New Vic Mensa, Ty Dolla Sign video takes on police brutality
Rapper Vic Mensa has a message—and he wants you to listen.
Back in November, Vic Mensa played The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, performing the song “We Could Be Free” with strings in a really suave presentation. It was the kind of stated set that paired well with the song which has Mensa’s soulful side on full display.
The recently released video featuring Ty Dolla Sign for the same song, however, is a complete 360. While still featuring Mensa’s melodic voice and his triumphant bars, the imagery serves mostly to put you on edge.
There’s a nerve-wracking quality in its rawness. It has some imagery similar to his early effort “U Mad” that features Kanye West. (The riot squad with the heavy plastic shields, a symbol of unrest in the post-Trayvon Martin era.)
The effort for tension goes all the way in those opening shots, in slow-mo at the end. The video, which starts out with a close-up of a baby in a womb, doesn’t veer too far from the political messages Mensa has strapped to his verbal bombs before. Just after the baby, we’re taken to a Baltimore-type riot where a woman—whose visible prosthetic stomach signals she’s pregnant—drops to the ground after a blow from a cop. It’s a reasonable way to start a video whose song is all tense themes of togetherness against a tide of oppression.
While Mensa’s song “16 Shots” was directed towards the Chicago Police fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald, this latest effort recalls imagery of Trayvon Martin, the Florida teen shot to death by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman. On first look, it appears the young kid in the video is rocking a Martin-style hoodie, an article of clothing that Zimmerman called out for looking suspicious during the trial over Martin’s death.
Mensa’s road so far has taken him within grasp of household name status. Still, it seems at this point Mensa should be a bigger star than he is, after appearing in the 2016 track “Wolves” from one of the best albums of that year, Kanye West’s Life of Pablo. Mensa has been at it since 2014 when he made a splash with “Feel That.”
Mensa, like his compatriot and former group mate Chance the Rapper, is a Chicago son who not only got signed to the Roc Nation label but also toured with Jay-Z while pushing his debut album, The Autobiography. The album also has a chunk of production by Jay-Z’s 4:44 album producer and one of Chicago’s modern hip-hop founders, No I.D.
For all that gold dust sprinkled on top of it, Autobiography barely made a blip when it came in at #24 on last summer’s Billboard chart. This was despite having a few notable tracks buoying the debut, and a solid lead-up at least 4 years prior, with a handful of records, mixtapes and EPs. It helps that he has some of the most famous fans in Hollywood.
This new video establishes 2018 as the year for Mensa to come into his own and become even more vocal about justice issues, like he was in an opinion essay he wrote about Palestine for TIME magazine.
It’s clear that Mensa wants to use his status as a rapper, like those before him, to voice his opinions. (Think Kanye saying George W. Bush doesn’t care about Black people.) Sooner or later, he’ll have his time.