Vic Spencer
opens his new single, “Love for Vic,” with the lines “Vic Spencer the worst rapper from Chicago / They want me out the city, as far as the Chi go.” If you follow Spencer on Twitter, you may have noticed his proclivity for, um, starting shit—and the trash talk that often comes back at him as a result. Sometimes he ends up kicking off a good-natured, playful back-and-forth, like when he provoked Lupe Fiasco into a sort of freestyle battle on Twitter early last year—that is, insofar as anyone can freestyle on a platform that allows users to self-edit before dropping the hammer. At other times, though, Spencer’s tweets result in something less friendly, as was the case when he started an argument with rapper Mick Jenkins last fall—both MCs recorded dis tracks, but thankfully the heat appeared to die down after that.

So when Spencer raps that he’s the “worst rapper from Chicago,” it’s not so much exaggerated self-deprecation as it is an attempt to get out in front of the criticism he’s received for his volatile persona.

If you ask me, Spencer is a very good rapper, and one of the reasons why is his ability to condense a big, complex story into a couple lines, which he delivers with such a subtle touch that their meaning and emotional color can seem to change from one listen to the next. On “Love for Vic,” from the forthcoming album St. Gregory, he comes out swinging, but he really shines when he backs off on the boastfulness and invites listeners to learn more about him: “So many times I couldn’t hide the pain / But you hear it in my voice every time I rap again.” After a while, it doesn’t matter how many inventive ways a rapper can come up with to say he’s great—sooner or later he’s got to show, not tell.