Saturday, April 9 was a highly anticipated night for Ole students. The Music Entertainment Committee (MEC) brought hip-hop and rap artist Vic Mensa to the Lion’s Pause for the Spring Concert. Students paid five dollars for admission. Oles filled the venue early, as the show was completely sold out.
The doors opened at 7:30 p.m. and the event officially began at 8 p.m. with Mensa’s opener, St. Olaf student Ross Nevin ’17. Referred to as “DJ Ross,” Nevin entertained the students with a well-received and upbeat set until 9 p.m., when Mensa came on stage to begin his performance.
“Personally, being from Chicago, [the concert] was great because they had a rapper from where I grew up,” Jose Campos ’19 said. “He went to Whitney Young, a school that I know and that my cousins went to. It was cool because I felt at home.”
One song that particularly stood out to students was Mensa’s “16 Shots.” Last October, Mensa marched in protest against the Chicago Police after footage was released of Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke shooting down 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. The song refers to the 16 gun wounds found on McDonald’s body, all fired by Van Dyke 30 seconds after arriving on the scene. A new energy entered the crowd when Mensa played this song, showcasing some of the student body’s sentiment toward the situation and support of Mensa and his message. While many related to Mensa and were moved by the message of the song, others reported a different reaction from some students.
“The song had a powerful message, but I feel like some people didn’t hear the message clearly,” Campos said. “Some were too intoxicated to appreciate the meaning, [while] others shouted out some really disrespectful things.”
With a majority of Mensa’s music informed by experiences with racism and activism for the Black Lives Matter movement, a clear sense of social commentary weaved the show together. As Campos alluded, while some students felt the power behind Mensa’s lyrics, there was some fairly tangible tension that related to a performance regarding race relations on a primarily white campus.
The intense energy of the whole event was overwhelming for some, but exciting to others who were taken in by the lyrics, music and atmosphere of the concert. Students packed Pause completely, leaving little room for dancing or socializing, but those who were there for the performance found that the full venue did not affect the music or performance. Some students did, however, voice a disappointment in the length of the show, as Mensa was only on stage for 45 minutes.
Overall, the 2016 spring concert was a lively, packed and upbeat show. With a performer many St. Olaf students connected to because of their shared home and/or social justice interests, the concert was widely attended and talked about. Mensa clearly made an impact on the student body, and students anticipate intersectional dialogue to follow the event.