Vic Spencer
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Vic Spencer

Chicago, Illinois, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2015 | SELF

Chicago, Illinois, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2015
Solo Hip Hop R&B

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Mar
17
Vic Spencer @ Empty Bottle

Chicago, Illinois, United States

Chicago, Illinois, United States

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Sounds Like: Deft, late-Nineties hip-hop lyricism, with a dash of nonsensical free-association.

For Fans of: Sean Price or Redman if they were raised in Chicago a decade late.

Why You Should Pay Attention: Approaching his mid-30s, Vic Spencer is older than your average emerging rapper, and he embraces the irascible, grumpy persona in a way that's more entertaining than aggravating. He grew up on the distinct, personality-driven "lyrical" styles of the late Nineties underground — think Soundbombing-era Eminem or Redman — and though it's an old sound, Spencer approaches it in a fresh way. Few contemporary rappers sound much like him, which is part of why he's stood out in a crowded Windy City hip-hop scene. He recorded with Chance the Rapper and the similarly named (though stylistically distant) Vic Mensa before either were known quantities, and has the support of a who's-who of local producers, particularly the celebrated autuer Tree. Spencer's latest tape, The Cost of Victory, isn't something you'll hear on the radio, but it taps a stylistic vein that's been almost completely abandoned, a slice of classic late-Nineties backpack rap without the negative connotations.

He Says: Vic Spencer's parents both had problems with drugs, and he ended up living with his aunt from the time he was seven. In his early teens he transferred to a group home, where he began taking rap seriously. The year was 1997. "I was trying to defeat the odds of what I was going through. [We formed] a group called Uhlich Voices," says Spencer. "The CEO [of the group home] took an interest in how we were writing music and doing things to stay out of trouble while we were in the agency. Me and three other guys, we traveled across the country. Sacramento, Kentucky, Connecticut, St. Louis...a couple of other spots. [We performed in] DCFS [Department of Children and Family Services] forums. DCFS is in Chicago, and we was always be a part of the entertainment. I wrote about being in the group home, being angry, about my parents being crackheads...for people that were going through the same stuff that I was going through, and I wanted to show them that there was another side and it would be alright." Today, his parents are both clean, Vic has been married for nearly a decade and has two daughters of his own — and he's still rapping.

Hear for Yourself: "Relapse" epitomizes the jazzy style of The Cost of Victory. By David Drake - Rolling Stone


2015's been a hell of a year so far, and these were the 25 albums that we thought stood out above the rest.

Halfway through 2015 and it’s clearly a better year than last year. Matter of fact, the first three months alone of the year have delivered some of the greatest moments in Hip Hop in quite some time. The level of diversity this year has only furthered the culture’s reach, giving fans of all kinds of Hip Hop a variety of unique flows, rhymes and beats from which to choose. Most importantly, releases this year represent Hip Hop’s reflection of new societal changes and attitudes.

The balances between high profile, major label and independent releases have normalized more than ever. Whether an album from Kendrick Lamar, Young Thug or even Action Bronson, compromise feels like a thing of the past. Total freedom (for better or worse) is the name of the game this year. Add some ear catching R&B into the mix and whatever the rest of the year has to offer sounds more exciting.

Without further adieu, HipHopDX presents the best 25 albums that 2015 has to offer so far. In an already extremely competitive year, these stood above the rest and are sure to last beyond something that pops up on your Twitter feed and disappears into the night.

Vic Spencer is the elder statesman of a Chicago scene of young upstarts shouting (no, literally shouting) or dancing furiously (check that footwork stuff) and so his stuff seems sober in comparison. It isn’t. Rather, The Cost Of Victory, is a chanting on good music suffused with Vic’s signature realism and lamentation. - HipHopDX.com


Despite the efforts of even some of the most innovative artists, labels have the ability to attach themselves like parasites. In the curious case of Vic Spencer, however, audiences are still quite unsure what to make of him. In his early thirties — an age when most emcees have either slowed down or at least found their comfort zone — Spencer is the ultimate musical contrarian. Throughout past projects such as 2013’s The Rapping Bastard or 2012’s Walk Away Music, there are only a few consistencies that seem to surface. Incredibly competitive, not easy to buy and packing a wild card’s imagination, the East Side Chicagoan’s latest project, The Cost of Victory, is another middle finger to the mainstream and anybody who doesn’t respect the craft of writing.

It’s a safe assumption that the number one word used on this project is “Rap” and Spencer does not use the word as a compliment — unless he’s speaking about himself. It’s a clever strategy and while “rappers who rap about Rap” have often been criticized, Spencer’s skill with wordplay keeps you pushing through the project. From the outset, the sparring, disrespectful style takes aim at wobbly millennial rap tropes. On “Carrot Juice,” he declares plainly, “On a cold night, on the corner of Belmont and Clark / I say ‘Fuck all of y’all’ with an exclamation mark,” and goes in on “Fashion geeks and Ye clones.” In the same song Spencer drops little gems like, “Always follow your number one gold rule / Food for thought: God never wore jewels.” This is characteristic of much of the album.

What is remarkable about The Cost of Victory is that every song can stand alone and if rearranged in any particular order, the album would still retain it’s sound. That is not say that there is no clear narrative but instead that by the measures of production and lyrical dexterity, moments of tension, relief, humor, grit and introspection exist on simultaneous plains. The album’s production is predominantly boom-bap yet not a rendition of the 90s. It is true that songs like “Sony Walkman” feature Spencer feeling a little nostalgic. However, it is his personality channeled through his unorthodox approach and immovable voice that dismisses any claim of him pining for any time frame in Rap. It is also his approach that makes every beat, at any tempo, submit to his pace and cater to his cadence.

Features on the project are not many but are of excellent taste. The most memorable collaboration, perhaps, is “Jungle Gym” with Sean Price and ILLA Ghee. Together the three are violent misfits. Ghee raps, “Clown your whole circus, the meaning of life is no purpose/Download my app of multiple crack verses,” and Spencer likens the strength of his flow to the pungent smell of “panther piss.”

