PASSAGE is a curated mental health and wellness initiative created by Okayplayer. The program was developed to amplify the collective stories and healing practices of millennials of color. Follow the program here and stream PASSAGE, The EP here.
On February 9th, Okayplayer hosted an intimate and inspiring conversation with Chicago rapper Vic Mensa. The talk, which is the first in a series of conversations Okayplayer is hosting for its PASSAGE series, featured Vic Mensa chatting with Okayplayer and OkayAfrica Editor-in-Chief/VP of Content Rachel Hislop. For more than an hour, the two spoke about mental health, dealing with trauma, and how to handle those topics in the work they do.
The conversation began with a reflection on the past year, which was dominated by the pandemic and social unrest throughout the world. Vic believes the year 2020 answered many longstanding questions about the hearts of many. “A lot of questions that have existed for a long time were answered for a lot of people,” he said. “So many things were exposed that existed. Oftentimes, we fall in love with comfort or neglecting what’s right in front of us.”
Later on, Vic spoke about the process of re-creating traumatic childhood experiences through his music and music videos, and why he believes the finished product gives him the space to heal.
“Whether it’s music or writing a book, or doing something in the community: it’s all ideas to me. I never thought about it as re-traumatizing myself,” Vic said. “I was writing a song called ‘2Honest‘ for the V Tape, and when I’m writing the song, I’m bawling. Which is usually how you know you’re doing something dope… when I’m able to express in music, they help me to grow. They help me feel strength.”
He also talked about the creation of the 2017 track “Heaven on Earth,” a song written in dedication to a friend killed in a robbery. Vic wrote the first verse as a letter to the friend, the second verse from the friend’s perspective, looking downn from Heaven. While the third verse is written as his friend’s killer, who he believes feels remorse for his actions.
“When I wrote that, it helped me to forgive. I had just been holding this hatred in my heart for a person I’d never met,” Vic said. “I was able to put it in music in a certain way, it helped me think that this person was a person…it helped me to let go, above all.”
Vic also spoke candidly about his struggles with addiction and embracing sobriety. “I was badly addicted to one thing after another,” he said. “I was addicted to escaping. When I started doing music sober, I was making a lot of my favorite music. I realized the drugs were teleporting me to the top of a hill I really had to get the strength to walk up myself.”
Watch the entire conversation with Vic Mensa below. And check out his latest single, “Shelter,” which features Chance the Rapper and Wyclef Jean.