Kanye West’s “New Slaves” Rails Against the Prison-Industrial Complex
This weekend, Kanye West unleashed two incendiary political tracks, “New Slaves” and “Black Skinhead.”
To unveil “New Slaves,” West had footage of himself rapping the song’s rage-filled lyrics against 66 buildings around the world.
While reactions have been mixed, what is undeniable is the song’s dissection of the prison-industrial complex; as it lays plain the impact of institutional racism and private prisons on communities of color.
In the final verse of “New Slaves,” a track released Friday with the coordinated projection of a video on 66 building worldwide, and the second performance in his SNL set, West raps:
Meanwhile the DEA
Teamed up with the CCA
They tryn’a lock niggas up
They tryn’a make new slaves
See that’s that private owned prison
Get your piece today
Condensed and reduced to flow in rhyming verse, West’s lyrics smack of the conspiratorial. But he is correct: the War on Drugs, abetted by and fueling the private prison industry, currently serves to incarcerate hundreds of thousands of black men in the United States, who provide dirt cheap labor. Various industries — from call centers, to weapons manufacturers to retail companies — rely on prison labor. Private prisons pay inmate workers as little as 25 cents an hour; prisoners who refuse to work are regularly held in isolation. These are the de facto “new slaves” of the prison industrial complex. The CCA (the Corrections Corp of America) is one of two major private prison corporations, which (along with the GEO Group) share in a market worth $70 billion.
Black people are undoubtedly overrepresented in America’s prisons. Though just 13.6 percent of the U.S. population, Black men comprise 40 percent of our nation’s prison population.
Most are incarcerated for minor drug offenses.
It’s a dire situation, and a state of affairs more than deserving of national attention.
Check out Kanye’s performance of “New Slaves” below:
Thoughts on Kanye’s “New Slaves”? Are you a Yeezy fan?
Are you happy to see a major Hip Hop artist address such an important issue?
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