Monday 1 April 2013

Jail House Rap

One of the things I'm interested in exploring on this blog are the cultural themes being projected by the entertainment (particularly music) industry, and questioning whether there is a deeper agenda behind them.  The anonymous letter I'm linking to below appeared last year on a hip hop site and apparently caused quite a stir.   Essentially it claims that in the early 1990's the then fledgling US prison industrial complex got into bed with the music industry, pushing it towards 'gangster rap'.   The motivation was that music company executives bought shares in private prison corporations who profit from having as many people as possible behind bars.  Music glorifying criminality was used to create a cultural shift that would lead to more young people ending up in jail.   Here's an exert:
“He explained that the companies we work for had invested millions into the building of privately owned prisons and that our positions of influence in the music industry would actually impact the profitability of these investments. I remember many of us in the group immediately looking at each other in confusion. At the time, I didn’t know what a private prison was but I wasn't the only one. Sure enough, someone asked what these prisons were and what any of this had to do with us. We were told that these prisons were built by privately owned companies who received funding from the government based on the number of inmates. The more inmates, the more money the government would pay these prisons. It was also made clear to us that since these prisons are privately owned, as they become publicly traded, we’d be able to buy shares. Most of us were taken back by this. Again, a couple of people asked what this had to do with us. At this point, my industry colleague who had first opened the meeting took the floor again and answered our questions. He told us that since our employers had become silent investors in this prison business, it was now in their interest to make sure that these prisons remained filled. Our job would be to help make this happen by marketing music which promotes criminal behavior, rap being the music of choice.”
You can read the full letter here:

Could it be a hoax? Very definitely so. However from the work of Vigilant Citizen and others it does appear to me that the entertainment industry is often pushing themes that serve a deeper and quite nefarious agenda.  What interests me most though is that these two things, gangster rap and private prisons, do appear to be working hand in hand whether it's intentional or not.  If it is a hoax it's one that makes a powerful statement about the horrible economic incentives that are set up when it becomes profitable to have as many people as possible behind bars.

Here's an RT interview with Ana Kasparian on the rise of the Prison Industrial Complex in the United States, she discusses other non-speculative ways in which this entity seeks to increase the number of its customers.  A warning to other countries, particularly the UK, on the effects of prisons for profit.

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