Vic Mensa is best known as a firebrand, but when he slows it down and emotes, his music can become even more powerful as he tackles prickly subjects and controversial current events. His late night performance of “We Could Be Free” from his debut album The Autobiography on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert is picture perfect proof of this, as his impassioned rendition brought the entire audience to their feet.
Dressed in a jacket reminiscent of Napolean and backed by a choir and a string quartet draped in robes listing the ills of modern society such as “climate disruption,” “police brutality,” “domestic violence,” “sexual abuse,” and “mass incarceration,” Vic deftly sings the plaintive lyrics of the Autobiography standout and raps with a raw energy that transmits both empathy and optimism in the midst of the outrageous imagery.
Screens behind him display the names of American cities that have become centers of unrest in the wake of disasters and tragedies, even as his words plead for more compassion and understanding in the world. From an MC who is best known for crackling declarations like “U Mad” and “Rollin Like A Stoner,” this relatively low-key but emotional performance is unexpected but pleasantly surprising. By stripping down the production value, the message shines through and more than the music, it’s the message that this audience reacts to.