Jay Z teamed up with visual artist Molly Crabapple to create a multimedia account of the failed war on drugs, aptly titled "The War on Drugs Is an Epic Fail," for The New York Times.
Co-directed by Jim Batt and Kim Boekbinder, the short film combines Hova's narration with Crabapple's visuals to convey how racial disparities in the prosecution of drug crimes spurred the United States' unprecedentedly high incarceration rates — particularly among young minority men.
"In 1986, when I was coming of age, Ronald Reagan doubled down on the war on drugs that had been started by Richard Nixon in 1971," Jay Z — himself a crack dealer as a high schooler in Brooklyn — explains. "No one wanted to talk about Reaganomics and the ending of social safety nets, the defunding of schools in cities, and the loss of jobs across America. Young men like me who hustled became the sole villain and drug addicts lacked moral fortitude."
"In the 1990s, incarceration rates in the U.S. blew up," he continued. "Today, we imprison more people than any other country in the world: China, Russia, Iran, Cuba; all countries we consider autocratic and oppressive. Yeah, more than them."