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Vic Mensa Explores Racial Disparity And The COVID-19 Tragedy

Written by on February 9, 2021

“Shelter” recruits fellow Chicagoan Chance The Rapper and Wyclef Jean to deliver a new track about racial injustice. 

For Vic Mensa, music and activism are part and parcel of the same thing. At the 2020 virtual Lollapalooza event, Mensa reworked the lyrics of songs in his setlist to directly reference the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Laquan McDonald at the hands of the police. With “Shelter,” Mensa continues to vocalize his anger and resentment at the injustices rife in his native Chicago, and the entire country.

This time around, Mensa focuses on the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, emphasizing the wealth and racial inequality brought to light by the health crisis. Pairing up with Chance The Rapper for a verse, the duo, friends since boyhood, rap about being Black in Chicago, offering a microcosm that echoes sentiments felt across the US. Zoom schooling, defunding the police, Covid-related deaths, “Shelter” does not refrain from showing the cruel reality that many of our fellow Chicagoans face daily.

The accompanying video, directed by activist and filmmaker Andre Muir, a frequent collaborator, is haunting and beautiful. The video is made all the more weighty for the fact that Muir lost a close family member to COVID-19.

Mensa and Chance walk down streets eerily empty, but for the Black bodies and flowers strewn across the ground. These flowers take the metaphorical place of our collective grief, grief over racial disparity, over policing, over economic disparity, over the daily racial violence in America.

The video serves a double purpose … also acting as a fundraiser for Julius Jones, a Black man currently on death row in Oklahoma despite compelling evidence that suggests Jones’ innocence.

You can watch the music video for “Shelter” below.


Written by Luis Mejía Ahrens