In the latest installment of Vevo‘s “Why I Vote” campaign, T.I. recalls how the launch of the War on Drugs and mass incarceration affected his childhood in Atlanta and why it motivates him to vote. The series — which launched last week with Vic Mensa — aims to empower young voters in time for this year’s presidential election.
T.I. discusses the way crack cocaine dealers are prosecuted, noting the discrepancy that those carrying a much smaller gram portion are treated the same as those carrying a kilo, which is the equivalent of 1,000 grams. “Now here we are, two million prisoners later.”
Growing up on the west side of Atlanta in the late Eighties and early Nineties, T.I. experienced people being “gone for a long time,” as friends, family members and acquaintances ended up getting upwards of 20 years in jail for selling drugs. The first person he had ever personally known that went to prison was his uncle who got 10 years on conspiracy for the distribution of cocaine. “It was unreal to me,” he says. “That was the only person who took some real time to kind of mold me as a man. When he went away, it was ridiculous.”
The rapper and actor is suspicious of how the crack epidemic started in impoverished black neighborhoods. “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.”
T.I. also takes a broader look at the War on Drugs, explaining how the imprisonment of lower level drug dealers — who were primarily young men of color — led to the breaking of families, displacement of fathers from homes and the disruption of communities. T.I. points out that major corporations profit from the cheap labor of prisoners who farm or produce clothes provides a dangerous economic incentive for mass incarceration.
Upcoming episodes of Vevo’s “Why I Vote” will feature Kesha, American Authors and more.