A new Hip-Hop series intends to expose the harsh realities of prison life by examining the ongoing life of the incarcerated Hip-Hop artists and their daily struggle.
Markuann Smith, the creator of the Taking The Rap series said that he hopes that his film will serve as a clinic for young adults caught up in the illusion of some rap music and its imagery.
Its about artists that are incarcerated, the artist that were on MTV, BET the ones that you looked up to. Its about their lifestyle, from rags to riches back to rags. We want to look at this [and ask] Is art imitating life or life imitating art, Smith told AllHipHop.com. I came up with the idea in like 1999 or 2000. These are dudes that we idolized. We want to let people know this s**t is real out here.
Im trying to get to the younger generation to understand that television and videos. Thats not real life, he continued. Just because you see 50 Cent talking about riding on the block and clapping at somebody, there are consequences to everything. Thats why we talk about the consequences
Through the years, an abundance of rappers have been jailed for a variety of crimes, but their stories have yet to be told in depth or at great length. Smith maintains that seeing the repercussions of actual crime, which is often projected in lyrics, is paramount to impacting young minds.
There is no better way to drive [our] point home that to interview actual rappers and ex-rappers that are currently incarcerated or have been incarcerated as a result of being convicted for crimes similar to the very same crimes several rappers glorify in their lyrics, he said.
Additionally, Smith said Taking The Rap would attempt to take the music industry to task for promoting such negative imagery with such vigor.
We want to interview so-called industry people in order to understand why executives and program directors [in radio and video] are so willing to market and play this music, he said. We also want to interview every day consumers – preferably between the ages of 8 and 18 -to determine whether the younger generation believes these gangsta rap lyrics and whether they see these fallen rappers as role models.
Smith said hes already conducted a number of interviews and with interest from Showtime, HBO and a number of other outlets, he is weighing his options. He said Taking The Rap may either be a DVD, a cable series and even feels it could evolve into a documentary for theatrical release.
We just interviewed [former child rapper] Chi Ali. Hes doing 12 to 14 years in prison. Hes letting everybody know, jail is real and that half of these rappers will get tested if they go to jail, he said. He was stabbed up about 16 months into his time. He got stabbed up by a Blood members. Smith plans to get such candor with rappers like C-Murder, Spigg Nice of the Lost Boys, Mysonne of Violator and a host of others.
On a decidedly positive note, Taking The Rap will also examine rappers that have been incarcerated and turned their life completely around like Slick Rick.
Most of them say they are innocent, but this is different that the other shows like Russell Simmons [Court TV Hip-Hop Justice], he said. Keepin it real is not going back to the hood and just standing on the corner with everybody, he said. This is educational and informational.
Smith is the CEO of Swinga Ent., a full service company, that also manages artists like 17-year-old rapper Reed Dollaz. Hes hosted a DVD, “Born To Ball” with Paul Pierce of the Boston Celtics and has acting in two short films. Most recently he can be seen acting in a film called 1600 MKL, a parody of the anti-Bush documentary Fahrenheit 911.