Louder Than a Riot: The Conspiracy Against Hip-Hop

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In 2012, an unsigned letter began circulating on popular hip-hop blogs, describing a meeting that allegedly happened 20 years earlier between private prison and music industry executives. According to this letter, record execs were asked to begin marketing and promoting hip-hop that glorified criminal behavior in exchange for stock in the prison business. What does this conspiracy theory suggest about the relationship between hip-hop and America’s prison system over the last 40 years?

On this episode, we examine the history of policing and the music industry’s complicity with hip-hop OGs Too Short and Killer Mike, break down iconic songs like “The Message” and “6 ‘N the Mornin’,” flip through the pages of The Source’s Behind Bars issue with former editor-in-chief Kim Osorio and go inside the mind of retired NYPD “hip-hop cop” Derrick Parker. All this to unveil how the justice system disproportionately affects Black America, and what hip-hop, as America’s most consumed music genre, has always done to push back.

Louder Than a Riot
Artwork by Dale Edwin Murray.
(Dale Edwin Murray for NPR)

To follow along with the music in this episode, check out the Louder Than A Riot playlists on Apple Music and Spotify. We’ll update them every week.

To connect with us, follow the show on Twitter @LouderThanARiot, or send us an email at