As Told By: Racial injustice told through music

To understand America’s history of systemic racism, look no further than the music inspired by it.

As Told By recounts truths about systemic racism in America—whether that’s policing, draconian drug laws, or surveillance of activist groups—through the artists and storytellers who’ve lived it. The lyrics of artists like Kendrick Lamar, Noname, N.W.A., 2Pac, Gil Scott-Heron, and countless others paint a picture of the Black experience in America through the universal medium of music. Below, we’ve compiled a collection of our As Told By entries, which you can read in full on Instagram.

This series spotlighting decades of lyricism about racial injustice is nominated at the 2021 Webby Awards. Learn more and see all of the nominees in the Social Content Series in Arts & Entertainment here.

The war on drugs

Lyrics by 2Pac, Killer Mike, and The Notorious B.I.G. tell us about the war on drugs, which began the United States’ long record of mass incarceration. Read the full story on Instagram.

The Iran-Contra affair

The Iran-Contra affair of the 1980s exposed negligence to the drug trade, impacting Black communities in America at the highest level. Let Jay-Z, Rick Ross, and Immortal Technique tell the story of President Reagan’s scandal in Central America. Read the full story on Instagram.

The assassination of Fred Hampton

Who was Fred Hampton? Let Isaiah Rashad, Gil Scott-Heron, and Jay-Z tell the tale of the Black Panther Party leader. Read the full story on Instagram.

The United States of America v. Billie Holiday

The modern war on drugs began with Harry J. Anslinger in the 1930s. Learn about how the first Federal Bureau of Narcotics commissioner waged war on legendary singer Billie Holiday—all for speaking out against racism. Read the full story on Instagram.

The Rockefeller Drug Laws

To understand the state of policing in America, look no further than the war on drugs. M-1 from Dead Prez, Jim Jones, and 50 Cent lobbied to repeal the draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws that ravaged communities in New York. Read the full story on Instagram.

The crack epidemic

The crack epidemic and subsequent harsh sentencing for possession devastated communities across the United States. Let Noname, N.W.A., and Kendrick Lamar tell you the history. Read the full story on Instagram.

The assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

After years of fighting for Black Americans in the Civil Rights movement, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke out against the Vietnam War and capitalist greed. He was assassinated on April 4, 1968 while striking with sanitation workers in Memphis. Learn about his murder, as told by Rage Against the Machine, Mahalia Jackson, and 21 Savage. Read the full story on Instagram.

April 20, 2021