listen to vic mensa's lgbt anthem 'free love,' featuring le1f, halsey, lil b, and malik yusef
The Chicago rapper celebrated the one year anniversary of national marriage equality by enlisting an all-star team for a genre-defying new track.
Photography Eric Chakeen
Earlier this month, Vic Mensa released his latest EP, There's Alot Going On. The title is fitting for many reasons, among them Mensa's own career: in the space of a few short years, he went from playing with punk bands to holding court with King Kanye. But the title also speaks to the wider world, and its issues of violence and bigotry. Mensa has never shied away from sociopolitical confrontation, both in his rhymes (There's Alot Going On interfaces with the Flint water crisis and the brutal slaying of unarmed 17-year-old Laquan McDonald) and his style.
For his newest release, "Free Love," a standalone single shared yesterday on Soundcloud, Mensa reflects on the one year anniversary of national marriage equality's passage in the United States. And he does so with an epic roster of diverse collaborators; lightning lyricist Le1f and alt-pop darling Halsey — both of whom are openly queer — team with the Bay Area's ever-enlightened "BasedGod" Lil B and GOOD Music's Malik Yusef.
"As humans we fear what we don't understand," Mensa writes in a heartfelt statement shared on Twitter, recalling a conversation he had with a family member regarding LGBT rights. "I've always been in support, but I didn't feel personally attached or really feel like it was my battle to fight," Mensa says. It wasn't until a family member revealed their queer identity to Mensa that his perceptions started to shift. "It made me uncomfortable at first. And that's good. We have to be removed from our comfort zone in order to be able to grow. It felt like some subconscious judgement inside of me had to die in order to be able to really accept someone I love with my whole heart telling me this is who they are," Mesa explains. "I couldn't feel indifferent about something that was so important to people I love."
"Free Love" opens with an acoustic guitar riff before moving into some Fugees-esque kickdrums, later washed with a hazy layer of synths. Mensa's elastic verse bounces between North Carolina's trans bathroom bill and genderless dressing before Le1f drops in with some banging bars of his own, like "respect my existence or expect my resistance." Halsey's impassioned hook elevates the effort to anthemic proportions. The Based God closes the record by speaking directly to his native California; he explains how the state's domestic partnerships do not enshrine the full benefits queer couples in other states like Massachusetts are afforded. "Free Love" celebrates progress, but makes it clear that there's still much work to be done to achieve true equality.
"Looking at the world around me, I realize now that as a creature of love, the battles of all people fighting to love are also mine," Mensa's statement concludes. "And I will stand with them. Will you?"
Text Emily Manning
Photography Eric Chakeen