The Cost of Victory really has so much to offer its listener. Despite Spencer not being new to the game or as young as the rest of the Chicago premieres, he is at the forefront in terms of artistry. While 2015 is still fresh, this is an offering sure to echo into the close of the year. - HipHopDX.com


Over the past five years, Vic Spencer has become one of the most respected figures in underground Chicago hip-hop. The Englewood rapper keeps his name in the local headlines with a constant stream of loose tracks whose titles often effectively sum up the snarky, acutely self-aware attitude of his lyrics: "G File Clerk", "A Blog Write-Up", or "Loop God". Though his reputation has grown thanks in part to his collaborations with Chance the Rapper, Vic Mensa, and acclaimed "soultrap" rapper/producer Tree, Spencer is a proud free agent who vocally dismisses the noise surrounding his city’s hip-hop landscape and stays committed to—even obsessed with—forging his own path.
It's sometimes hard to pinpoint what makes Spencer’s music so distinctive. On his sinister, synth-heavy 2013 full-length, The Rapping Bastard and previous albums, it's his willingness to tackle unusual production and his unbridled flow, which ignores the beat's fault lines and a clear sense of symmetry. On his new The Cost of Victory, however, Spencer's sense of control, rather than his unpredictability, takes center stage. He successfully recasts familiar styles—sample-heavy gangsta and underground rap idioms from the late '90s—without indulging in anodyne nostalgia, a difficult feat for most contemporary rappers. More than on his previous releases, it feels like Spencer is paying tribute to the music he grew up listening to; on horn-driven opener "Deadstock", he remembers "walk[ing] up and down Lamron/ Rappin’ out loud the lyrics to ‘Confessions’ by Cam’ron," and mutters "They don’t make this kind of shit no more" throughout the tellingly titled "Sony Walkman". But this music is clearly an individualistic response to this source material, not rite-of-passage rehashing.
Above everything else, Spencer is able to carry the project off because these songs are so skillfully and painstakingly written. As always, his verses characterize his bigger-than-life, reliably disagreeable personality, and are propelled by the healthy competitive spirit of a battle rapper or a dozens player ("I play the background but my rhymes live and direct/ I don’t care if that’s your chick, boy, I’m eying the chest"). On every song, the rapper quickly comes out swinging against buzzworthy rap phenoms, "Internet thugs," "fashion bozos" or the misspent adolescents of Chicago ("murk[ing] something" when they can’t even "spell the name of [his] fucking block"). Spencer’s ability to pivot between incongruous talking points recalls the periodically humorous mood swings of DJ Quik, one of his espoused favorites. However, unlike the sleek Comptonite, Spencer's brash delivery is all live-wire assault tactics. The approach is enough to keep the listener’s attention even in the near-complete absence of hooks, and to carry over the album’s busy, heavily sliced-and-diced production.
Building up hip-hop acts gradually—across and despite trends—through pushing cohesive, full-length projects instead of viral singles is largely a foregone conclusion for today’s labels, but Spencer is following this old model on his own. Though he remains a few steps from making a major breakthrough ("Vic spits shit like a toilet that’s fucked up/ Five years on the scene and I’m still next up"), Spencer continues to invest in his future without trying too hard to picture it, and by refusing to compromise. - Pitchfork


Vic Spencer has learned to meditate. That’s what he tells us on The Cost of Victory, over a sample that sings out a simple refrain: “Once you begin to make it, the harder it is to take it.” It encapsulate the classic conundrum of success: it’s always elusive, and the pursuit of it complicates everything.

Five albums in, and nearly a decade older than the rappers he’s associated with, Vic Spencer is fully aware of his stature. He, like anyone, could always be more popular or respected. He’s also better than he gets credit for now. Vic’s neither drill nor Kanye disciple, and not fitting into either category is as artistically freeing as it is commercially limiting coming from Chicago.

Vic might have learned how to cool out in his personal life, but on The Cost of Victory he uses frustration and anger as a way of dealing with the artistic tension within him. Just because you’re self-aware doesn’t mean you’re comfortable the way you’re perceived, and Vic makes his discomfort known. Shots are fired in the general direction of non-specific targets— Internet thugs, rappers who achieved fame through money rather than talent, non-smoking broads, people from Oak Park who claim to be from out west, the group homes he was forced to navigate as a kid.

If the barrel can be twisted back towards Vic for any reason, it’d be to take aim only at a few minor annoyances that riddle The Cost of Victory. His “yeah” ad-lib sounds too much like Schoolboy’s without the right production. A shot of Malört every time Vic says “you feel me” and you’d be dead before track 11, “Sleep Heart”. It’s appropriate to use that song as a point of reference after pointing out the album’s possible flaws; it’s the most venomous manifestation of Vic’s hatred towards those that don’t appreciate what he does. Blogs are specifically mentioned.

The best part of Vic airing so many grievances is that it’s hard to disagree with any of them. He raps for an album straight, constantly exploring topics through thoughts, observations and punchlines. He pauses for a hook only on “The Writers,” and even that consists mostly just of the whispered names of authors. Not many inside or outside of Chicago are bar-for-bar better than Vic. There should be enough other evidence of Vic’s worth already, but the album is better because of the desperation and urgency he brings.

In an industry in which artists are hyped then forgotten, categorized and classified, it’s unclear if Vic’s desperate or urgent to reach any specific goal. He’s mentioned elsewhere on the Internet that he wants to be Chicago’s version of Sean Price, who appears alongside Illa Ghee on “Jungle Gym.” He’s comfortable with commercial obscurity as long as he gets the recognition he deserves.

At this point in his career, Vic is more like a Midwestern Vince Staples: associated with with his city’s most popular young groups and the most reliable purveyor of bars, regardless of crossover potential. The Cost of Victory is Vic’s dismissal of anyone who doesn’t respect him. Vic raps for rap’s sake, but he does it better than those with less admirable intentions. That’s not the quickest path to success, but there’s no point choosing paths if none of them ever really lead anywhere. - Passion of the Weiss


Today, more than two years after the release of Chief Keef’s drill anthem “I Don’t Like,” Chicago’s hip-hop scene is more a talking point than a driving force. Its breakout stars (Keef, Lil Durk and Lil Reese, in particular) have either been unable to replicate their early commercial success, or are precluded from the possibility of doing so by restrictive contracts or stints in jail/rehab. Oddly enough, though, drill music (and the much-mythologized “Chiraq“) still captures the wider cultural imagination. Scene figures still pop up in larger artists’ features (see Lil Herb’s recent verse on Nicki Minaj’s “Chiraq,” Chief Keef alongside Bon Iver on Yeezus) and are fodder for tabloid news stories or exposes. However, the artists’ solo mixtapes and singles remain marginally popular — due partially to deteriorating (or bewildering) quality and anemic label support — and Chicago seems destined to be simply another niche regional scene.

