Wokeness is a feeling like no other, a state of being that transcends all we have come to know in the world today. This phenomenon is sweeping the nation and has greatly intensified over the last few years. It is an internal realization with overt actions attached to it and has affected various people. Wokeness, however, is not a simple occurrence, there are many complexities and intricacies that come together to define and sustain it. For example, some are born woke or have been woke throughout the duration of their public life (Erykah Badu, Kendrick Lamar). Others transition into wokeness, and this is truly a beautiful thing. The modern philosopher Jaden Smith and his sister, the New Age Queen, Willow Smith have gone through and continue to go through this transition. T.I. and Joey Bada$$ have had interesting transitions. Chance the Rapper’s wokeness transition in the public eye was only brief thus the chance we know now has pretty much always appeared woke. But another interesting case of the wokeness transition is that of Vic Mensa.
I’ve been studying Vic Mensa’s transition over the last 4 years, doing extensive research on the topic of wokeness and talking to Professors across the nation to gather an adequate amount of information as well as perspective. What follows is a comprehensive look at Vic Mensa’s wokeness transition and its correlation to his hair.
In the year 2013, Vic Mensa dropped his mixtape INNANETAPE. Up until this point he had released a short mixtape at 16 and been in the Band Kids these Days. He was making waves in the Chicago Music scene and had featured on some of Chance the Rapper’s tracks. With the release of INNANETAPE, though, he gained significant notoriety and even became an XXL Freshmen with the likes of Chance the Rapper, Isaiah Rashad, Kevin Gates and more. Vic had made music that ranged from playfully ignorant like “Tweakin” to touchingly deep like “Holy Holy” Around this time, I was working with Professor Jacklyn Rodriguez at the dangerously unaccredited South Chicago U (Just U, not University for legal reasons). She noticed Vic’s potential early. “In many cases, you can tell by the hair; that is often the first sign of transition in young black males. Vic’s seems to be pulling him in two directions one part wishes to remain subdued and the other screams for experimentation. See the inner tension is what allows the inner wokeness to take effect” I was originally hesitant to observe Vic as a research subject but Professor Rodriguez pushed me toward this challenge, promising immense returns.”
The New Vic Mensa (2014)
There was a moment in the autumn of 2014 when I almost gave up on Vic. His hair had not changed in anyway and he was beginning to go in a different direction musically. He first released the more house influenced track “Down on My Luck,” which was fairly well received. I had no concern at this point but was growing impatient waiting on his transition. My concern came when his music began to slip into utter ignorance released songs like “Major Pain” and “I Feel That” on the latter he raps, “She Drop Down & Pussy Pop; / I Might Put A Ben Franklin on Top of That.” There were no social issues being tackled in this music, no greater purpose. During this period I heard numerous people referring to him as the New Vic Mensa. He was not the New Vic Mensa I had hoped for. I began to doubt the judgement of Professor Rodriguez, with whom I had started a teacher-student affair with that veered toward inappropriate. She encouraged me to have patience and not give up hope in Vic’s transition.
(2015) The Meme Period (unredeemable)
By 2015 I had journeyed away from Professor Rodriguez at South Chicago U to work with a slew of other professors and finally began studies at the California Wokeness Institute. The split from Rodriguez was difficult but I had found new mentorship in Dr. Elroy Kearney and his spirit guide Octima. I had ventured out there to get a closer look at Vic Mensa’s transition, to see if there was an angle that I couldn’t see from Chicago. Vic had attested to working on a new album called Traffic. Whether this would be his formal declaration of wokeness or not, I did not know.
