Brooklyn rapper, investor and multi-millionaire business magnate Jay-Z’s controversial video was published recently on the New York Times sparking both outrage and triumph in the media. In the multi-faceted video, the rapper provides the viewers a voiceover with his signature “flow” while sketch artist Molly Crabapple draws continuous images depicting people whose lives have been affected by this war.
The multi-media project is a breath of fresh air in the media due to its modernized tactics to call the audiences to action. The anecdotes in the video are credible due to Jay Z, a former drug dealer who lived in the Brooklyn Projects, providing the linear narrative.
Beginning with the 1971 Nixon administration’s anti-narcotics baton and catching up to present-day Colorado’s legalization of marijuana, Jay Z (Shawn Carter) eradicates specific contradictions and inherent inequalities within the video. He presents America’s policing tactics regarding drugs and drug use with hard data as well as soft data — quantitative and qualitative information molding together to provide a current, credible conversation with the audiences regarding the war on drugs.
Carter is not afraid to identify hypocrisies he has observed while growing up in the projects. He tells the story of when he used to sell drugs in and around the Marcy Project. He indicates the differences of both cocaine and crack cocaine and the socioeconomic relations that uphold the two “brands”. He identifies crack cocaine as a drug specifically targeted towards the minority populations with less than meager salaries. In contrast, cocaine is generally known as the “white man’s drug”, specifically targeted for affluent white people. The policing of the two are completely different and rely heavily on systematic racism and socioeconomic degradation.
Having sold crack cocaine himself, Carter is not particularly the poster child for the war on drugs. He also lacks an educational degree, which may bat some eyes in the world of academia. This fact, along with his notorious crime record, has allowed some audiences to become wary and skeptical of this video. Regardless, Carter and Crabapple’s project is a way of starting a ruthlessly truthful conversation in a seemingly ignorant society when it comes to the war on drugs.
“Rates of drug use are as high as they were when Nixon declared this so-called war in 1971,” Carter says. “45 years later, it’s time to rethink our policies and laws. The war on drugs is an epic fail,” he concludes.
Jay Z and Crabapple provide the audience with a well-crafted project. It is truly relatable to millennial audiences as well as older and younger generations. The New York Times article provides us an explanation to this call to action:
“In November, Californians specifically have the opportunity to vote Yes on Prop 64, the most racial-justice-oriented marijuana legalization measure ever. Prop 64 would reduce (and in many cases eliminate) criminal penalties for marijuana offenses, and it’s retroactive — people sitting in prison for low-level marijuana offenses would be released and have their records expunged. In addition, Prop 64 would drive millions of dollars in direct funding and investments to those communities most harmed by the criminal justice system. Jay Z and Molly Crabapple are inviting us all to stand on the right side of history.”
Will you join Carter and Crabapple to stand on the right side of history? Or will you flounder just like the others before you have done?