Rhyme Report

Published on May 29th, 2020 | by Jerry Doby

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San Quentin State Prison Incarcerated Men Release Hip-Hop Album Backed by Music, Entertainment Luminaries

Today, award-winning songwriter/producer David Jassy and the Music Program at San Quentin State Prison released their groundbreaking album, San Quentin Mixtape, Vol. 1. The 17-track project was written, recorded, and produced within the walls of San Quentin State Prison (via the Youthful Offenders Program) over the course of four years and is distributed on all streaming platforms via Equity Distribution.

The project delves into the incarcerated men’s life experiences, exploring the struggle of incarceration and aiming to encourage young people to learn from their mistakes and choose a better path. The project, which doesn’t use profanity, has received widespread acclaim from the entertainment world, including Kim Kardashian WestJ. Cole, DJ Khaled, Meek Mill, Common, T.I., Fat Joe, Snoh Aalegra, Maxwell, Nick Cannon, Talib Kweli, Russell Simmons – all of whom are featured on the mixtape’s intro with the exception of Kardashian West. Stream San Quentin Mixtape, Vol. 1 HERE.

This project is amazing! The stories are an insightful look into the lives of men who right now exist in what is a microcosm of society. There are some real stars here and it’s a 4/5 for me as regards production and content. It’s a straight ride through, no skips – JD

San Quentin Mixtape, Vol. 1 was the brainchild of award-winning producer and songwriter David Jassy, who had been incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison for 11 years until his sentence was commuted by California Governor Gavin Newsom in March 2020. Prior to his incarceration, Jassy had written and produced for the likes of Britney SpearsSean Kingston, Ashley Tisdale, Heidi Montag and Charice Pempengco (now known as Jake Zyrus).

“Music is a form of therapy that unites people from all backgrounds,” Jassy said. “I really wanted to use this program to help the young, talented kids I saw rapping on the yard. I didn’t want them to waste their potential and channel their energy into violent behavior, so it is a blessing to finally introduce this project to the world. It’s been incredible to watch these guys flex their creative muscles and get the support of the music and entertainment industry.”

All proceeds from sales of San Quentin Mixtape, Vol. 1 will benefit the National Center for Victims of CrimeThe Boys & Girls Club of Oakland, and Potrero Hill Neighborhood House (or “The Nabe”). Jassy specifically selected the latter two because several young men in his Music Program hail from the Oakland area and wanted to support organizations devoted to deterring youth from street life.

“This album is truly a testament to the power of music,” Fat Joe said. “It’s inspiring to watch these young men use music as a rehabilitative tool – both to express themselves and send a positive message to communities across the country. Creating an album is a complex process, so for these young men to achieve this goal from within San Quentin State Prison, they should be very proud.”

After being incarcerated in several higher security prisons, Jassy was transferred to San Quentin State Prison (located in the San Francisco Bay Area), which is renowned for its rehabilitative programming. He was exposed to several educational and programming opportunities, and began to pursue an idea, which formed while making music with a group of young incarcerated men. Jassy worked through his contacts in the music industry and donors supported the program by contributing audio equipment that eventually expanded into a full production studio within the Media Lab at the facility.

Working with San Quentin, Jassy established a music-focused initiative as part of the Youthful Offenders Program. Over time, Jassy used the program to teach program participants how to write, produce and record their own music in a studio. He also taught them to express their stories and channel their emotions, writing lyrics without profanity. The program uses the process of creating music as a rehabilitative tool that encourages accountability, personal transformation, and self-exploration. In several instances, Jassy paired members of rival gangs on the same song to foster unity.

Jassy’s music program particularly resonated with Kardashian West, J. Cole, Common and MC Hammer, each of whom personally visited the incarcerated men at San Quentin to learn more about their recording process and offer words of encouragement.

Criminal justice reform organization #cut50 learned about Jassy’s story, supported the music program, and advocated for his release. When Newsom finally commuted Jassy’s sentence in March, the news prompted Kardashian West to thank the governor and lauded the Youthful Offenders music program via her Twitter account.

Since his release, Jassy has returned to his native Sweden, where he will be resuming his career while still providing beats for the Music Program at San Quentin State Prison. For more information, please follow @sanquentinmixtapes to stay up to date with the latest music endeavors from the Music Program at San Quentin State Prison.


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About the Author

Editor-in-Chief of The Hype Magazine, and internationally published arts & entertainment journalist. Member of the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture as well as the United States Press Corps.


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