Dr. Kearney told me about his previous meetings with Vic Mensa. “I’ve spoken with him many times, and he seems to want to make a full transformation, but he is holding on to a lot of apprehension that manifests in ignorance. In time he will come to his senses and answer the call of the woke.” These encouraging words were hard to believe especially in a time when Vic seemed completely unredeemable. His music had become very meme influenced, he signed to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Label, and he released “U Mad” then later “No Chill”. The optimist in me hoped that “U Mad” was an antiestablishment song conveying the struggles of the marginalized in society and that “No Chill” would function as both a Negro spiritual and a protest song that would resonate on the hearts of every listener. Upon my first listen to these songs, though, I was appalled by the blatant ignorance I heard. In fact, the only woke message I heard came from Kanye West, a man who blurs the lines between wokeness and ignorance. In “U Mad” West proclaims, “She ain’t really bad, she a photo thot / I should hire this bitch, she so damn good at Photoshop.” Obviously this lyric captures the difficulty of finding genuine people in a computer mediated world. By giving us the term “photo thot” Kanye empowered a generation that did not know how to deal with the phenomenon of highly edited pictures because once you can identify a problem, you can begin to solve it.
When I inquired about this meme heavy music, Dr. Kearny said “The meme period is a normal part of the wokeness transition for some people. The great leader Trinidad James also experienced a meme period during his transition but has evolved into a conscious rapper and an occasional CNN correspondent as well as a close friend and occasional lover to Don Lemon.” Reguardless of Kearny’s advice, I was ready to give up on my research; Vic Mensa, it seemed, had gone off the deep end. At that crucial moment I remembered what my one true love Professor Jacklyn Rodriguez had said about hair, and I realized that Vic Mensa was transitioning into dreads. He had begun sporting a twisted hairstyle with blonde accents, but it was a change nonetheless. This realization brought me back to Chicago along with Octima, who was now my spirit guide.
(2016) The Woke Lion:
Finally in the year 2016, Vic Mensa has officially accepted wokeness. His hair is now dreaded in some capacity and will hopefully continue to develop. He started speaking out during the case of Sandra Bland then when on to protest in the streets of Chicago after the killing of Laquan McDonald. This year alone he has been spotted at literally every protest that has occurred, including Flint Michigan, Orlando durning the Shootings, and now he has been protesting the Dakota Pipeline at Standing Rock. He has scrapped his album Traffic and opted to release the EP, There’s A Lot Going On instead. In it he raps about things like police shootings and other issues like the water supply in Flint, Michigan. The EP does deviate from wokeness into meme direction on songs like “New Bae” and “Liquor Locker,” but he has had a huge transformation none the less. Along with the EP, he has encouraged people to vote and even helped support Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. I can only hope that a trip to Africa is next on the man’s wokeness bucket list. The research I had worked so hard on turned out fruitful and Professor Rodriguez and I have won many awards adequately monitoring a transition with so many layers. We could never be together, though, because of her husband. I look forward to the day when she leaves him for me. Until then I now the streets of New York with Octima looking for another Woke Lion in the making.
On the song Aquemini, Andre 3000 asks: “Now, question is any nigga with dreads for the cause?” the answer to that is of course no, but this rhetorical question finds much more depth in the case of Vic Mensa and those like him. While dreads do not make a person woke, they do play a key role in the transition. Any woke human being can recall a time when they considered growing dreadlocks. There are countless reasons for choosing not to, but the transition is always longer in these cases and there always seems to be something missing. Wokeness does not discriminate; any person from any color can be woke (you see those white dudes in Dashikis… Yeah); when you are called upon to enter a new dimension of wokeness. You must surrender your body completely and reach a higher form. No matter how woke you are, though, you always have a tendency to slip back into your old ways; Vic has experienced this and so have countless others. Wokeness is a valuable gem that must be actively protected at all costs.
Now there is another phenomenon known as fake wokeness which is very similar to the regular kind. Even people with the regular kind can dip into this fake wokeness in certain instances. The fake woke were not called into wokeness but attempt to fabricate it. Or they are stunted in the transitional period and remain in the meme phase. We should all aspire to wokeness but it is not for everyone. Do not speak out in wokeness unless you have been called upon.
by DJ eLMNT