Vic Mensa’s sense of style is a constant evolution. After cutting off his braids earlier in 2018, the Chicago native has tapped into his skinhead psyche, which he is quick to point out has roots connected to the Jamaican Rude Boys. Branching off of his successful ’93 Punks line, Mensa is collaborating with the Michigan-based Wolverine to craft his very own designed boot.
“I’m one of the only people I know that often sleeps in boots. It’s been a goal of mine for a long time to be designing some. I’m very excited to be in Chicago partnering with a company that has significant history in the city,” says Vic. The unique 1000 Mile sneaker will be readily available on Wolverine’s website during spring 2019.
Outside of his fashion endeavors, the 25-year-old is putting the finishing touches on his next project, which Mensa claims is slated to release by year’s end. Vic has been hard at work with a range of artists, ranging from Ty Dolla $ign to Travis Barker and Charlie Wilson.
The “16 Shots” rapper has also found himself in the headlines during recent weeks, following a controversial BET cypher where Mensa took aim at XXXTentacion‘s abusive past, and condemned fans’ propensity to crown artists who are alleged abusers as well. Vic isn’t going to back down from his words because of an outcry from a faction of the public. “I just stand by the things I believe in, and if that upsets people — which it often does — then we got a situation on our hands,” he tells Billboard.
In response to all the controversy… — Empathy pic.twitter.com/V76BVAiYYQ
— vino valentino (@VicMensa) October 17, 2018
Billboard: How did this collaboration with Wolverine come together for the boot they have you designing?
Vic Mensa: I pretty much wear exclusively boots. I’m one of the only people I know that often sleeps in boots. It’s been a goal of mine for a long time to be designing some. I’m very excited to be in Chicago partnering with a company that has significant history in the city. Their leather is here in Chicago, so we’re going to be visiting their factory. Everything is handmade in the Midwest. I like entities with heritage at home.
What do you have in mind for goals of the collaboration?
I’m excited to see what we could put together. We’re looking at a lot of different things. We’re doing a custom 1000 Mile sneaker. I’m thinking about a lot of different things from Chelsea boots to cowboy boots, gothic boots and even combat boots. Maybe some silhouettes that kind of combine sneakers with boots. I’m thinking rugged street-wear. I’ve been combing through the Wolverine archives and advertisements from the sixties and seventies. I’m looking to take inspiration from designs of the past and bring them into the future.
Talk to me about your foundation SaveMoneySaveLife, which will receive a portion of the sales.
My foundation mainly works in Chicago, and the city needs a lot of help. I’m glad that was able to be incorporated into what I’m doing with Wolverine. It’s important to keep one foot firmly planted at home and try to benefit my people well.
Did you pull on any inspiration from your recent trip to Paris Fashion Week?
It’s time for the Cuban heel.
Are there any plans to combine the Wolverine collaboration with your ’93 Punks line?
One-hundred percent. That’s how I’m approaching designing these boots with Wolverine. My partner on ’93 Punks Conrad does all the construction and he’s over here with me now going through the process of picking out leathers.
What’s been inspiring your new style this year?
Skinheads. A lot of people don’t recognize that the origin of skinhead is traced by to Jamaican Rude Boys. Original skinheads were huge reggae music fans. It didn’t start as a racist and violent thing. It was very inspired by different parts of black culture and cultures of the Diaspora. I’ve been on my skinhead shit.
Where are you at musically for the rest of the year? Are you prepping a project?
I got two projects in the works. One coming out before the end of this year and another coming out in the first couple months of next year. The first project is done and we’re about to start rolling that out.
Is that first project going to include previously released singles such as “Reverse?”
It will, but that’s not necessarily the sonic direction [I’m going into] completely.
What artists have you been working with recently that could land on the project?
I’ve been working with a lot of my guys from Chicago. I’ve been working with Travis Barker also. I was in the studio with Joel Madden from Good Charlotte. Definitely have a crazy dope Charlie Wilson feature on the upcoming project. Worked with Ty Dolla $ign as well. Me and Lil Herb got a joint too.
What did you think about Chance The Rapper pledging $1,000,000 to Chicago’s mental health services?
It’s great. That’s amazing because mental health services and real attention to [mental health] doesn’t really exist very much in our community. Mental health is very stigmatized in the black community. For good reason — [it’s] created by a history of trauma that has been manipulated against us, and damaging stereotypes such as the crazy black man and crazy black woman. I think it’s something we need to grow past.
I saw you speaking out against Gary McCarthy for mayor of Chicago this year. Do you plan on backing progressive candidate Amara Enyia, like Chance The Rapper has, in the race?
Gary McCarthy is ultimately disrespectful. He’s just a dirty dog. I don’t even know where he’s coming from. I think he just wants to offend people. After such a nasty scandal in the murder of Laquon McDonald and Jason Van Dyke’s conviction, it’s just kind of like step down, man. Go change your name and run in Idaho. I’m not endorsing anyone at this time. I did meet with Amara the other day and I’d vote for her, 100 percent.
Do you see the Jason Van Dyke conviction as justice being served?
The fact that his charges are probation-able means he probably will get probation, and won’t spend that much time in prison. I don’t consider it justice, but I think it’s maybe the closest resemblance of justice that we’ve seen in recent times — or ever, really. That’s completely unprecedented, for them to even be convicted. To contextualize it, Jason Van Dyke could do six years on probation for emptying that clip into a child, while my man James Warren is facing 31 [years] to life for shooting someone in the leg. Look at that and tell me what’s justice.
What did you think about the court room playing your “16 Shots” video during the trial?
I thought that was complex because for a second — I felt a way that they were trying to use my art to argue that he should be moved to the suburbs, where he could get an all-white jury. There was only one black juror on his case in the first place, which is ridiculous as it is. It also let me know that I was being heard, and the things we were doing in the city were making an impact. That’s important. I think the whole Jason Van Dyke situation shows maybe we have more power than we might have previously thought.
Did you feel a generational divide following the backlash you received from much of the youth regarding your comments about XXXTentacion and abusers in the BET cypher?
I think people are people. I’m not generalizing, [not] going to put anybody in a box because of their age. They’re going to believe different things. I just stand by the things I believe in and if that upsets people, which it often does, then we got a situation on our hands. Everybody is okay and safe. I’m just blessed to be awake.
Joe Budden had some harsh criticism for you on The Joe Budden Podcast. He even said something along the lines of, “I never want to hear from Vic again.”
That’s news to me. I like Joe Budden though. I don’t watch or read that stuff, that’s not really where I’m at with it. I didn’t even know he had a podcast.