This past week, the hip-hop community has been unraveling at its seams. It was reported that Chicago rapper Vic Mensa had allegedly “dissed” the late and notorious XXXtentacion during his BET Hip-Hop Awards freestyle cypher.
When y’all hear Vic Mensas fucking freestyle at the BET awards y’all are going to be fucking disgusted. @VicMensa SUCK MY DICK
— BAD VIBES (@DJSCHEME_) October 7, 2018
yo bro how u gone say
“Your favorite rapper is an abuser” and then follow it with a line saying “some shit X some shit so I won’t live long” u can deny it but everyone who was there heard that shit
— BAD VIBES (@DJSCHEME_) October 7, 2018
Consequently, X’s fan base, friends, and peers took to social media to express their disgust for Mensa’s comments. Fans began sending Mensa and his team death threats, dropped diss tracks on SoundCloud, and threatened to fight him. Their defense was Mensa should not “disrespect the dead” and they found it even more disrespectful because X’s mother was in the crowd at the award ceremony.
They called him a hypocrite as well because Mensa has his own history with domestic violence. In his album There’s A Lot Going On he is transparent about losing his cool with a woman as a result of her striking him:
When we left the club after Rap Genius house me and shorty got into a fight
She came out the room swingin’, hit me in the jaw
I was really tryna fend her off
But I ended up in the closet with my hands around her neck
I was trippin’, dawg
Too proud to apologize or empathize, I blamed it all on her
Sayin’ that she hit me first, even though she was the one hurt
— There’s A Lot Going On, Vic Mensa
He even admits to it during an interview with the Breakfast Club.
Surprisingly, despite all the heat that X’s fan base and friends threw at him, Mensa was not swayed. He posted a video on his Instagram page expressing that he did not take back his remarks about X. He wanted to put an end to violence towards women in hip-hop. He did however mention he did not know that X’s mother would be there seeing as the cypher is pre-recorded and he sent his condolences to her.
Mensa also noted that he did not want attention or clout as a result of calling out X.
But does he?
When I saw that Mensa had allegedly called X out for his abuse towards women, as a feminist hip-hop fan, I was elated. I was relieved. It is so difficult to enjoy a genre that quite often contains content that demeans and dehumanizes women. Men in hip-hop abuse women to no end with little to no impunity and for once, a male rapper actually spoke out. I, along with many others in the Feminist + LGBT circle were very quick to praise Mensa but once I learned about his own history with physical abuse, I fell back and began to reflect.
His timing is weird.
Why now when the kid is dead? Don’t get me wrong, I do not believe this idea that you can not criticize someone simply because they passed away. If someone was physically or sexually abusive–if someone was a bigot during their time on earth, it is completely valid to still hold them accountable because their actions speak to a larger picture. X’s domestic violence case speaks to a larger culture where men are seldom called to the floor to reconcile with their own actions. Not only do their actions speak to a larger picture, but their impact is still here on this earth. They may not be physically here anymore but the impact they left still affects the people they left behind. X’s victim still has to work through that trauma as a result of what he put her through. But again, why didn’t Mensa make these remarks when X was alive?
His own history with domestic violence does make his credibility questionable. It is frustrating that X’s fans were not bothered by Mensa choking his ex-girlfriend until it was time to shield their fave from accountability. But unlike most men, Mensa admitted to his abuse and expressed remorse for his actions. He mentioned he grew and learned from that situation.
But what more has he done that shows he is someone women can trust?
On the other hand, Vic Mensa has always been outspoken when it comes to social justice issues. He is especially vocal about police violence. He not only illustrates the injustice of police brutality in his songs and visuals but he is also on the streets marching with other Black Chicago natives. Mensa has always served his community. He most recently held an “anti-bait truck” event where he gave out sneakers to Chicago youth. Maybe he is being sincere about wanting to fight for women?
Admittedly though, it is very hard to trust cisgender-heterosexual (cishet) men. There are the cishet men who make their misogyny abundantly clear… but then there are shrewd cishet men who guise themselves in sheep’s clothing, championing themselves as some sort of feminist ally in hopes that they will gain access to more women. They get women to break down their walls and become vulnerable. They convince women that they are this safe haven when in reality, they are no different than the cishet men who will call you a bitch to your face.
I think people leaped at this moment to champion Mensa as a woman’s rights advocate because it is very rare to see men hold other men accountable in the hip-hop community and in general. It also helps that Mensa is conventionally attractive. I do wonder if Mensa did not look the way he does, would people be so quick to consider him an ally?
I appreciate Mensa speaking up but I do not find anything wrong with challenging him. He has completed step one, which is to call them out but what’s next? Will he call out the abusive men that are alive? Will he march with women? Will he donate his money and time towards women? Will he amplify the voices of women in hip-hop? Will he reconcile with his own misogynistic ideals? What more work will he do or did he risk his career all in vain?
Let’s not be so quick to let men who say simplistic things about feminism and violence against women have a seat at the table. I hope for our and Mensa’s sake, he keeps putting in the work and setting an example.