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Mensa is a Chicago-bred rapper who first found notice with the group Kids These Days, but who quickly established himself as a solo artist around 2013. He’s collaborated with an amazing array of artists, from Kanye West to Weezer and all points in between. Mensa’s second proper album—there are lots of mix tapes and guest appearances out there, too—came out last year, and it’s called Victor. Once again, Mensa displays an incredible agility, bouncing from fun to deep and back again; he’s an incredible lyricist equally adept at party starters and deep thoughts, both of which are on display here. Contributors to the album include Jay Electronica, Chance the Rapper, Thundercat, Ty Dolla Sign, and may others, including today’s other guest, Johan Lenox.
Now Lenox did not come up through the hip-hop world, but rather the world of classical music. Hearing Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy pushed Lenox out of that bubble, though, and led to a cultural mash-up called Yeethoven, which utilized a live orchestra to mash up Kanye West and, yes, Beethoven. Lenox has since worked as a producer for West, Lil Nas X, and many others, and worked with the likes of No I.D. and Big Sean. He also put out a solo record of R&B-ish jams called What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up (technically titled WDYWTBWYGU, but that’s hard to pronounce) and another record, also in 2022, credited to Isomonstrosity, a trio he formed that treats classical music like hip-hop, chopping and mixing it into something new and bold. Earlier this year, he released a string album called Johan’s Childhood Chamber Nostalgia Album. But let’s check out a track from the Isomonstrosity record that features Vic Mensa. This is called “Wake Up.”
In this conversation, Lenox and Mensa talk about being inspired by everyone from Kanye to Kurt Cobain, about how Mensa wants to inject his sense of humor into more of his music, about artificial intelligence and the future of music, and a songwriting trick they recently learned. Enjoy.
Thanks for listening to the Talkhouse Podcast, and thanks to Vic Mensa and Johan Lenox for chatting. If you liked what you heard, please follow Talkhouse on your favorite podcasting platform, and check out all the good stuff at Talkhouse.com. This episode was produced by Myron Kaplan, and the Talkhouse theme is composed and performed by the Range. See you next time!
(Photo Credit: right, Emilio Herce; Edited by: Keenan Kush.)