Vic Mensa performs at the AAHH! Fest in Chicago. (Johnny Fan/Okayplayer)
Vic Mensa‘s song “16 Shots” was already powerful when he debuted it live at the Justice For Flint benefit concert, and it was a highlight from his There’s Alot Going On EP from earlier this year. But the newly-released music video makes the message of the song – a dedication to 17-year-old police shooting victim Laquan McDonald – even more potent.
The music video depicts Vic Mensa being brutally assaulted by police. First, uniformed officers beat him to a pulp with their nightsticks. Next, one attacks him with a taser. Lastly, a firing squad of police riddles him with bullets. After each attack, Mensa gets up and continues walking toward police. The images are jarring, even after seeing so many videos of police attacks going viral in recent years.
The video begins and ends with dash-cam footage of McDonald. The teen was shot 16 times by Chicago police in 2014 as he was walking away from them, holding a knife while approximately ten feet away.
Footage of McDonald’s death sparked protests in the city and around the country. The song “16 Shots” is Mensa’s own method of protest, as he explained to Ebro Darden while premiering the recorded version of the song on Beats 1 Radio.
“I was inspired to make the song from my time on the ground floor in the street, when we were revolting against that shit. This record is like self-defense,” he said. “To me, Laquan McDonald represents Emmett Till, which represents every name down the line and since then a lot of things have changed, but one main thing hasn’t changed is that our lives are not respected.”
Watch the “16 Shots” music video below.