Vic Mensa (foreground) from song video “We Could Be Free”
Photo Credit: Rolling Stone
In keeping with my end-of-year tradition, I feature a song on my Poetry Corner December 2018. During this year of growing division in the USA, the hip hop song “We Could Be Free” by Vic Mensa captured my attention. It’s the thirteenth track on Mensa’s first, full-length, studio album, The Autobiography, released on July 28, 2017.
An American rapper, singer, and songwriter, Vic Mensa was born Victor Kwesi Mensah on June 6, 1993, in Chicago, Illinois. He grew up in the good part of the Hyde Park neighborhood within a sheltered home with two parents, both educators. His white American mother and Ghanaian father, an economics professor at the University of Chicago, wanted their son to go to college. But the young Vic dreamed of becoming a rock star.
With adolescence came exposure to the real world outside of Vic’s gated community. In “Memories on 47th Street,” the biracial Mensa raps of his loss of innocence and the beginning of his drug use.
At age 12 I learned the difference between white and black
Police pulled me off of my bike, I landed on my back
Back to reality, oops, a victim of gravity
Where they pull you down and keep you there
Dependin’ on how you keep your hair
“I started to realize that America and the world were categorizing me as being black and all the stigmas attached to that, which would take a lifetime to unpack,” Mensa says in an interview with the Chicago Tribune.
Mensa concludes in “Memories on 47th Street:”
In a land of desperation we often turn to self-medication as a coping mechanism
Some make a living as hood pharmacists while some just inhale to remove them from hell
I watched from the window of a gated community until I grew old enough
There was no immunity from allure of the life