Local MC Vic Spencer, who headlines Reggie’s Rock Club tonight, is usually a hard-edged rapper. He’s got an impressive range and he can smoothly switch up his flow while dropping bars, but his distinctive and pointed growl is a pivotal part of his work. Spencer’s voice and pent-up delivery spikes up through the serene production on July’s Vision Pipes, which was produced entirely by Rocket (who worked on Schoolboy Q’s Oxymoron).
Spencer takes a different route on “Know You,” a fantastic autobiographical track off his forthcoming VicTree EP. Straying from the tightly coiled bite he favors, he sounds more relaxed as he sifts through old memories—he reminisces about being raised by drug addicts, living in group homes, and finding himself homeless at 19. Despite the pain he clearly went through as a kid Spencer shows a clarity about his experiences that’s both evenhanded and sentimental. His straight-shooting lyrics invite listeners to understand what it was like for him going through real hardships as a kid: “Big brother was who I wanted to be like / But I was tooken’ away like a felon with three strikes / Ran through my first group home / The cool world became lukewarm.” His calm, poised performance also makes it easier to get sucked into his story, and listening to “Know You” feels like you’re in the middle of a late-night conversation with a close friend. “Listen to these bars if you want to get to know me,” Spencer says on the hook, and by the end of its run time it does feel like you know him better.
Idiosyncratic rapper-producer Tree anchors Spencer on “Know You” by providing him with the earthy, bittersweet instrumental. The minimal, shuffling percussion and unsteady, gauzy vocal sample augment the sadness lurking in Spencer’s performance and make the rapper’s story feel as big as he says it is—and even at a younger age Spencer, now 32, was “thinkin’ my story could be the best out.”
“Know You” is right in the middle of Spencer’s new EP, VicTree, which was produced entirely by Tree. It’s part of a series of EPs that Tree’s been making with local rappers—and like Chris Crack’s TreeSwag, Spencer’s EP is a keeper. It’s not unexpected: Spencer and Tree have been collaborating for a few years, and they generally nail it whenever they feed off each others’ energy (see: “Good Shit/Roses,” “Duck Sauce”). I hope Spencer plays some VicTree tonight at Reggie’s Rock Club—Jaytekz, Redefiners, and D2G open.