But it’s important to note that drill music is simply one of many bullet points on the city’s hip-hop landscape. The success of exuberant, Kendrick-ian technician Chance the Rapper last year offered a hopeful glimpse of another part of the city. However, save the rising profile of his compadre and former Kidz These Days frontman Vic Mensa, Chance has remained mostly a stand-alone phenomenon outside of Chicago.

Chance and Mensa started as just two of the many faces of Save Money, a distinctly disorganized and wildly talented enclave of young rappers, producers and artists from various backgrounds. Operating on the outskirts of the group is Englewood MC Vic Spencer, who’s recorded several songs with Chance and got Mensa into the recording booth for the first time. He also frequently collaborates with the North Side-raised MC Tree, whose hoarse rhymes and innovative “soultrap” production style have made him an ongoing cult favorite. But Spencer did not appear on any of his colleagues’ breakout projects, and he remains largely unknown outside of Chicago.

Spencer is 32 — at least a decade over Save Money’s median age — and has been rapping since his late teens. His background in local ciphers is audible in his music; he allows sentences to lead him beyond kosher syllable counts, and his rhyme schemes shift faster than they can be isolated. Stylistically, Spencer’s material is also a cattle call of weird whims and contradictions. He offers up everything from street bangers to Stones Throw-like stoner anthems to richly autobiographical ballads. The rapper demonstrates an unquenchable thirst to advance his style and challenge himself — he doesn’t seem to care if his audience can keep up or not — energetically tackling unwieldy production that might be anathema to lesser rappers. For all the directions his beats and stories go, Spencer’s catalogue possesses a surprising unity thanks to his strong voice and distinctly chameleonic flow.

Because of this, almost any entry in Spencer’s large catalog provides a good starting point. His albums with the L.A.-via-Chicago rapper and Treated Crew corporal Sulaiman are impressive smoke-something music — the Midwest answer to Starlito and Don Trip’s Stepbrothers projects. Alternately, Spencer’s full-length from last year, The Rapping Bastard, is a darkly humorous concept album dominated by gothic, harshly buzzing synths and overdriven drum loops (think early Odd Future production). It’s a pronounced change in tone from earlier releases like 2012′s Walk Away Music — a boom-bappy project he did entirely with local soul-sample-minded producer Doc da Mindbenda — and the ethereal electronica of French producer IKAZ on Spence Ethic.

Spencer’s latest release, Vision Pipes, is a seven-track collaboration with TDE-affiliated producer Rocket, characterized by flanged, trip-hoppy breakbeats and processed vocals. As usual, the EP is chock full of rich and constantly pivoting verses (“I switch my style a lot/ Because the dogs love to bite”) which vacillate between misanthropic heckling, day-in-the-life shop talk and existential ruminations. Musically, it’s one of Spencer’s more inconsistent releases — Rocket’s long instrumental breaks and meandering vocal tags sometimes feel extraneous — but it provides ample evidence of Spencer’s ever-increasing dexterity as a lyricist.

In interviews, on social media and in his verses, Spencer is dismissive of the hip-hop landscape in Chicago. In his estimation, the success of Chance and Chief Keef has only created more imitators: a false belief among Chicago rappers that unifying under certain trends is what will make them succeed. However, even a cursory glance at premiere Chicago rap blog Fake Shore Drive shows that it’s the disparity and fierce individualism of today’s Chicago hip-hop that makes it so special. Delving into Spencer’s music — we can expect three more releases from him this year — and that of the talented members of his extended cohort (Saba, D2G, Naledge, Martin $ky, etc.) won’t yield a picture of a cohesive movement, but will fill out a more detailed picture of the musical landscape in Chicago — one that is just as fragmented as its districts, demographics and gang culture. If drill music/”Chiraq” culture is in danger of becoming a mere totem, perhaps Chicago’s future is in the hands of anomalies like Spencer, who can help cement the city’s place on the wider hip-hop radar — if not on the charts — for the long term. - Wondering Sound


Vic Spencer might just have the best Bandcamp description out: What is the result when you mix the wit of Sean Price, the comedic delivery of DOOM, the unorthodox approach of the late ODB, the lungs of B-Real, and the life experience of a group home resident hailing from the streets of Chicago’s gritty East Side? Answer: Vic Spencer aka The Rapping Bastard.

To be fair, it's the most honest description of his rhymes out—and most critics can't quite seem to wrap their head around what makes Spencer stand out so much, so let the video for "First Aid Kit" show you. Over the chaotic and soulful production from Tony Baines, Spencer spits about everything from Chi-town politics, competition in the industry, and his current successes—and the video, directed, edited and shot by Aaron Perkins Jr., is equally as dizzying. It's the second single off of his self-released album The Cost Of Victory, which is available on Spencer's site. Read more about him over on Pigeons & Planes right now. - Complex Music


Last week, I called Vic Spencer and he immediately told me some good news. His second daughter, Taylor Spencer, had been born earlier that day. Pleased that his baby was healthy, Vic Spencer didn’t want to get off the phone, even though he was heading home from the hospital.

The Chicago native isn’t a new artist. At 33, Vic can considered a veteran among younger, rising artists like Save Money’s frontmen Chance The Rapper and Vic Mensa. He made his official debut in 2009 with Vic Magorium’s Hip-Hop Emporium, produced entirely by TDE favorites Nez & Rio. Spencer’s unorthodox style and strong voice immediately caught on with listeners who wanted something different from Chicago’s commercially successful drill scene and projects like 2012’s boom-bap heavy Walk Away Music and 2013’s dusky The Rapping Bastard helped him increase his visibility in a sea of potential rap stars. For the Brainiac Society member, his mission in music is simple: challenge himself to progress artistically and become Chi-Town’s version of a Sean Price or MF DOOM.

