The only song I heard on the F train this morning was coming muffled through a pair of headphones being worn by a balding white man who looked to be in his fifties. He was listening to a Big Sean song I could not identify—partly because it wasn’t fully audible, partly because it was a Big Sean song. I have no personal issues with Big Sean, I’m just not exactly his number one fan. I have a hard time remembering how his songs without Kendrick and Jay Electronica go.
I wished I’d had my own earbuds in. I’d been listening to Innanetape on the way to the train station. That’s the new album by the Chicago rapper Vic Mensa, and I’ve been playing it every morning since its release on last Monday. Mensa makes thought-provoking music. It asks questions instead of trying to answer them. I understand that not everyone wants to wake up and ponder the meaning of life over eggs and bacon—but that is exactly what I want. I want to get to the station thinking about other stuff than how crowded and uncomfortable the train will be. Or when was the last time someone earned a promotion while they were wearing pleated khakis? Or why would a fifty-year-old man be listening to Big Sean. I want to be taken away from the scattershot distractions of surface-level observation. I want my thoughts to have a little more depth. There’s a song on Innanetapecalled “Holy Holy” that gets the job done especially artfully.
“Sentimental recollection Revelation, resurrection
God, question: What would people think about if I died?”
Produced by Cam from J.U.S.T.I.C.E League, “Holy Holy” starts with a soft marshall drum beat. Then rain-drop piano notes come in and open into atmospheric synths and background vocals that shape the cloudlike outlines of an inner world detailed by Mensa and his guests Ab-Soul and BJ the Chicago Kid. It’s a trip. And Mensa plays the role of Ms. Frizzle, using his hot-boxed magic school bus to take listeners on a journey of past, present, and uncertain future. “Sentimental recollection/Revelation, resurrection/God, question:/What would people think about if I died?”
Weighty stuff for a weekday morning. But that’s the way I like it. Weighty and wordy, “Holy Holy” is mental Wheaties. Truly the breakfast of champions. I don’t know what that old white guy’s thinking about on his way to work. But I know his day’s going in a different direction than mine.