“The NYPD raided our Brooklyn neighborhoods while Manhattan bankers openly used coke with impunity,” Jay Z narrates in his newly released short film. “The war on drugs exploded the US prison population disproportionately locking away blacks and latinos.”
As many of you already know, hip hop titan Jay Z (Shawn Carter) originally rose to prominence in the rap industry by rhyming brashly and truthfully about his past as a Brooklyn-based drug dealer and gangster. Nowadays, Hov is nothing short of an international celebrity, a successful business man who managed to make it off of the streets that were maligned by the racially charged and ineffective war on drugs. Now, Jay Z is using his firsthand experience to narrate the history of the detrimental drug war in his new short film, which features the chillingly truthful artwork of Molly Crabapple.
Released September 15 in The New York Times, Jay Z takes you through the entire history of the war on drugs, from its implementation by Richard Nixon, to its expansion under Ronald Reagan, up to the bloated number of black and latino citizens who are still imprisoned due to today's outdated drug crimes. Jay narrates from his perspective as a young man growing up in Brooklyn, navigating through Rockefeller drug laws in 1973, which led to an explosion in city’s prison population, an effect we are still reeling from to this very day.
In the short film, we learn about how although African-Americans only make up around 13% of the United States population, 31% of those arrested for drug law violations, even though they use and sell drugs at the same rate as whites. Ultimately, Jay Z walks us step by step through the racially unjust regulations that took our prison population from 200,000 in 1971 to over 2 million today. And even though the crack epidemic of the ‘80s has subsided, the war on drugs is still putting a disproportionate number of blacks and latinos in prison.
The short film came about when the filmmaker and co-author of Jay Z’s book “Decoded”, Dream Hampton, reached out to Drug Policy Alliance about collaborating with Revolve Impact, the social impact agency that she works closely with. Hampton proposed that an animated short film could help display the long-lasting disastrous effect that the racially charged war on drugs has had on minority communities ever since the ’70s.
Together, Jay Z and Molly Crabapple will take you on a heartbreaking and downtrodden journey through the plight that the African-American community has faced since drug war began. As cannabis approaches legal status in California and throughout other states, it’s the perfect time to educate ourselves on this unfathomable past, making sure that we never repeat such a heinous part of American history ever again.