Incarceration Nation

Rapping with a Rapper

By Mumia Abu-Jamal

For the last few years, in light of the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement and the arresting images from Ferguson, Missouri, rappers have created songs that rap not about wealth or sex, but about the wave of repression and resistance experienced by young Black people. Songs I like “Hands Up” by Uncle Murda, “Soul Survivor” by Young Jeezy and Akon, “Cop Skit” by Black Rob, and “Stay Woke” by Meek Mill, could be headlines from this morning’s newspaper.

They are sonic, musical signs of the times—of times that are not well in America.

A rapper called Young Chris has been inspired by the rapper Meek Mill to join the call for an end to mass incarceration, and has even used some audio from me to make his points (that, and of course, his personal experiences.)

Young Chris, speaking of Meek and other influences, explains:

“I was already woke before Meek diving into this arena, however what he is doing has educated me.  My best man, Byrd, is currently serving a sentence of life without parole for something he didn’t do, so that was all the influence I needed to speak on these matters. I feel like I had to become his voice, along with many others that are faced with a similar situation. Free Byrd!”

I asked Young Chris why so many rappers refused to address such issues in their work?  

Young Chris:

“In my opinion, I don’t think they’re outright refusing to discuss these serious matters.  They’re just sleep because it didn’t hit home. I once was sleep until injustice blanket [ed] my best man. We as a community have to do better.”

I mentioned to Young Chris seeing Meek speak out against mass incarceration on the nationally syndicated variety show, “Ellen.” 

Young Chris responded:

“That was big to get his story out on ‘Ellen.’ We need as much attention to the injustices that has riddled our Brown and Black communities, along with the white underprivileged for years. I’ve known Meek since he was a young teenager and I’ve always felt he was special.”

If you’re a hip-hop head, you may remember the duo Young Gunz, which did a piece called: “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop,” over a bed played by Heavy D, called “Overweight Lover in the House.”  

The song, recorded by Roc-A-Fella Records (2003), hit number ten on the BillBoard charts, and ran for 29 weeks.

Well, Young Chris was half of Young Gunz (along with Hanif “Neef” Mohammad, as the other half.)

 His message to Hip-Hop?

“We just have to speak for the voiceless,” Young Chris says, adding, “Speak up and speak out!”