Music During the War on Drugs

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Jay Z Short Film

Jay-Z is one of the most well-known and respected rap artists ever. He’s also someone who’s whole life has been influenced by drugs. Growing up in the hood of Brooklyn he saw the ins and the outs of the drug game but more importantly how it controlled and affected lives. As a former dealer himself, today he stands at the top of the rap game and in this video he felt the need to educate the world on the history of the War on Drugs. He details precisely throughout the video the discrepancies of the application of laws created during the War on Drugs and the boom in incarceration rates in the United States since then. This short film is very powerful because he describes the very complicated history of the war on drugs in a very simple and concise way. The illustrations also help the viewer understand the perspective of African Americans during the War on Drugs. The application of laws inequally targets African Americans and gives a pass to white people doing similar things. It disallows people who were convicted to join the new and growing marijuana industry. Because Jay-Z is the narrator, it catches more publicity and his very clear political agenda seen in the short film is more respected by the general public.


While this song was originally produced in 1992, and released in 1998, Tupac Shakur sings about many of the same issues stated in the short film by Jay-Z. Tupac depicts what it is like to be an African American in a poor area during the War on Drugs. The song illustrates the poor treatment of African Americans by the police, the high incarceration rates, and how both white and black use crack, but only African Americans are convicted. Tupac sings about a lot of different topics that he believes need to change, but never will because “that’s just the way it is”. This song was very powerful at the time, and is still relevant today, as it perfectly displays the issues felt by African Americans during the War on Drugs and the lack of change in the country. In the second verse, Tupac sang “both black and white is smokin’ crack tonight”, and “It ain’t a secret don’t conceal the fact. The penitentiary’s packed, and it’s filled with blacks. But some things will never change”. These lines hit hard, as it depicts the discrepancies in applying laws by race, and the mass incarceration of African Americans throughout the War on Drugs. The song directly displays Tupac Shakur’s political views on the War on Drugs and is still one of Tupac’s most popular songs to this day.