Lately, Vic Spencer has been achieving his goals with a set of impressive one-off tracks. On songs like “Red Eye” and “Loop God,” his versatility as a lyricist shine through, giving fans more proof that December’s The Cost Of Victory will be a game-changer. On Spencer’s fifth studio album, he’s the same aggressive MC as before, only now there’s a clear vision in mind. With moody production by O. Bonjour, DC, Doc da Mindbenda and Black Spade, as well as a feature from Brownsville legend Sean Price, he’s ready to place his brand of raps on a wider scale. “The Cost Of Victory is winning in my own lane, winning in my own right,” he says. “Some people think that my goals are not big goals, but at least I am still achieving in my eyes.”

We spoke to Vic Spencer about his teenage years living in group homes, getting his start in hip-hop, the status of his working relationship with Chance The Rapper, and what it’s like being an older MC in a young man’s game. We’re also happy to premiere “Jungle Gym,” a track from The Cost of Victory featuring Sean Price and ILLA Ghee.

What part of Chicago are you from?
I represent the Eastside of Chicago. I kind of lived everywhere in Chicago though. I was born on the Westside, I grew up on the Northside, and then I finished college and just started raising a family on the Eastside. We’ve been living on the Eastside since about age 19. I’m 33 now.

Was it rough growing up there?
My younger years were definitely rough because I wasn’t fully raised by my parents. I entered into the ward of the State at seven years old. I was moving around from different foster homes, relative foster homes, and also group homes. I just basically moved around a lot in the city of Chicago. I was basically in the group home all my teenage years trying to find myself.

You talk about your father a lot in your music and how you had a rocky relationship with him. Was it because of him that you were in a group home?
My mom and my dad, they were drug addicts. I found out about this as the years went by. I remember this story vividly. I was on a big wheel—maybe like one o’ clock in the morning. I was about seven years old and the police asked me, “What’s going on? Why you outside?” I’m like, “I don’t know.” They asked me where my mom and dad was. And I said, “I don’t know.” They found them both intoxicated.

From then on, they kept me and my siblings—I’m the youngest of four—until court for foster relative care. So we went to court, and, as my mom told me, my dad said, “I don’t want nothing to do with it.” And he left out of the court room. That left my grandma on my mom’s side to take care of us. She took us in.

Your grandmother raised you most of your childhood. What happened after that?
I went to foster relative care, which is like one of your relatives becomes guardian. My aunt took responsibly for me at that point because my grandma had started to get sick from diabetes. She got real sick to the point where she couldn’t take care of us and her leg got amputated. And then my aunt was real malicious. She was real money hungry at the time. I can’t speak for what she does now, but when she took us in, her main focus was the money. She definitely took advantage of us.

At this time my oldest brother and my oldest sister, they were grown up and they made their decision to live out of her house. But me and my youngest sister, we had to go through it. My aunt started taking care of mentally ill children and found out that she got paid more to take care of those children, so she issued a 14-day notice for me and my youngest sister to get out of her home. And from there, me and my youngest sister started going into group homes.

I was in group homes from about 13 to 17 then I got my own apartment at 17 through the independent living program. Before I went into independent living, I moved into three different group homes. I developed a personality called Da Group Home Felon. Basically, that was just a person that represented who I was. I treated every group home like it was a strike against my life. That’s why I called myself Da Group Home Felon.

When did you get into hip-hop and start making music?
I was always listening to music but I wasn’t really taking music seriously until maybe the junior year of high school. I had gotten an opportunity to be part of a group called Uhlich Voices. Basically, they group was formed by all DCFS wards of the state. You got the guys that were musically inclined, and we all came together and started talking about our lives. And the CEO of Group House Music at the time basically gave us an opportunity. That was like my real first deal. You can sign and perform at different group homes, different agencies, all these different things. We went all across the country with it too. We were in D.C., Kentucky, California. We went to maybe seven different states and did a lot of things locally.

Overall, that was truly my beginning with rap. I was always recording on the karaoke machine as a kid at 16, 17. I had saved up my little allowance to get a karaoke machine and there was also a sense of leadership in me too, because I had other guys that were considered hard and hoodlums in the group home who would see me in my room creating music and thinking, “Well, I can do this too!” They didn’t consider me a lame or anything because I was talking about things that happened in my life.

You’ve said in previous interviews that Redman and “Tonight’s The Night” was one of the songs you really liked as a kid. What is it about Redman that influenced you?
He’s funny. I remember in 7th grade when I first heard “Tonight’s The Night.” Oh my God. It changed my life because I was listening to a lot of West Coast rap. Any guys that had the word MC or DJ in their name. I was heavily inclined to listen to them. DJ Quik. MC Breed. DJ Prince Paul. DJ Paul of Three 6 Mafia. I was listening to all those guys because my brother listened to them. I kind of found my own lane of music to listen to when I saw the Redman, “Tonight’s The Night” video.

I thought that he was hilarious. I thought he was more funny and witty in his rhymes. That’s kind of what of made me want to make rap music. That’s when I started recording on tapes. This time, I didn’t have a karaoke machine, I had two stereos. One stereo was used to record my voice and the other for the music that would play to create these tapes.

How would you describe your rapping style?
I basically want to bring back that integrity to the game, rather than my music being based on what’s hot right now. I believe that in music you have to do things to get people to like you. But for some, it just takes longer. It’s not the same as it used to be. You have to consider a rapper like me being an old school Chevy which takes a long time to be built and rebuilt to be able to compete with these Euro cars. That’s what I think about the rap game now. There are a lot of Euro cars in the game.

Chicago was in the spotlight two or three years ago when the drill scene was blowing up. And then after that, people are saying there’s a post drill scene with Chance The Rapper, Vic Mensa, Mick Jenkins and yourself. What is your idea of this shift in Chicago music now?
I think it’s a good thing to have both cultures. The drill scene is still a scene. It is real if you live in the city of Chicago. But that’s not what Chicago is all about. A few years ago that’s what people were saying Chicago was, that drill sound, but this new generation is taking the music somewhere else. You got guys that are more conscious and happier like Chance, Mick and them. Those guys are kind of bringing that balance back in the game. I just want to be able to add in hardcore hip-hop to the game cause Chicago don’t have that. You are either doing music like Chance or you’re doing music like drill. There’s nothing in between.

That’s where Vic Spencer comes in. Vic Spencer wants to be the hardcore MC that people can say, “Aww man, Vic Spencer is like the Sean Price of Chicago.” That’s the type of label I want to have. I don’t want to be the one that’s in the forefront because I know my music is not for the radio. It’s not for all the media. But the substance that I bring to it, the rhythm that I bring to it, the hardcore element, the vulgar part, the aggressiveness? Nobody from Chicago does that .

