Photo: Debra L Rothenberg / Getty Images
  /  08.02.2018

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company.

Vic Mensa and Chance The Rapper first connected as freshmen at Whitney M. Young Magnet High School; Vic from Hyde Park, Chance from West Chatham. At some point in time, they became acquaintances forged in the same city; outliers of the drill movement that was sweeping the nation. They became involved with the Chicago skilled rap collective SaveMoney in 2012, around the time that Vic’s band Kids These Days was in its final stretch. Chance’s 10 Day project made Vic’s inclusion in his inner circle official; the former’s next project, 2013’s Acid Rap, only bolstered the strength of their relationship. Their ping-pong match of support continued in September of that year, with Chance appearing on “Tweakin” from Vic’s INNANETAPE. They then appeared together as a part of XXL‘s Freshman Class of 2014, signaling them as both the present and future of rap.

Somewhere in between then and June 2016, the two fell out of sync. Maybe it was their different approaches to safeguarding over the city of Chicago that played a part, but by 2017 they were back on. Similar to real brothers, they fight and fall out, but always recover. Like siblings, their opinions and actions can be cause for friction. By looking at their recent behaviors, I’d probably say it was the latter. And this brings me to what constitutes their relationship — an episode of The Office that explains a lot about their particular brand of Chicago celebrity.

Season 6 of The Office broke new ground to avoid becoming well-trodden shrivel. The show had previously hinted at office sleaze Jim Halpert (I’m Team Schrute all day) securing a more important role in Dunder Mifflin since Season 3’s fiasco with Karen Filippelli. The third episode of Season 6, dubbed “The Promotion,” found Michael Scott, former office manager, and Jim Halpert, former salesman, being assigned to just-created co-manager positions (The Office was never one for realistic corporate politics). Michael, according to company CFO David Wallace, was to tend to the “big picture” situations while Jim focused on the “day-to-day.” Of course, situations occurred that called the discrepancy between the two vague ideas into question, and before long, the two returned to their respective posts.

Like Michael and Jim, Chance The Rapper and Vic Mensa have a friendship that transcends their roles; according to Vic Mensa, the two began recording music together shortly after meeting. Over the years, the two grew in the game together, carving out their own niches. They outlasted the city’s turbulent drill times and became central figures in the governance of the city’s underbelly. And, unknowingly, they’ve filled similar, separate roles. Surprisingly, they nearly never come into conflict with each other.

Vic Mensa is Jim Halpert. The mature-beyond-his-years, straight-faced stud that women have realized, more than a few seasons into his career, is charming, if somewhat excessively serious. Being that he’s more grounded and understanding of the people, he’s in charge of the day-to-day defense of the city; micromanaging conflicts with his own sense of justice. He’s not the one deciding raises, he’s the one handling the birthday parties.

When 6ix9ine pulled up in Chicago to the infamous O Block on Englewood to taunt Chief Keef and company (security cameras pegged him early in the morning after he went on and on with the facade that he came at night), Vic Mensa was the first to check him, revealing that his whole style came from the very city he was dissing. When 6ix9ine responded with his ever-popular slogan “suck my dick,” Vic brought the fight to him with a simple challenge in a now-viral car video — “see these fucking hands.” Vic’s since backed down from his violent invitation, but the fact still stands that’s willing to get his hands dirty over his hometown.

Last year, when he had the opportunity to go on Complex’s Everyday Struggle, he confronted DJ Akademiks, blogger and 6ix9ine-PR specialist, about his sensationalized YouTube series coverage about the violence in Chicago. “I really felt as if people exactly like you sensationalized and made a following off of clowning situations we go through in real life,” he said. “Whatever made you feel like you had a space to have a perspective of our people dying on a daily basis?” With Akademiks on the defense from Vic’s verbal assault, the former doesn’t even flinch when, to his face, Vic calls him a “bitch.” The example that Vic uses is Tray 57, a rapper killed a few hours after dissing Lil Reese. Akademiks’ video about the subject came off as insensitive to the then-24-year-old rapper and he was gunning (not literally) for Akademiks’ head. In fact, he still is — his video calling for smoke with 6ix9ine reiterated that he wanted to shoot the ones with Akademiks still.

