Jay Z has never hid his drug dealing past, but in the animated op-ed for the New York Times, the storied rapper details on a personal and historical level how race, class, wealth, and outdated laws leave struggling “entrepreneurs” in a destructive cycle of incarceration and without options.
In the video, called “A History of the War on Drugs From Prohibition to Gold Rush,” Jay Z narrates a story that begins in 1986 when he was “coming of age” during Reagan’s presidency and ends today, when he declares the war on drugs “an epic fail.”
“Young men like me who hustled like me became the sole villain and drug addicts lacked moral fortitude.” He touches on American incarceration rates rose, Rockefeller laws, and dives into the distinction between crack and cocaine dealers. “Crack is still talked about as a black problem,” Jay Z says in the op-ed. “The NYPD raided out black neighborhoods while Manhattan bankers openly used coke.”
He describes how black and latino men and women were put in jail far more than white people and that the prison population grew “more than 900 percent.” He also discusses the challenges former felons, who were put away on marijuana charges, face when they intend to open legal dispensaries. The act is impossible.
Take a look at the whole video, illustrated by Molly Crabapple and produced in collaboration between Revolve Impact and the Drug Policy Alliance, below.