer briefs, $68 for two, shop.hanrousa.com.
Left: Vic Mensa wears a Raf Simons coat from The David Casavant Archive, price upon request, david-casavant.com. Right: Vic Mensa wears a Raf Simons coat from The David Casavant Archive, price upon request, david-casavant.com; Coach 1941 trousers, price upon request, coach.com.
Left and right: Vic Mensa wears a Simon Miller hoodie, $195, simonmillerusa.com; his own jewelry.