Vic Mensa, the young emcee from the South Side of Chicago and early collaborator with Chance the Rapper, has been making incredibly perceptive and truthful music for a couple of years now. Last summer, he released There’s Alot Going On, in anticipation of his first studio album, and with The Manuscript a year later, Mensa is doing the same thing. He has promised several times that the album will be released during the summer of 2017, but for now, it seems that all we’re getting is another preview extended play. Mensa is best known for the political and cultural opinions that he unashamedly combines with his music, and he has established himself well as one of the greatest when it comes to being woke and making music. Here are some of the best woke moments from his newest EP, The Manuscript.
1. “They judge you by your past and try to predict you by your future/ But I got kings in my bloodline, I’m Mensa Musa” – from “Almost There”
In this lyric, Vic laments the fact that even though society tries to paint the history and even future of the African American community in negative ways, it almost always gets the narrative wrong. He references the fact that the richest person in human history, Mansa Musa, was an African man in the 12th century from the Mali Empire in west Africa, and he shows his pride in this fact by combining Mansa Musa’s name with is own name, hence Vic’s referring to himself as “Mensa Musa.”
2. “Free Vic Mensa, Amistad chain swangin/ This that crack music n–a, you can blame Reagan” – from “OMG”
This line references the United States Supreme Court case, United States v. Amistad, wherein the United States decided to free the Africans of a captured Spanish-owned slave ship and return the captives to Africa. Vic also alludes to how rap songs often contain references to drug use, but he blames President Ronald Reagan for having essentially created that stereotype. In the 1980s, the CIA under President Reagan allegedly smuggled crack and cocaine in order to fund the Contra war in Nicaragua, leading to the introduction of these drugs to the poor minority communities of Southern California.
3. “N–as wakin’ up with no job, no mob lynching, we still hanging/ White man telling n–as to ball like Phil Jackson” – from “Rage”
With this line, Mensa is essentially saying that for Black people in America, many of whom have suffered for generations at the hands of inherently discriminatory systems, “waking up with no job” might as well be considered equivalent to dying by being lynched in the streets because these systems are inherently built into modern society, there’s “no mob lynching,” but either way, “we still hanging.”
4. “Birth of a Nation, shout to Nate Parker/ They take the spotlight off you if you a shade darker/ But we made our own America on this cotton field/ Til we got a black millionaire for every Emmett Till” – from “Almost There”
Mensa refers to a couple of historical events that were integral to the advancement of Black people and civil rights, such as Nat Turner’s slave rebellion, recently recreated by Nate Parker in the film Birth of a Nation,” and the unjust murder of Emmett Till. He then makes the point that despite these events, Black people and their culture have thrived and will continue to work hard until “we got a black black millionaire for every Emmett Till.”
5. “We threw up the pyramids, now they say we Illimanti/ Fox fur Cavali, f— Bill O’Reilly” – from “OMG”
In creative ways, this lyric criticizes those who have trouble recognizing the amazing accomplishments that black people have made historically. African people built the amazing structural creations known as the pyramids, but for some reason, people now associate the Egyptian pyramids with the Illuminati, casting a negative light over the amazing effort and culture that the pyramids represent.