“I think it’s more of a fear of brothers—black men—doing crime [that] is the reason why they’re getting arrested or profiled. The fear is bigger than actual crimes that are being committed. Crime is on the decline, drugs are on the decline. These are things that we can actually measure. How many people are doing crime? Is crime up or is it going down? Crime is going down but arrests are going up. That’s the problem that is going on.” –Dice Raw
Fluffy, white cotton, plucked by oppressed souls, blazing crosses consumed tarred-and-feathered skin, and America still sacrifices melanin for money. While Lincoln may have physically “freed” the slaves, Big Brother Willie Lynch and Brother Crow, have ensured their descendants continued psychological confinement. A nationally clouded-consciousness, coupled with a resentment of a mistreated people, has created an undulating fear which creates and sustains an institutionalized system of oppression.
Dice Raw, of The Roots, extended an invitation to AllHipHop to meet up at New York Live. There the Grammy-nominated MC spoke candidly about his upcoming solo-project, Jimmy’s Back:
AllHipHop.com: In the past, you’ve earned artistic respect from your diligent work with The Roots. With your release of your second solo project, Jimmy’s Back, how are you able to broach such topics as: the mass incarceration of the melanin-enriched; the war on drugs; and the damning stigma that’s attached to words like “felon” in an insightfully compelling way rather than being preachy?
Dice Raw: Basically, the one thing I can say is that I don’t come off preachy on the album. Also, most of the features that I have on the [album] are people who did eight years in jail, ten years in jail, or six years in jail. Like, K Dot The Show Stoppa, is an artist that I have a tremendous amount of respect for; I’m looking forward to seeing his career blossom in the future. He’s only 26 years old, but he’s done eight years in prison, you see what I’m saying. One of my best friend’s, growing up in the streets, his name is, Wallace Peoples. Wallace Peoples is 34 years old and he’s done 21 years in jail. You see what I’m saying; so, it’s not a big preachy thing.
To me, the War On Drugs is really a war on black men. It’s a war on the poor community that’s always been masqueraded behind—a war on drugs. Even when they wanted to get rid of the Chinese people who were building the railroads— [and back] in the mid 1800’s when the Opium—the war of Opium with the Chinese people. You want to lock up the Chinese people, but you can’t just lock them up for being Chinese. So, what do you come up with? ‘Okay, we’re gonna lock them up for being Opium heads.’
[Ed. Note: Through the 1700s China’s imperial system flourished under the Qing dynasty. It was at the center of the world economy as Europeans and Americans sought Chinese goods. In China’s favor, Western nations experienced an outflow of silver bullion to China. Westerners brought Opium into China to reverse the flow of silver. China attempted to ban the sale of Opium leading to the War of 1839 and they were defeated by the British.]
Once you’re labeled as felon it’s mission impossible. In some states, you can’t even get a Driver’s License. With dealing with the small, basic, civil rights—a human right—which is being able to transport yourself from on destination to another; it’s crazy! Barack Obama getting rid of 1.8M felon’s right to vote, that’s a problem. Once you got it, the stigma is here to stay. The thing is, how do you not get the stigma? How do you not get arrested? How do you not become a product of this mass-incarceration, prison-industrial complex?
The one thing is do not sell drugs. Do not do crime. To be honest with you, it’s like you have to do a lot of crime in order to get caught. Or, you have to be really stupid at doing crime. Marijuana is the biggest charge that young black males are being arrested for. Besides the more serious crimes, like homicide, rape, extortion, stuff like that. But it’s basically marijuana.
AllHipHop.com: Today, are you creatively and financially in a place to where you feel comfortable speaking on social evils; who and or what compels you to voice your opinion on what’s going on in society?
Dice Raw: As far as finances, I’m very comfortable, I co-wrote and produced over 30 to 40 songs for The Roots. You know, I’ve worked with Jill Scott, I’ve worked with Young Jeezy, and I’ve worked in television and film. So, making money in the music industry is pretty much like a no-brainer. Right now, while I’m standing here with you I’m making money. Finance is not really a big problem for me. It never really was a focus. It never even came into my creativity [realm]. ‘I can’t say this because—or I don’t want to say this because’— of anything in particular—I’ve never felt that way. I’ve always been the kind of person who was going to say what I wanted to say and when I wanted to say it. I don’t care about money. Money is one of the least things on my mind. The biggest thing on my mind is taking care of my family. Being healthy, loving people that I love and who love me, and staying focused; that are [some of the things that] I’m focused on.
This is why I’m passionate about these things. Dr. Michelle Alexander, her book, The New Jim Crow, is one of the main reasons why I made this album. Reading her book—or listening to the audio book. I was blown away by her statistics, and the way she puts it all together, and the way she adds it all up. It makes me want to open up a different narrative to Hip-Hop. It’s kinda what I do on The Roots albums with my partner, Black Thought. It’s the same things which I did with this record. It’s more of a social commentary and it’s more specific. I think what The Roots have always done is they've always been champions of injustice, trying to enlighten, and to inspire people.
AllHipHop.com: In life, sometimes our blessings may be camouflaged as challenges. Who and or what circumstances have best taught you to use your discretion, strength, and loyalty to navigate stressful situations?
Dice Raw: Well, the first thing is that I try not to even subscribe to stressful situations or even to the word stress. Stress is fear. Basically, I’m not afraid of any outcome. Man makes the plans and God makes the outcome. So, stress is not something that I subscribe to. One thing I can say is that there are different times in my life where I feel like they’re harder than others. The way I get through those things are by being honest with myself. I try to tap into my own emotions on determining how I feel about these situations and not let it become masqueraded behind anger, or greed, or different things that can only lead down a dark path.
“Well, I just want to let everyone know that the album is coming out December 10th. You can pre-order it right now on iTunes , Amazon, or CD Baby. I also want to thank Dr. Michelle Alexander for being so supportive with everything she’s done for the cause. And I want thank AllHipHop’s Grouchy Greg and Chuck!” – Dice Raw