You did a song with Chance The Rapper called “National Geographical” a few years ago. How did it come together? This was before he blew up.
This is way before Chance blew up. Nobody knew who Chance was at this point. My first time really giving him a listen was when he was doing a compilation. Now, this was before 10 Day. It was a pile of CDs called 5 Day that was to promote 10 Day. He was going around giving out these 5 Day promo CDs and I came across the CD and I liked it. I liked this song “22 Offs.” When I heard that, I thought, “This kid is awesome!”

So “National Geographical” was off my project called Vic Greenthumbs three years ago. I was celebrating my 30th birthday, so I put 30 records on the project. “National Geographical” was one of them and it was one of the very first songs that I recorded. At the very last minute, I asked my engineer if I could invite Chance over and he could record something to it. At this time, me and Chance kind of had the same management. So he recorded something and when I let guys hear the song at that time, they knew it was cold and wanted to give it more of a push. So we shot the video and it was big. This was back in the day when Chance used to come to my crib—my daughter and my wife they all know him very well. He’s been at my house. Just sat and chilled. Smoked all my cigarettes. All that.

I’ve got old GarageBand sessions actually with Chance on there trying to buy my cigarettes. He probably can buy me a carton right now. [Laughs] For real, he’s like, “Let me get two. Let me get two. Let me be squared with you man.” It’s crazy. I go back and listen to that stuff and I’m very proud of Chance and how big he has become, but “National Geographical” was his big break. Everybody could hear him and take in the same feeling that I had when I started working with him. People started to see why I worked with him. And that’s how me and Chance first started making music.

That was when I used to pick Chance up. He stayed in one of the roughest neighborhoods too on 79th St. I would go pick him up and we’d go talk about music all day, every day. And play each other’s music all day, every day. We talked about doing an EP. We made a record called “Out The Water,” which was produced by two famous guys Nez & Rio, and sent it out. It got a lot of praise and so forth and so on. That was kind of the beginning of me and Chance working on an EP together. But politics came into play and he started getting big.

I don’t know if it was him or the people around him that didn’t make this happen. Me and Chance’s relationship as far as making music is no more.

Let’s talk about your next project The Cost Of Victory. What does the title mean to you?
Basically, what we’ve been talking about. Going through adversity. Going through struggles in music. Doing whatever it takes for you to feel like you won. I feel like I won because I did a record with one of my idols, which is Sean Price. Sean has a team called the Ruck Down. It’s not a record label or anything like that. It’s just the crew. I went down to New York this past April to meet him and to discuss music. I played five hours of Vic Spencer’s music in Sean Price’s kitchen. Him rewinding his favorite song. It just meant so much to me. That’s The Cost Of Victory right there. I went the longest ways to reach my goal.

I always looked at myself as a versatile kind of guy, but musically I always wanted to be hardcore, the Chi-Town’s Sean Price. Or the Chi-Town’s MF Doom or any of those kinds of legends. I want to be those kinds of guys. I don’t want to be Chi-Town’s Twista. I don’t want to be Chi-Town’s Chance. I want to be with legends. My records get played with legends, and I am fine with that.

I want to get into the track “First Aid Kit.” You say, “Niggas fuck with me and see the real talent / And the rest of y’all niggas against me, it’s not a challenge.” Do you feel the rap game is nothing but competition to you?
I am in Chicago and there are a million rappers. You named off five rappers without even taking a breath. It’s definitely a challenge. It’s definitely competition. There’s too much power in me, Chance, and Vic Mensa’s names for us to be in a group. If me, Vic and Chance were in a group, it would be on some Barcelona stuff. But it would never happen. It’s egos. I got an ego, too. It’s all egos. Egos get in the way, and now I don’t see Vic Mensa. I don’t see Chance. I just see competition; you know what I am saying?

I am putting out my records when they put out their records. I’m putting out my record in the fourth quarter because that’s when the big stars put out they records. Just to have that mindset. When I say the rest of y’all against me, it’s not a challenge. It means it’s a sport. Nobody is messing with the style of music that I got. There’s a time and place for everything. For me, I think there’s a time to hear drill music and that’s when you out in the club and you out with a lady that likes to get turned up. And there’s also a place where you just want to listen to that hardcore music. That’s when you want to slap somebody. That’s when you want to listen to Vic Spencer. When you want to snatch somebody. To avoid that, you want to go listen to some Vic Spencer. That’s the type of competitive, aggressiveness that I want to bring to the game.

You’re a 33-year-old MC and it seems hip-hop is ran by the younger generation. I’ve even seen you work with Tree too. Do you think age is nothing but a number in rap now?
I think the game now is a manager’s game. What I mean by that is that managers don’t want to take on an older artist because nine times out of 10, that artist might be older than the manager. They are kind of in a situation where they don’t want to be told what to do and they don’t want to tell the older guy what to do. I think with a person like me and person like Tree, we are the forefathers. It’s necessary to have guys like us in the game to kind of bring that older age music and life substance into the game. But overall, just being older, it just goes back to that analogy when we are talking about the cars.

I feel like younger people don’t care about older rap guys, especially guys that express it in their music. All young people want to do is have fun. That’s all they want to do. They just want to have fun and turn up and all of that. Its kind of hard—just like a stubborn teenager—to get them on the right track. It’s kind of hard to get people on to my kind of music because they’re just not in-tune with that. They’re just so in-tune with having fun and turning up. When it comes time to play my music, it sounds like I’m preaching or I’m being bored. But that’s the young people, there are older guys that are looking at me to win, especially older guys that used to rap from this city. They don’t rap no more because of how the music is being portrayed now.

That’s why me and Tree are real close together too. We were supposed to drop a project called VicTree. It was supposed to be before The Cost Of Victory but it made sense to do The Cost Of Victory first, then VicTree. It sounds like I made it in VicTree. You know what I am saying? Me and Tree have a project that’s gonna come out next year. He produced all the joints and it is done. As soon as I drop The Cost Of Victory sometime in December, VicTree is gonna drop.

