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Matt Taibbi Talks About Criminalized Poverty and Why Wall St. Is Above the Law

It’s not exactly breaking news that the American criminal justice system is wildly unfair. Thewar on drugs sends thousands of black and Hispanic kids to prison for using the same illegal substances that their white peers can more often get away with smoking or snorting; meanwhile, the Wall Street bankers responsible for the financial crisis get off with zero punishment and huge bonuses. These gross disparities in how the rich and poor are treated by the police and courts are the subject of The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gapa book illustrated by VICE columnist Molly Crabapple and written by Matt Taibbi, the former Rolling Stone investigative journalist who has made a career of lampooning our entitled upper class (and just left that magazine to start a new website about political corruption).

I called Taibbi to chat about how America got to this terrible, dystopian place and where we should go from here.

VICE: The core theme of the book is that we’ve seen two parallel, and very different, systems of criminal justice emerge in this country—one for the wealthy and powerful, another for the poor and brown. That concept in and of itself might not totally shock people, but the timeframe—just how novel that phenomenon is in our democracy—should, right?
Matt Taibbi:
 Obviously it’s not a new story that the rich get off and poor people get screwed. I think that’s a narrative that probably couldn’t be more obvious, but there are some new developments that have made this situation worse. There are these parallel policy and political developments that happened in the early 90s that mirrored each other, with the Democrats coming over on the issue of welfare reform and also deciding to follow the Republicans in terms of courting money from the financial services and hopping on board with deregulation. I think what both of those decisions meant was that, basically, poor people no longer had a lobby in Washington consistently, and the very wealthy now had a consensus behind them. So we started to have this phenomenon of much more aggressive law enforcement against the poor. On the other side, it begins with deregulation of white-collar commerce, and then it kind of ends in non-enforcement of white-collar crime. That also seems to be a political consensus. It’s not just the same old story that has gone back to the beginning of time… This is also a new political development that has to do with the alignment of the two political parties in this country and how they’ve changed recently.

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Brooklyn veteran spit kicker Shabaam Sahdeeq has returned with his fifth studio album, ‘Keepers Of The Lost Art.’ The relentless lyricist delivers a body of work that puts his lyrical aptitude at the forefront, while placing an emphasis on top shelf production and cuts, courtesy of Ran Reed, Lewis Parker, DJ Dister, DJ Ready Cee and DJ Skizz, to name a few.

What originally started as 40 tracks, ‘Keepers Of The Lost Art’ was eventually boiled down to 20, reflecting S-Dub’s most comprehensive long play release to date. The LP details his motivation to stay in the game and fight for the culture with bars as tough as the mic in his hand. The production runs the gamut from laid back as exemplified by the nostalgic piano chords on the Lewis Parker produced “Walk with the Light,” to electrifying, as demonstrated by the DJ Skizz produced street banger “That Dope,” which boasts features from Brooklyn’s premiere panderer Wais P, and the lyrically sharp Sha Stimuli. And complain no more club deejays, Shabaam has you covered for a dance friendly cut to spin late Friday nights with the DJ Wonder produced “Fall In Line.” It’s safe to call it a comeback as his rhymes are as polished today, as they were when he made his Rawkus debut in ‘97 with “Arabian Nights” B/W “Side 2 Side.”

Artistically, the album cover reveals a scenario where Hip-Hop’s younger generation discovers the cultural keepsakes of yesteryear. From a solid gold boombox, to jewel crusted crowns, drum machines, and outboard gear, S-Dub is here to confront the generational disconnect, as spelled out on the Eric Rico featured “Grown Man Hustle” — “Some of these young boys consider me a throwback, I birthed your style you need to give me my flow back,” spits S-Dub. When explaining the album cover, Shabaam states: “Imagine the world came to an end in an apocalypse and some kids survived in a bunker. Now when the dust settles and the smoke is gone, the kids come out the bunker and discover a treasure chest in an old music store that contains all the elements of Hip-Hop, and started having fun with it.” Whether you see it as a time capsule or the last defense of Hip-Hop’s watchmen, Keepers Of The Lost Art could be played ten years ago, today, and ten years from now with high praise. 

‘Keepers of the Lost Art’ includes guest features from the likes of Tragedy Khadafi, REKS, El Gant, Wais P, Sha Stimuli, Skyzoo, F.T., Mic Handz, General DV (DV Alias Khrist), Spit Gemz, and Bekay among others, and becomes available April 22nd via digital download and CD, through Below System.

Tracklist:
01. Keepers Of The Lost Art (prod. by Res Nullius)
02. Conceited Confidence (prod. by Ran Reed)
03. Playing Games (prod. by Lewis Parker)
04. Speak Truth (feat. Reks & Kamala) [prod. by DJ Ready Cee]
05. Walk With the Light (prod. by Lewis Parker)
06. That Dope (feat. Wais P & Sha Stimuli) [prod. by DJ Skizz]
07. Hardbody & Heavy (feat. Half A Brick, EastKoast & DJ Dister) [prod. by Lewis Parker]
08. Tranquilo (prod. by Harry Fraud)
09. Grown Man Hustle (feat. Eric Rico) [prod. by Lewis Parker]
10. The Come Back Kid (feat. Skyzoo and F.T.) [prod. By DJ Skizz]
11. Seasons Change (prod. by Lewis Parker)
12. City of Fame (feat. Mic Handz) [prod. by Teike van Baden]
13. He Who Dares (feat. Lewis Parker) [prod. by Lewis Parker]
14. Fall In Line (prod. by DJ Wonder)
15. O.G. Certified (feat. Tragedy Khadafi & DJ Ready Cee) [prod. by Lewis Parker]
16. Done It All (feat. Bekay) [prod. by DJ Dister]
17. Relax (Remix) [prod. by DJ Dister]
18. Energon 2 (feat. Spit Gemz & DJ Dister) [prod. by One Take]
19. Honor Me Now (Remix) [prod. by Science of Vinyl Villains]
20. U Don’t Want None (feat. General DV) [prod. by Alterbeats]
Bonus Tracks (Digital Only):
21. Cut From a Different Cloth (feat. Hakim) [prod. by Donald Robinson Cole the 3rd] 
22. Do You (prod. by DJ Spinna) 
23. Motion Picture (prod. by DJ Spinna)

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