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Hip-Hop is more than a genre of music; it’s a lifestyle. It has grown and evolved, ebbed and flowed, but one thing remains constant: It has always been the soundtrack of “the Hood.”

People can intellectualize, criminalize and/or vilify it, but even if Hip-Hop were to be eradicated from the face of the earth tomorrow, the conditions which spawned it would still be alive and well.

This is why the following letter is so striking.

In a missive currently making the internet rounds, a former music executive claims that he was at a meeting during which industry insiders were brought into the loop on how the private prison industrial complex was directly funded by the government. It was there that he learned that the more bodies that are in cells, the more money the prison complex makes. If, the music execs were allegedly told, they helped to aid and abet criminality through Hip-Hop music, then one day the prison system would eventually go public and they would be able to buy shares.

Our job would be to help make this happen by marketing music which promotes criminal behavior, rap being the music of choice. He assured us that this would be a great situation for us because rap music was becoming an increasingly profitable market for our companies, and as employee, we’d also be able to buy personal stocks in these prisons.

So disgusted with the meeting, Mr. Anonymous claims that he turned into a relative recluse for close to two decades and finally decided to speak out after surveying the devastation around him:

Now that I have a greater understanding of how private prisons operate, things make much more sense than they ever have. I see how the criminalization of rap music played a big part in promoting racial stereotypes and misguided so many impressionable young minds into adopting these glorified criminal behaviors which often lead to incarceration.

While this explanation fits into a tidy box labeled “The Man Made Me Do It,” it also has shades of Willie Lynch sprinkled throughout. Yes, it makes sense, but weren’t black men marginalized and arrested at disproportionate rates before Hip-Hop took a turn for the ignorant? Doesn’t it stretch back to Reagan and Iran-Contran, his wife and “Just Say No”? Doesn’t it go back to public housing and rat mazes? And C-Lo’s Goodie Mob observation “I wonder if the gate was put up to keep crime out or to keep our ass in?”

More importantly, doesn’t it leave room for society to say that the black men unjustly imprisoned – who aren’t influenced by Hip-Hop – must deserve to be locked up for crimes they didn’t commit?

It is clear that the music industry exploits poverty and the stereotypical “Black Male” image, but aren’t they allowed to do so because of the complicity of other black men eager to cash in?

Weigh in Clutchettes: Does this letter ring true or is it just an urban myth?

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  • OSHH

    Folk need to be way more discriminate in what ingest in the name of entertainment, esp what we view, read, listen to, and repeat.

  • Rastaman

    “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it”
    This is the story of blacks in America. There are just too many folks who cannot see the forest for the trees. Those who think the high incidence of black male incarceration is some new phenomenon; as if this fact was not in play long before hip hop, illegal drugs or any so called criminal or anti-social behavior was attributed to the African people in America.

    I would propose that the only times in this nation where black prison rates were lower than the the percentage make-up of the population was before the first black person arrived and during slavery. In the late 1800s and early part of the 20th century when black men were being snatched of up in the South and put on chain gangs for the most perfunctory of reasons there was no hip hop.

    What we call the Prison Industrial Complex today was the Peonage system before that and chattel slavery before that.

    http://aboutpeonage.blogspot.com/2011/04/chain-gangs-originated-in-georgia-in.html

    “Under laws enacted in the South specifically to intimidate blacks, tens of thousands of African Americans were arbitrarily arrested, hit with outrageous fines, and charged for the costs of their own arrests. With no means to pay these debts, prisoners were sold as forced laborers to coal mines, lumber camps, brickyards, railroads, quarries and farm plantations. Thousands of other African Americans were seized by southern landowners and compelled into years of involuntary servitude. Government officials leased falsely imprisoned blacks to small-town entrepreneurs, provincial farmers, and dozens of corporations looking for cheap labor. Armies of black men, and also women and children, labored without compensation, were repeatedly bought and sold, and were forced through beatings and physical torture to do the bidding of white masters for decades after the official abolition of American slavery.[3]

    The peonage system used in the South exploited legal loopholes to avoid prosecution of whites for continuing to hold black workers against their will. Southern states and private businesses boomed with this free labor. It is estimated that up to 40% of Blacks in the South were imprisoned in peonage in the beginning of the 20th century. Severe deprivation, beatings, whippings and other abuse were commonly used as “discipline.”

    I SMH when I hear know nothing utter “Amazing…it’s always someone else’s fault why black men find themselves in prison!”

    We are all born ignorant, but some work hard to remain stupid.

    • PJ

      @Rastaman

      Very impressive.. .your comments distracted me which is a rare occurrence.`

    • full moon

      @Rastaman…Thank you for this truth.

    • TyneandWear

      @Rastaman

      I do remember hearing about how the undesireables in England, i.e. the Dutch, the Irish, etc. were sent to the Americas or Austrailia for “offenses” as trivial as spitting in the streets. They even sent children over.

  • Beautiful Mic

    I can believe it, but it need Mr. Anonymous to come out of hiding.

  • ayedeme

    It is weird but I find myself speeding more when ever I am listening to rap music so I can see how it couldd lead to more. I was already moving away from rap and “hiphop” when I moved to a very remote area of the country and didn’t have access to it unless I went out of my way to keep up but once I heard the song “so what we get high” I really had to stop. I started to worry what we are saying to ALL kids (not just black) with this so what thought and saying “that is how it is suppose to be.” Oh really! Well maybe I missed that memo but I am happy I did. Madness! But now when ever I happen so to run across those rap videos/songs I can’t help but think how stupid it looks, sounds, and make us all look to ppl who don’t get to interact with a lot of blacks in person. I do wonder why no other type of music seem to be so all about money, hoes, drugs, etc. Heck, living like that will not produce any real money anyway for the majority but most are too into the “lifestyle” to see that! But serious it would be nice to be able to listen to something with some good base and beat without feeling like I am sending a message that I am about that craziness b/c that is what most of those songs are about…just saying

  • TyneandWear

    The crminality came before the hip hop but the hip hop does glory not shame it already existing behaviors. Especially as it desensitizes those who arent criminally inclined.

    We need to talk about market forces. There are alternatives that exist within hip hop music. It just isnt popular. Why isnt it popular? Why have our best hip hop artist become pariahs in the music industry?

    Jay Electronica said, “Guru (From Gangstar) told me slow up the flow cuz science and metaphors will slow up ya doe.” Guru was a “conscience” rapper but even he had to admit that his style of music affected his income.

    Dont blame rappers. You can put them in the poor house if you didnt buy their music. thats all that needs to be said on the matter.