What is your biggest goal?
My biggest goal is be happy overall in music. Right now, I’m not happy. And it’s not because of me not having any radio play or not getting any shows or anything. I really believe there is a consensus against artists like Vic Spencer because I am so righteous about what I speak about. I am so upfront. I’m so real and I’m right there. I talk about it everywhere; social media, when I talk to my friends, I’m so outspoken in what I believe in. I just want that to get to people worldwide. I just want to be a link for change so somebody else can do something.

My goals are not big. I don’t want to be the No. 1 rapper in the country. It’s a risk to be the No. 1 rapper in the country. I don’t want to be the No. 1 rapper in the country. I just want to be able to say I’m the best rapper for me. I just want to be able to say I put out the best work and I know that it is the best work, so I’m the best. I just want to be able to continue to say that and to continue to create a legacy for kids that do listen to my music. - Pigeons and Planes


Rappers need to captivate. You can use big words, strange flows, funny punchlines, and complex metaphors, but if your s–t doesn’t hold the listener’s attention, it’s all in vain. It’s not enough to rep your city or chase a trendy sound; in today’s economy, you need to amaze every time you pick up a mic, or the fans will leave you high and dry for the next phenomenon real quick.

Vic Mensa is the latest Chicago media darling. It goes beyond his friendship with Chance The Rapper, back to Kids These Days, the live hip-hop band that Mensa fronted for some time before the group went their separate ways. It’s a shame they split — the market seems ripe for a hybrid rap band with live instrumentation — but at least the split happened early. They knocked out quality projects like ‘Hard Times’ and ‘Traphouse Rock’ before disbanding, and now Vic doesn’t have to be the next Black Thought, suffering solo debut purgatory for the sake of his group.
That solo debut, ‘INNANETAPE,’ quickly relieved any worries about the band’s breakup that might have been amok. He’s not as left-field as Lucki Eck$ or quirky as Chance, but Vic is a throwback to the lyrically dense era of Def Jux backpackers — that’s evident on the opening song of ‘INNANETAPE.’ He can speed up and stack syllables until they topple or stretch words out, alternating between cadences from one line to the next and breaking into song at random opportunities. When you’re the MC for a live band, you learn how to master the crowd whenever you’re on stage. For a young dude, Vic seems to have a preternatural ability to captivate.
Chance put him on ‘Cocoa Butter Kisses’ from ‘Acid Rap,’ but what really made Vic’s name pop online was ‘Orange Soda,’ the first leak from ‘INNANETAPE.’ It sounds like the soundtrack to the most relaxing day ever. His verses are like streams of consciousness, as his cup runneth over with words tumbling out of his mouth. It’s not overwhelming, but the volume of his rhymes is larger than usual. After awhile, it’s as if his subject matter is cannibalized by his technique. The latter can become the former, as Goethe once said, but if Vic has dope s–t to say, you don’t want to miss it in exchange for his delivery; a balance of both would be ideal, he just hasn’t quite struck it yet. He also veers a little too close to Chance’s style at times throughout the tape, and even though the steez itself is a breath of fresh air, the similarity is hard to ignore.

‘Hollywood LA’ is an even better single, as it floats into the clouds of stoner sounds, but Vic’s biggest song to date is ‘Down On My Luck.’ As of this writing, the video has just over 1.4 million views on Youtube, and the video description says the single just dropped on iTunes (Jul. 27). Ever since Azealia Banks’ ’212,’ the music industry has been waiting for someone to blend rap and electronic music as skillfully as she did, but it hasn’t happened yet. ‘Down On My Luck’ might be the best attempt since, nailing the house sound even better than the rap angle. He’s signed to Universal and if they can put the right resources behind him, Vic might take over before Chance reemerges.

Don’t sleep on Vic Spencer, though. Spence doesn’t sound rushed or immature. His beats are nuanced, his flows are funky, and he just comes off as a more advanced MC. While Mensa’s music tends to try and stretch the appeal towards kids, giving his music a juvenile (albeit playful) fragrance. Spence just doesn’t give a f–k, and that lack of targeting makes his music that much more palatable to anyone that likes dope raps. Just play that ‘Catalog Don’ mix above, and if you don’t feel like turning it off after five minutes, then you know you’re hooked.

Maybe it’s Spencer’s age that defines his approach. He’s over 30 years old, nearly dinosaur age for an up and coming rapper, but he’s got this weathered sound in his voice, like he’s tired of doing anything except what he loves. If he was Mensa’s age, he might be open to experimentation, but he doesn’t have time to push the envelope. He’s too busy getting s–t off his chest.

Last year’s ‘The Rapping Bastard’ is a gripping, visceral testament to his singular talent — “I rap like Vic Spencer, nobody else,” he says defiantly on ‘Comfort Zone.’ Another young Chitown rapper, Mick Jenkins, has a bit of Spence in him, but Vic has substance where these other rappers are just masturbating with words. He wakes up flossy, but acknowledges he’s blessed; he s–ts on rappers who spend 12 hours in the studio and only do two songs; “you don’t get chances, you make chances.” He isn’t spitting the New Testament, but his voice cuts through speakers like a knife. This isn’t playpen rap. Spence spits with the gravity of a guy who knows this is his last shot.
Both Chicago MCs have room to succeed on their own. Mensa has been showing off his musical flexibility with new s–t like ‘Feel That’ (which knocks), while Spencer is thriving off consistency with recents drops like ‘Feastmode’ and ‘Spin Cycle.’ At this point, Mensa is in a better position to pop nationally between his record deal and his willingness to expand beyond rap sounds, but that doesn’t make him the better rapper. If these two battled, Spence would probably eat Mensa alive. That’ll never happen, though, and for good reason: the Chicago scene seems to be a self-sustaining one where flourishing acts are willing to prop each other up, drill aside. Chance is the most powerful one in the city right now, and every look he gives to those under him increases their shine exponentially.

In the near future, you might hear Mensa’s music at the club, but you’ll bang Spence’s raps in an alley. Two different styles that serve two different purposes and can find two different platforms of popularity. Now it’s just a matter of time for these rappers to captivate the world’s ear. - The Boombox


“Anything could happen. You could say Vic Spencer is one whopping opportunity.”

For Vic Spencer, every new place or venture is a new “landmine of opportunity,” and he is just waiting for one to explode. His new project, HaerBrainSchemes Presents: The Rapping Bastard, due out November 29th, is hopefully one of those landmines.

