Jay Z gave a searing critique on the war on drugs via an illustrated multimedia op-ed for The New York Times, where he bluntly calls the plan created by Richard Nixon an “epic fail” in a video that credits him as both writer and narrator.
The rapper, whose past as a drug dealer in New York has been a longtime part of his hip-hop narrative, outlines the history of the war on drugs from his perspective in a facts and data-driven format, evocatively animated by artist Molly Crabapple.
In the four-minute video, Jay Z discusses the inequality of the anti-drug campaign, from his coming-of-age in NYC in the ’80s amid “Reaganomics” and the end of social safety nets, where “young men like me who hustled became the sole villains” and persisting issues that differ by state despite progressive movements toward marijuana legalization and addiction aid.
He particularly focuses on the higher rate of mass incarceration concerning men of color.
Jay ends by issuing a call to action.
“Rates of drug use are as high as they were when Nixon declared this so-called war in 1971,” he says. “Forty-five years later, it’s time to rethink our policy and laws. The war on drugs is an epic fail.”
Watch the full clip below.