With the election just five weeks away, VEVO has launched the ‘Why I Vote’ campaign in which several artists discuss the issues that matter to them, in order to stress the importance of voting. The latest such video features rapper T.I., who discusses the disastrous effect the War on Drugs has had on his family, and the African-American community as whole.
The video begins with T.I. pretending to hold a small amount of crack cocaine. He does this to illustrate the problem with mandatory minimum sentences where if someone was caught with a very small amount of a given drug, the law forced judges to treat them as though they were carrying a much larger amount. In this case, Tip explains how an amount as small as 10 grams of crack was multiplied into a thousand grams of cocaine by the legal system, thus forcing huge sentences on small time drug dealers. He discusses the large number of friends and family of his who ended up serving lengthy prison sentences because of these laws, including his uncle, who served a 10-year prison sentence after being convicted of conspiracy to sell cocaine.
Later on, T.I. addresses another controversial issue: the emergence of crack cocaine in the black community in the 1980s. Many people are suspicious of where the drug came from, and T.I. shares that suspicion. “Nobody just learned how to put baking soda with water in cocaine to make a cheaper version that’s more potent,” he says. “We ain’t no damn chemists. We didn’t come up with that.”
For a five-minute video, T.I. takes a fairly deep-dive into the horrifying effects the drug war has had on people of color. He discusses the efforts to target low-level drug dealers, many of whom were young African-American men. He points out that this practice often had the effect of breaking up families, and separating fathers from their children.
T.I. does not mention who he plans to vote for in the election; he may be undecided. In December, he made some rather pointed comments about his unwillingness to vote for a woman president. At the same time, however, if he’s as angry about the drug war as he seems to be here, he would likely have a lot of issues with Donald Trump, who has gone on the record as saying he supports stop-and-frisk, a policy which disproportionately targets people of color.
T.I. is not the only prominent rapper to speak out against the war on drugs. Recently, Jay-Z released a video discussing the effects of the war on drugs in New York City, and how police would often target African-American communities rather than more affluent, predominantly white neighborhoods. The drug war has been a major problem for far too long; hopefully, the efforts of people like T.I. and Jay-Z will go a long way in forcing politicians to finally take a seriously look at it.