After releasing INNANETAPE in September 2013 and hitting the road as an independent artist for the months that followed, Vic Mensa finally gave up his free agent status by inking a deal with Roc Nation this year.
Jay Z has only signed two other rappers to the imprint so far (J. Cole and Jay Electronica), so this was obviously no hasty decision. MTV News sat down with the Chicago rapper at the Roc Nation offices in New York this week, and he explained how the stars aligned in this case, so to speak.
Vic had been courted by Roc Nation executive and A&R Lenny S. prior to his meeting with Jay Z, and if he wasn't immediately interested (as Lenny has hilariously pointed out) things definitely changed.
"My first meeting with Jay Z, I just knew he was really really smart -- that's what I took from it. We didn't speak so much in-depth, and I didn't play music, he just told me what he had going on," Vic told MTV News. "So the time I really met with him and played music...I played him a song that hasn't been released yet called "City On Fire." And I sampled a song in it, that the refrain is, 'It's contagious' and I had just bleached my hair."
"And once I played that, Hov told me that the night before, he had been watching the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame induction of Nirvana. And it was crazy to me that he drew comparison and that parallel just because Nirvana is my favorite band of all time," Vic said.
"He was like, 'It's crazy that you just came in here with bleached hair, because I was watching the Hall of Fame induction with Kurt Coabin [and his] white hair,' and one of the biggest songs they released was 'Smells Like Teen Spirit.'"
The refrain of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" contains the line, "I feel stupid and contagious" so that moment definitely stood out to the 21-year-old. "For him to really see the vision that I had with what I was doing, without being handed it, or prepped on it...I just played the music."
Still, it wasn't until a few hours later, that Vic got his final answer. This day also happened to be his birthday, and as a gift, his girlfriend gave him a copy of the 1992 edition of Rolling Stone magazine, with Nirvana featured on the cover.
"All the stars were aligning," he said. "I believe in omens and universal connectedness, and all of that came together. I already felt comfortable with these people and confident in how they move and when I saw those constellations coming together, I thought, 'When things hand themselves to you, you've gotta look at it objectively, but if it makes sense, it makes sense."
So, was Lenny S. exagerrating when he said that Vic seemed uninterested during their first meeting? "We've gotta put all that Lenny. S stuff into the hearsay category because it's just not accurate," he said laughing.
Below, Vic reveals the inspiration for INNANETAPE.