With this four-part music video, I wanted to create a portrait of the place Vic Mensa grew up: Chicago’s Southside. A somewhat controversial figure in the rap industry, it was important for me to give Vic a chance to take a step back and return to his roots; highlighting everything that makes him, him. In the first video for Machiavelli, each set up takes place on iconic Chicago corners. Utilizing the “corner” as a quasi ‘pillar’ of the community, I wanted to set up the corner as a stage for different historically black institutions of Chicago’s Southside. This includes controversial groups like the Nation of Islam and famous gangs. These groups are definitely problematic, however, I wanted to focus my imagery around them because in their infancy they were ‘beacons’ for positivity in black communities, especially for black men. Yes, they were problematic, however, they were never able to possibly flourish from the negativity like their white counterparts: Carnegie Hall or other similar organizations, they were targeted and leadership dismantled resulting in the chaos you see today. Larry Hoover had murdered many of his own kind, but it wasn’t until he marched 70,000 black people down to Chicago’s Northside to vote that he was arrested. This idea of not being allowed to flourish, or fly, really resonated with me as a black man and Vic as well where he is in his career. There’s something romantic to it and I think can also apply to the Southside as well. Each corner has its own stage and its own group, and we purposely wanted to give each a militaristic feel to them, almost like a last stand against a society that has made war against them. Stylistically, I wanted to put a heavy emphasis on portraiture and using a “photographic aesthetic” to emphasize the idea of a portrait of Chicago. For most of the community, I wanted to show them smiling and being proud in a part of the city that really doesn’t have too many reasons to. There are so many things wrong with the Southside of Chicago: Lack of investment in infrastructure, education, jobs, etc. yet they always find a way to smile which I believe shows the resiliency of the people of the Southside, so I wanted to reinforce this idea of “smiling despite”. In the second video: Bethlehem, I wanted to show pure black joy, in a way where the characters are doing “black” things that society has kind of deemed as negative, immoral or indecent. In the third video: SC Freestyle, I wanted to paint the kind of nightmare that is so often designated to Chicago. I’ve always found it interesting the way black communities integrate slang-terms that are steeped in traumatic history in our everyday use. When you ask a friend what are they up to they’ll go “Hanging over there, or hanging with a girl, or hanging on the block” etc. Considering black people’s history with lynching and hanging, I’ve found the use of the slang term kind of peculiar, almost as if we’ve internalized this inevitable outcome to a certain kind of lifestyle. So in the video, we see people “hanging out on the block” with Nooses around their necks that are never addressed giving a surrealistic feel. In the video, shots ring out, causing the crowd “hanging on the block” to scatter, with the men who are “tied to the block” kind of succumbing to their lifestyle by literally choking out from the nooses around their necks as they try to flee, the more they try to run the more noose around their necks tightens. It was definitely a risky concept and there’s always that chance of being ‘canceled’ but I’d rather take the risk than not deal with subject matters I find compelling and important. With the final video: Rebirth, we wanted to make a nod back to Vic Mensa’s African roots as he’s first-generation Ghanaian. We brought back the African Pallbearers that were featured in the first video so the film would have full circle feel. This time its more surreal, they are in more traditional Vodun garb and I wanted to kind of flip the perceptions people have on Voodoo, Vodun, Santeria, Obeah, Yoruban traditions, where White-Christianity has kind of painted them as demonic but these religions are really callbacks to African communities’ way of staying connected to their heritage. So in the video, I treat these Pallbearers as more of like angels coming to take Vic to heaven.
Writer and director Andre Muir is the son of two Jamaican immigrants, born in Rogers Park, Chicago and now living in Brooklyn, NY. As an artist, Andre creates spiritual stories, juxtaposing sound and image into an experience of non-linear perception.