Chance The Rapper, on the other hand, wants smoke with the establishments and systems conspiring to keep underprivileged groups in Chicago down. Like Michael, he’s the quirkier of the two — oftentimes escaping situations because of his genuineness instead of his smarts. He tweets like a politician—who’d never run for office — looking for positive fallout from every word. He recently called for Fortnite to pay rappers for the game’s dances that were inspired by them. This guy practically screams “big picture.”

When he randomly dropped four songs on July 19, instead of releasing an album that fans were expecting, many assumed that they were four loosies just to hold them over. But they were wrong; aside from spilling about the beginning of his relationship with his now-fiancée on “65th and Ingleside,” he let the world know that he bought the Chicagoist newspaper on “I Might Need Security.” Talk about a media baron flex; his company, Social Media, purchased the local culture periodical that had been shut down by its previous owners. “I look forward to re-launching it and bringing the people of Chicago an independent media outlet focused on amplifying diverse voices and content,” he said in a following press release.

Even what he picks and chooses to respond to is on a different wavelength than Vic’s choices. He took to Twitter to voice his disappointment with the allegorical racism on display in Netflix‘s fantasy-cop romp Bright in late December of last year. He used the platform again to voice his support for Mo’Nique’s fight for equal pay in February. He even played a part in Heineken pulling an absent-mindedly racist ad this March. He forgoes the small fry attacks on people in favor of sending shots at the establishment. It’s what makes him Chance The Politician, The Rapper, and The Activist.

The two focusing on different areas have played a large part in bringing a certain kind of prestige to Chicago that signals a cultural Renaissance. Kanye West used to be the voice of the people, but his pursuit of Make America Great Again and forsaking the black body that gave him its voice has left his post vacant. While Vic Mensa brings a subtle intelligence and reckless aesthetic that garnered him a position on Roc Nation, Chance’s big-brother vibe works in conjunction with Vic, creating a management system that safeguards the community that makes them who they are.

Michael Scott was too full of himself to realize that both he and Jim benefited from the situation. If he would have set his ego aside, the duo’s separate focuses would have increased productivity and the quality of life in the office. But he failed to see past his own ego, thus making the lives miserable of everyone around. Both Chance and Vic understand their lanes and their purposes. Even if they craft similar politically-charged music that draws from a multitude of genres and influences, their approaches to maintaining the city’s honor have to be different. They’ve unconsciously delegated roles that they’ve adhered to, and they will continue to. Vic Mensa attacked 6ix9ine verbally, then released “Metaphysical,” a song that utilizes African music trappings to create a heartfelt track with echoes of his political thoughts. Chance’s announcement of his acquisition came thirteen days ago, but there’ll be something else momentarily.

The two-manager tenure of The Office ended when, in “The Manager and the Salesman,” Kathy Bates, guest starring as Jo Bennett, announces that one of the two will need to go back to being a salesman. When she receives the news that they’re both managers, she nearly laughs out loud at the incredulousness of the situation. Her reasoning is that both are occupying a position that can be done by one person. In the end, Jim is the one that goes back.

In the rap world of Chicago, there’s no way that one person could conceivably do what they both do. There’s not enough character to go around — to verbally assault attackers and send a threat of violence, one must be willing to risk the destruction of the image. Chance needs that for him to operate in the political circles. On the flip, to showcase the Hyde Park menace that resides in his veins, Vic Mensa must instill fear, thus forsaking his inclusion in the political circles. There’s a tradeoff that makes the two-head system work to perfection. It helps that they’re good acquaintances of another, so their worlds are already intertwined.

Chicago’s co-manager system is proof that television concepts can be applied to real life and function properly. Both Chance and Vic are branch managers that oversee different aspects of Chicago’s defense. And the way that they operate has been largely responsible for the returning respect for the city that’s been associated with the drill movement for quite some time. Luckily, there’s no one to tell them that individually, they’re not needed. Because what they’re doing is absolutely necessary, and game-changing, for Chicago’s future.

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