Ear Hustle Podcast talks with people experiencing the COVID-19 outbreak at San Quentin, and other California prisons, firsthand.
When the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus a pandemic in March, the world went into frenzies and lockdowns.
Meanwhile, COVID-19 began to ravage through California’s San Quentin State Prison.
Then in May, San Quentin Mixtapes, Vol. 1 dropped: a 17-track album that was written, recorded and produced within the prison’s walls.
David Jassy is at the heart of the Youthful Offender Program Mixtape Project. In 2010, the Grammy-nominated producer was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced 15 years to life.
Jassy kept music with him as much as he could throughout transfers between prisons. Once he got his hands on a keyboard in San Quentin, he started making beats.
His music was contagious there.
“Regardless of what set or gang they belong to, I just seen how fascinated they were about music and how they all lit up,” Jassy said. “People started smiling. If they heard somebody that was a dope rapper, they just all started smiling and nodding along and encouraging each other. And, it was different. I just knew this was a different energy from everything else that was going on in prison.”
“So much un-used potential locked away in prison.”
While serving time for killing a man during an altercation, music producer David Jassy used his keyboard to make beats and encouraged fellow inmates to perform rap freestyles, teaching them about songwriting and music production.
The culmination of those efforts is a music project championed by celebrities called San Quentin Mixtape, Vol. 1.
“It’s so beautiful when you see the transition from youngsters coming in because a lot of them really act out because they’re either hurt or scared — because you have to keep up a certain facade in prison, you don’t want to show that you soft. For them to basically be vulnerable on a mixtape in prison and really speak their truth, it’s not an easy thing to do.”
All proceeds from sales of San Quentin Mixtape, Vol. 1 will benefit the National Center for Victims of Crime, The Boys & Girls Club of Oakland and Potrero Hill Neighborhood House.