Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Truth about the Letter that Shocked the Internet Claiming the Music Industry Promoted Gangsta Rap to Fill Prisons

I received this letter from Sebastien Elkouby, a self-professed Hip Hop Culture historian, publicist, and educator. He runs the educational program Global Awareness through Hip Hop Culture and P.R. company S&H Public Relations. The plot thickens...

The Truth about the Anonymous Letter that Shocked the Internet by Claiming that the Music Industry Promoted Gangsta Rap to Fill Prisons

By Sebastien Elkouby

Last month, a controversial anonymous letter entitled “The Secret Meeting That Changed Rap Music and Destroyed a Generation” hit the internet by storm. The letter, which claims that an unnamed top music industry executive promoted gangsta rap to fill private prisons, was republished by hundreds of blogs and websites, and was reposted on countless forums, Twitter, and Facebook profiles. Everyone from Public Enemy’s Chuck D to Freeway Ricky Ross had something to say about it. Various YouTube videos were posted to discuss the anonymous letter, and translations of the letter were posted in French, Spanish, and other languages for international audiences. The Huffington Post even published a critique questioning the validity of the claims made by the anonymous author who, fearing for his wellbeing, provided no names or details that might reveal his identity.

Many skeptics called the letter a hoax due to its poor writing style and general inconsistencies, yet an overwhelming number of people accepted its “facts” at face value. While I have my own concerns regarding the letter’s authenticity, the core message does touch on a frightening reality which doesn’t require any anonymous claims to prove it as truth. This may be why the letter has struck such a nerve with internet audiences. The private prison industrial complex is very real, and the people and entities behind it will go to surprising lengths to sustain it.

Although I haven’t come across any information that confirms the music industry’s investment in private prisons, the idea that the music industry has manipulated rap music to glorify misogyny, violence, drugs, and materialism is a common belief held in Hip Hop circles. Many artists, such as Wise Intelligent and Too Short, have shared their personal experiences which clearly point to a deliberate attempt by the music industry to silence and suppress Hip Hop music with substance.

The idea that music (and media in general) can be used as a medium of social engineering is nothing new. In the 1970’s, Black Music was already being studied by university researchers to learn how it could be manipulated to ultimately increase consumerism in mainstream markets. In 1990, the release of the book “Hit Men: Power Brokers and Fast Money Inside the Music Business” also points to corrupt business practices which place profit over ethics.

What seems to bother skeptics who simply see the anonymous letter as a cheesy conspiracy theory is the lack of verifiable information to back up its astounding claim. Sadly, as unbelievable as it may be, sicker things have happened which were once labeled “conspiracy theories” until the supporting evidence was uncovered and documented. Ridiculing conspiracy theories may be popular amongst self-righteous contrarians, but their mockeries ring hollow in the face of the following real-life documented government conspiracies.

However, the focus of this article is on the claims that music industry executives invested in private prisons and promoted gangsta rap to influence young people into a life of crime, ultimately leading to higher incarceration and increased profits for those investors.

Michelle Alexander, civil rights attorney and author of the bestselling book “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness”, lays out the horrible truth about the private prison industrial complex in painstaking details. And while she makes no mention of the music industry’s involvement, the truth she uncovers is much more sinister than our anonymous letter could ever suggest.

Despite the letter’s elusive origin, is it really so difficult to fathom that a handful of key players in the entertainment industry would plot such a horrifying scheme when the truth is much more twisted than anyone could possibly imagine? But if you still need convincing, the following links should wake you up!

And the list goes on.

While there might not have been an actual plot to lead young rap fans to prison like the Pied Piper of Hamelin, the glorification of criminal or risky behavior in mainstream rap couldn’t have possibly been beneficial for young people over the last two generations. And while most of us understand that the so-called “War on Drugs”, not rap music, is responsible for the rising incarceration rate, too many of us seem blind to the fact that Wiz Khalifa, Snoop Dogg, Tyga, YG, Kid Ink, French Montana, and all these other guys make millions for the music industry by carelessly promoting behaviors that undoubtedly influence impressionable minds to engage in dangerous (and often illegal) activities.

With more Black men in jail now than at any other time in our nation’s history, we need to move beyond arguing about the validity of incredible conspiracy theories and deal with the reality of undeniable facts: Our youth are in serious jeopardy and it isn’t merely a theory. We must take an active role in educating and empowering young people with the proper information. Or, we can stay stuck in front of our computers debating the authenticity of a grammatically incorrect anonymous letter which reads like a crime thriller whose specific claims are irrelevant, when the frightening truth about the private prison industrial complex is right under our noses.