Rapping Bastard is ferocious and full of complicated barplay that might leave virgin ears slack-jawed. Spencer’s voice sounds suitable for a cartoon villain and matches the sinister sound. The album is grotesque and aggressive, and Spencer’s descriptive rapping is ill, giving listeners insight into his psyche.


Vic Spencer is vicious, even on sonically more relaxed tracks. One of the standout joints on Rapping Bastard is the eight minute-long, “ew”-riddled track “Bacteria/Fungi/Virus.” Spencer reflected upon biology from high school, using it as inspiration for the song.“A lot if this is nasty and it describes me as an individual,” explained Spencer. The concept for the track was difficult for him to describe to Saba, who produced the track, “I want virus to sound like virus; I want it to sound deadly. I want fungi to sound funky, and I want bacteria to sound like something you can just deal with; it’s a beat that you can deal with.” As the track flows from one ill (in multiple senses of the word) beat to the next, Spencer snarls.

He worked with a slew of producers for this project. Everyone from Saba to A-Villa to Dr. LaFlow to O’Bonjour to Doc Da Mindbenda — and the list goes on. Even though the roster is mixed and full, Rapping Bastard is cohesive and wicked interesting.

“Sonically, Rapping Bastard is so good. All of the music meshed well, and the tracklisting goes well, it just sounds good,” said Spencer, who believes the Rapping Bastard’s sound is ahead of the time. He also doesn’t sound like he is from Chicago. His style can’t be placed geographically, but as he spits references that indicate he hails from the Windy City.

Spencer initially had 18 tracks for the project, and cut it down to 12. He ultimately concluded that some things are still good, and worth listening to, but weren’t authentic to the sound he created for himself. “[The music] is just rare. I don’t try do it on purpose either. It’s the final work that makes me realize [it],” explains Spencer. He doesn’t hear anything similar coming out of Chicago.

Manipulating bars and contorting beats is what Spencer does best. He used the project to challenge himself with sounds he never thought of touching before, “[On] Rapping Bastard I explored sounds, and it took me somewhere I’ve never been before,” explained Spencer. Rapping Bastard was two years in the making. The earliest track, “Sheezy,” stands out because of its trap sound, similar to a lot of what is on the radio. Spencer did not like “Sheezy” but kept it because it was a challenge to make that track. “I hate that song. I hate ‘Sheezy,’” he says with a laugh, “It’s not Vic Spencer, it’s not me. But it’s me challenging myself. That’s why its on the project because it’s a challenge to make music and to think outside of a box, and not be put in a box, and prove you’re not in a box.”

Spencer took a negative and inverted it into a positive, as he tends to, with this joint. “I’m always being put in a box, ‘I’m an old dude who can’t do this.’ So I’m like, ‘Man I’m going to prove these guys wrong on their own music.’”

At 32, Spencer is an “Old Fart.” But Spencer thinks of being older as a blessing not a curse, “I’m an old man in the game, and it’s good that I portray that,” explains Spencer who appropriated the “old fart” Twitter diss he received as a new title for himself, “I got that genre. I made it a genre. That’s my whole intake on negative stuff that happens. If a negative thing happens, I try to embrace it in my music positively.” He remembers when he was younger and thought of other people as old, but now he realizes how maturity comes with age. “I’m more of an old fashioned, face-to-face type of guy so you can get more insight into what’s going on. That’s how my music is, whatever I’m speaking about, I’ve got more insight than anything on it,” he said. That desire to be in-person, face-to-face, and not hiding behind a computer is old school, but in a good way. It also shows that Spencer is confident and eager to talk about his music.

Why the name Rapping Bastard though? Well, “I just be rapping. I be rapping all the time, non stop. I rap to myself in the car, I rap in traffic. I hear a beat and I don’t want to pay attention to the lyrics, I’ll start rapping. Being alone, nobody to father you into that type of position, it’s the rapping bastard,” Spencer explained. He started professionally rapping at 17, but remembers rapping as far back as 7th grade.

He grew up on hip-hop, listening to a lot of gangsta rap because of his brother, until he was on his own listening to Redman, MF Doom, Madlib and Sean Price just to name a few. These artists inspired Spencer and his rapping bastard mentality, “a lot of them really influenced my anger, not just I copied their sound or whatever, that’s where I get my ‘say whatever I want to say’ mentality from.”

Spencer and censorship may be phonically similar, but are nowhere near each other. He likes to be able to rap freely and be as truthful as possible. Spencer has a “no holds barred” mentality. “I just go with the flow, whatever is in my mind,” describes Spencer, “A lot goes through my mind, it’s very random. I know I talk about one thing and hop to the next on one song. It just goes to show there’s so much going on and so many ideas, and one of those ideas is not enough for a song.”

“I like to start with the beat. It’s the organic, Vic Spencer way,” he explains. He compares it to getting dressed, and he picks out his shoes (beats) first before getting everything else together. That’s why a favorite of Spencer’s on Rapping Bastard is “Lifegame.” “I was just in the zone when I heard that beat,” described Spencer, “I just nonstop wrote for the whole beat.” Alone in a room with only a speaker, manically writing a joint with no hooks, Spencer felt like the Rapping Bastard. The beat came from St. Louis producer Black Spade, and the concept came from a friend who coined the term “Lifegame.”

There is a bite when he spits. Spencer often gets compared to Tyler, The Creator, and back in the day, was compared to Ludacris and Busta Rhymes. “Owe” from Rapping Bastard may sound like Tyler, something Vic Spencer acknowledges, but he hears himself first, “I start listening to the pattern, I start listening to the anger, I start listening to the hunger in my voice; it sounds so deep as opposed to all of the other voices on The Rapping Bastard […] That was a special song. That’s one of my favorite joints off of Rapping Bastard.”

Spencer explains the intent behind Rapping Bastard as using his head to gain control of everything around him, “Everything that’s coming towards me in the game right now, all the things buzzing around me right now, just seeing that and not being able to be manual with it, so I have to start using my brain more to gain a better opportunity.” He is trying be above all of the chatter surrounding him, and to move forward in his own way above it all. “It’s kind of the platform to the music. It starts from the past. Wanting to be better than what I’ve done, what I’ve accomplished before. I just want to do better, so that where it comes from,” said Spencer.

