As the days get warmer and the nights get shorter, Chicago kicks into full summer mode with concerts and festivals all across the city. To start things off right, the House of Vans had their first summer party on the last day of May, starring none other than Chicago’s own Vic Mensa. The hip-hop superstar has been a Chicago staple for years but is now finally getting the attention he deserves on a national level. Having recently toured and opened for Jay-Z, Mensa will be headlining a number of summer festivals in the U.S. (and will almost certainly make some guest appearances in the Windy City). Before hitting these big stages, however, Mensa played the House of Vans with Chicago’s Kami and recently reunited hip-hop group The Pack.
As the House of Vans filled with hot and sweaty Chicagoans, Kami played a set of energetic songs with personal and powerful lyrics. Alongside Vic Mensa, Kami is one of the original members of Savemoney, a hip hop collective that features some of the biggest rappers in the city. Kami may not be as well known as Mensa, but he’s certainly making a mark here in Chicago. For his last song of his set, he jumped into the crowd to get everyone involved. I have yet to see another artist do this at the House of Vans, and I think his love for his fans and the music itself really showed.
After Kami, indie hip-hop hero Lil B brought his old group The Pack back for a high-octane show. The group’s claim to fame was, ironically, the single “Vans”, a song that is literally about how great the skate shoes are. Interestingly, the song received little airplay on MTV because it featured product placement, but the track blew up on MySpace (oh yes, MySpace) and gave the group a place in hip-hop history. While the group disbanded back in 2011, they still occasionally work together and have gained a new batch of fans, thanks to Lil B’s ardent following.
Finally, as the sun set and the House of Vans started cooling down just a little, Vic Mensa put on an incredibly emotional set, going so far as to throw out a concert-goer who had called a female fan a very derogatory word. “My shows are safe spaces, always”, he shouted as security grabbed the foul-mouthed offender. Mensa has always been political, but unlike other artists who make it all about themselves, Vic prefers to focus on his community and those who need help the most. A staunch critic of police, Mensa performed a unique version of his song “16 Shots”, combining his lyrics with NWA’s “F*ck the Police” backing track. Later on in the show, he dove right into the crowd saying that he wanted to get a huge mosh pit going. “If you don’t want to be hit…uhh put your hands up now!” he laughed as he started shouting “Be rowdy! Be rowdy!”
Vic Mensa’s set was not only passionate, it was a lot of fun. I for one am incredibly proud to know Mensa is from Chicago and is constantly repping our city as he’s on tour across the globe.
The House of Vans will continue to host summer house parties with some incredible artists and bands. For more information on these shows and how to snag a spot, click HERE.
All photos by Kate Scott.