2 part series: Black entertainers, such as Hip Hop rappers and movie producers, have resorted to using their crafts to harp on justice equality and prison reform across the United States. They relate to the Black community and other minority groups.
Several of these Hip Hop artists have been sentenced unjustly for slight misdemeanors – and so have first-hand knowledge of the lopsided criminal justice system.
Hip Hop Rap Activists Raising Public Awareness on Lopsided Criminal Justice System
1. Common takes up prison policy advocacy
Rapper Common has become a policy advocate through his music and public activities since 2014. He met with California Gov. Jerry Brown’s top aide to discuss prison reform and how this has impacted on the Black community for years.
Common visited four California state prisons and interacted with inmates to understand their prison experiences. They spoke about what the state government and CDCR (California Department of Corrections) can do to better their lot. The rapper and activist held a meeting to discuss Miranda Rights bills with Democratic legislators. He also raised issues with juvenile incarceration and parole opportunities.
This Chicago-born star held a benefit show tagged “Imagine Justice” together with J. Cole in August to raise legislative support for incarcerated minors. Common’s motive with the concert was to ensure that the state re-examines the bail system and as well as ramp up safety measures for juveniles incarcerated in detention facilities in California.
2. Pusha T fights for rehabilitation and prison reform
Rapper Pusha T is all for lower incarceration rates and reduced recidivism. He raises the advocacy bar for prison reform and even took up the cause of people using medical and recreational marijuana.
Pusha T in late 2016 produced a PSA for Proposition 64 in California. The Proposition 64 bill seeks to legalize medical and recreational cannabis with the goal that no one using it should ever be incarcerated for it. This is to the end that legalizing marijuana use would reduce incarceration rates for users and lower recidivism.
In December last year, Pusha T also did another PSA to remove the necessity of minimum sentence for offenders. The Hip Hop rapper also came on the TV to discuss justice reform and mass incarceration among other pertinent issues in the United States.
3. Remy Ma wants the private prison system removed for good
Remy Ma has never hidden her disgust with the American private prison system. She had been in the inside for six years and knows what it means to be incarcerated. The rapper was put away in 2008 for assault, illegal weapon possession, and attempted coercion.
Since her release, Remy Ma has often cried that private prisons should be abolished. She believes they are obviously set up to profit from mass Black incarceration. The Love & Hip Hop: New York Star said:
“We have to end the private prison system.
It’s like, no matter what you do, you never finish paying your debt to society.”
4. Jay-Z pushes to have certain felonies changed to misdemeanors
Rapper Jay-Z has been the most vocal Hip Hop icon to be outspoken over the recent sentencing of Philadelphia rapper Meek Mill to 2-4 years in prison for probation violation. He has all been about shorter prison terms and conversion of some felonies to misdemeanors.
Last year the rapper produced a prison reform documentary called Time: The Kalief Browder Story. The movie is about wrong imprisonment of this young Black Man. He spent three years in jail with no bail and no trial. Eventually, after finally being released, Kalief Browder killed himself.
Video: Trailer for ‘Time: The Kalief Browder Story’
“TIME: The Kalief Browder Story” is a documentary series about a 16 year-old student from the Bronx who spent three years on Rikers Island without ever being convicted of a crime.
Watch the trailer in the video below:
This practice is a terrible development that causes some broken offenders to commit suicide in prisons.
Jay-Z had earlier partnered with the New York Times to create a short movie on how drug sentencing laws began to become terrible and lopsided for Black Americans. The ultimate objective of the documentary is to reveal that criminalizing drug use and possession is a terrible mistake that has never helped anyone.
Jay-Z wrote in Time earlier this year:
“On any given day over 400,000 people, convicted of no crime, are held in jail because they cannot afford to buy their freedom.
We can’t fix our broken criminal justice system until we take on the exploitative bail industry.”
Some Black Rappers That Have Been Incarcerated for Various Offenses
This is just a short list of some of the Hip Hop rappers that have been jailed for various offenses:
- Tupac Shakur
- Meek Mill
- Lil Wayne
- Remy Ma
- Fat Joe
- Beanie Sigel
- Lil Kim
- Foxy Brown
- Gucci Mane
- Chief Keef
- Ja Rule
- Lil Boosie
- Max B
- Slick Rick
Over 50 Hip Hop rappers have been in prison for as little as a week to as long as a decade. They were incarcerated for offenses from slight misdemeanors to grave charges such as sexual offenses.
The fact remains that African Americans have borne the brunt of the United States’ selective criminal justice system. It is high time the government stepped in to remedy the situation.