Vic Spencer wants Rapping Bastard to be an opportunity to the point where he can continue to work outside of his comfort zone if the project takes off. It is a new style and sound for Spencer, something that he finds less comfortable than his previous work, but it’s a good thing. The sound is dope, and while it may be different Vic Spencer, it is just another facet to Vic Spencer. “All of my songs, all of my projects have one specific personality. People might look at it like, ‘Man Vic is the Rapping Bastard, it’s another one of his personalities.’”

Speaking of personalities, Vic Spencer has a moment on Rapping Bastard’s on “UNFWM” where the character Vic Greenthumbs makes an appearance. An alter ego Spencer once embodied to churn out 30 tracks on one project. Spencer admits to having a different personality on his tracks.

Vic Spencer’s work ethic and love for rapping has allowed him continually to produce dope music.

Spare studio time while creating Rapping Bastard meant that there was an opportunity to create more, and thus make a lexicon of tracks. Spencer released a new track every Monday as a promo of sorts for Rapping Bastard called The Red Button Series. He explained the series, “It’s random as hell, but it’s not bad at all. I feel like Red Button did a lot of justice for the Rapping Bastard. It’s like preparing you for the barplay, not so much of the concept.”

There are about 20 more tracks, leftovers from the series, that Spencer has yet to release. For Spencer, Red Button series was nothing compared to Rapping Bastard. Most of the tracks Spencer was just sitting on rather than producing new, tending to keep his music to himself. Most of the raps for Red Button Series he wrote before the beat. “I knew what I was going to rap over, so I just started attacking lyrically,” he explained.

Attacking bars with anger and aggression is what Spencer does best. One can hear the fire in his voice as he spits. While one might be imitated by the venomous lyricism, he is a chill pretty positive and realistic dude. On Rapping Bastard, one can hear how Spencer channels and controls the fierceness of his rhymes and beats, something that is faint in his daily demeanor.

It is understandable why Spencer is both ferocious on the microphone and calmer in real life. It comes with maturity, having a family (his six year-old daughter is on the beginning of the song “134340”) and having gone through group homes and many DCFS notices early on in life. Spencer thinks of everything as an opportunity, and inverts negatives to positives.

“All opportunities are like landmines. One blows up I’m going with it,” Spencer said with a smirk. He knows that if he aimed too high and missed, he would beat himself up, so he works practically, “I set small goals that I know would be reachable, and if I can’t attack those then maybe there’s a way I can and it just might take longer. That way I can know what I expect from myself. If I expect that this music has to be what it is.”

Since Chicago has been on everyone’s radar for the last couple of years, it is difficult to clear a path. Spencer creates distinct music, but when so much else is going on it becomes difficult to consume it all. Spencer believes that in the beginning, the Chicago hip-hop scene had leaders, such as Twista, Do Or Die and Common. Now there are so many more rappers and no leaders. Spencer explains, “It’s like three times as many kids now than when I was born. You have to go with the odds; the ratio is heavy in Chicago. I just think there’s too many of us doing the same thing and not too many leaders. Just because there’s so many artists doing their thing, they’re they own leaders. Something in there’s gotta change.”

He thinks of the Chicago scene as one big pot of gumbo brewing, and it’s all hot, nearly bubbling over. He is listening to his peers such as Martin $ky, Saba, Highlife Dre, Stearling Hayes and SaveMoney — to name a few — noting that he’s particularly tight with SaveMoney member Brian Fresco.

Spencer felt compelled to clear the air about one thing: Vic Mensa and Chance The Rapper both hit it big after being featured on tracks of Spencer’s. “Everyone thinks I’m mad or bitter about that, having them come out on my projects, and I’m not on either one of their projects,” Spencer explained. He does rap about it in his typical angry fashion, addressing it head on, but Spencer isn’t stressing it as much as it sounds on his songs.

Ultimately, he wants Rapping Bastard to surpass his previous projects’ numbers, getting it shopped around and heard more. Spencer cared most about making sure people get the project, and he wanted Rapping Bastard to be everything his stellar 2012 project Walk Away Music wasn’t, which is why he pushed himself sonically.

“I think sonically it’s not better than Walk Away Music. I don’t know what kind of attachment I have with Walk Away Music, but I think that’s Vic Spencer’s formula,” explained Spencer who is particularly comfortable with his style. He wanted Rapping Bastard to be different though. “I’m after the respect, globally. I want the respect more than anything. The respect is everything,” he explained.

Spencer wanted the project to be a jumping off point for whatever is next. In a way, he created a landmine for himself. “I just wanna do the goals, rep the goals that I can see, and if anything that happens is bigger than that, then that’s God’s nature, I’m with it,” said Spencer.

Manipulating bars, creating beats, and spitting with precision, Vic Spencer is the Rapping Bastard. Now, let’s hope he explodes. - Fake Shore Drive


Discography

-Vic Magorium's Hip-Hop Emporium (Brainiac Society X Fake Shore Drive, October 2009)
-We're Just Disappointed (Brainiac Society, July 2010)
-Go Louis:Vic Spencer X Black Spade(Brainiac Society, March 2011)
-Vic Greenthumbs (Brainiac Society, September 2011)
-Hard Bars: Vic Spencer X D2G (SUH, October 2011)
-Vic Spencer Presents: Walk Away Music (Brainiac Society, July 2012)
-ANTiERTHANG: Vic Spencer X Griffen X Fat Boi Wiz (September 2012)
-Spence Ethic: Vic Spencer X iKaz (October 2012)

Photos

Bio

Vic began his career as an MC in 1994, formulating his unique angle on sharp wit and comedic delivery of rap lyrics that has not and can not be duplicated. The formula has been perfected 20 years after his first cipher and the buzz around Spencer has grown astronomically from the enormous amount of projects, collaborative efforts and features Vic has put out over the last few years.

Over the past five years, Vic Spencer has become one of the most respected figures in underground Chicago hip-hop. The Englewood rapper keeps his name in the local headlines with a constant stream of loose tracks whose titles often effectively sum up the snarky, acutely self-aware attitude of his lyrics: "G File Clerk", "A Blog Write-Up", or "Loop God". Though his reputation has grown thanks in part to his collaborations with Chance the Rapper, Vic Mensa, and acclaimed "soultrap" rapper/producer Tree, Spencer is a proud free agent who vocally dismisses the noise surrounding his city’s hip-hop landscape and stays committed to—even obsessed with—forging his own path.

Band Members