When Vic Mensa first heard JUJ’s track “Mood” he immediately connected with it. Mensa says, “When JUJ was speaking about moving to California, the fears, and other people’s fears and doubts associated with breaking out of a shell, [it] was all things I related to.”
The track, JUJ says, is the intersection of two similar stories. She explains, “[It’s] my cross country move at 17 to chase a dream and make any and every sacrifice with Vic’s exodus from Chicago to fight for his dream and the brutal reality of the hardships that he faced in doing so.”
Mensa proved himself to be an integral part of Chicago culture. He co-founded the SAVEMONEY collective and released two mixtapes in two years. When he broke off from the group Kids These Days, he signed on as a solo artist with Roc Nation with Jay-Z right by his side. His first mixtape came out in 2010 with the second one dropping three years later in 2013. That catapulted him into a newer and larger audience. Mensa then released his biggest single to date in 2014 called “Down On My Luck.”
Following a whirlwind of success. Mensa continued with no indications of stopping. In 2016, he released his debut EP called There’s Alot Going On, tackling issues such as Flint water crisis, the shooting of Laquan MacDonald, and self-inflicting wounds in his lyrics. He released his debut album, The Autobiography, in summer of 2017.
Mensa shares, “Most people that I grew up with never left home. They’re still in Chicago, so that’s the place I went to when I heard this song [“Mood”] and immediately started writing my verse. Usually, I write things in the studio, but with this, I was just walking around the house thinking about what it was like when I left home for the first time. When I was 17 years old and I started going out on the road so people’s expectations and limitations and the boundaries they wanted to put on me were the things that I set out to overcome and are the things that I was inspired to write about.”
JUJ had left her home at the age of 17 as well from Philadelphia. It was scary and nerve-wracking as she didn’t have any friends or family in LA, but her drive and dreams of being a musician were enough for her to go through with it. Since high school, she’d been singing and writing her own songs, and had even put out a few covers on YouTube. However, soon after the move, JUJ found out she has an untreated case of Lyme disease which brought her back home for a bit until she was able to return and work on her debut EP.
Initially, “Mood” was just supposed to be just JUJ with soft vocals and powerful lyrics, but she updated it with Mensa on the track. She says, “His verse adds perspective and highlights that make me and those that listen to it realize we are not alone in chasing a dream bigger than ourselves. After listening to Vic’s verse and hearing his story and sound on ‘Mood’ it instantly felt right. The strength when telling his stories in his vocals matched the intensity of his story and the story of the song.”
Mensa recently debuted 93PUNX, an alt-rock/rap group with their debut single, “Camp America,” which features children in cages in an ICE-inspired video. JUJ wants to collaborate with Mensa on this topic as well. She says, “We’d love to do a collaboration on immigration after Vic’s ‘Camp America’ release because both of our parents were both illegal immigrants. Being raised by someone with that tenacity and hard work and American dream shaped us as people and we’d love to share more of his.”