Two of the biggest phenoms in the hip-hop world are taking radically different paths to the top

Chance the Rapper and Vic Mensa are two rap prodigies leading a generation of young hip-hop musicians.

They have had similar career trajectories, but their music couldn’t be more different.

Both are 23 years old. Both are from Chicago, raised a 20-minute drive from each other.

The similarities are striking.

Both made waves in the Chicago hip hop scene before working with Kanye West, who raised their profiles with performances on “Saturday Night Live.” Chance wrote five songs for Kanye’s album “The Life of Pablo,” and dropped a stage-stealing verse on the song “Ultralight Beam.” A few months later, Kanye appeared on the opening track of Chance’s new album, “All We Got.”

Mensa appeared with Kanye during the first performance of his single “Wolves,” also on “SNL.” Kanye also showed up on Mensa’s single “U Mad.”

But in other ways, the two rappers could not be more different.

Chance remains an independent artist — and proud of it. He’s steadfastly refused to sign a record deal, and it’s become a defining part of his career. Mensa, on the other hand, signed on to Jay Z’s Roc Nation label and wrote a whole song about it.

And while Chance sings about going to church with his grandma, Mensa raps about police murdering young black men. Chance is the happier, jazzier rapper while Mensa prefers to brood in darker, political subjects. Mensa’s song “16 Shots” is an indictment of Chicago’s political and police system. Chance might steer clear of the subject because his father worked for Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel.

The two have a healthy rivalry going on. As Chance rapped in his song “Acid Rain”: “And I still get jealous of Vic/And Vic’s still jealous of me/But if you touch my brother/All that anti-violence s— goes out the window along with you/And the rest of your team.”

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