The New York governor, Andrew Cuomo, consulted Jay Z about police and the criminal justice system on Wednesday as protests over race issues and brutality continued around the US in the aftermath of recent police killings.
Cuomo and the rap mogul discussed a comprehensive review of the criminal justice system, the governor’s spokeswoman, Melissa DeRosa, said in a statement.
In the past week, Cuomo has also met with members of minority communities, the police union chief Pat Lynch and hip-hop producer Russell Simmons. DeRosa characterized Simmons and Jay Z, referred to by his birth name of Shawn Carter, as community activists.
Cuomo, Jay Z and Simmons discussed special prosecutors for cases of alleged police brutality as one of “a range of options” to change the justice system. Cuomo is expected to propose legislation or issue executive orders next year.
Later on Wednesday, the rapper Common and Simmons, who co-founded the Def Jam record label, held a rally outside city hall, where a crowd braved rain and cold to chant “black lives matter” and “I can’t breathe”, a reference to the last words of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man killed in a chokehold by a white police officer.
“We know the police cannot police the police,” Simmons told the crowd. “The future is bright and we aren’t going anywhere. Our numbers will only grow. The movement is here.”
Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, called for an end of the “broken windows” policing tactics developed by the NYPD commissioner, Bill Bratton. She demanded that Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio change the strategy, saying it unfairly targeted black and Hispanic men.
Rapper Nas – who for years feuded with Jay Z in a series of songs – was also in attendance , underlining the influence of rap’s biggest stars and their re-energized attention on social issues of crime and policing, which many of them experienced intimately in childhood and early in their careers.
Jay Z grew up in Brooklyn’s Marcy housing project during the worst years of New York’s 1980s crack epidemic, and dozens of his songs allude to the drug and his own history dealing it. As a 12-year-old boy he shot his crack-addicted older brother , and says he was shot at three times at the projects. In 1999 he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to probation for stabbing a record producer . Since 2002 he has amassed a net worth of more than $500m and increasingly turned to business ventures and politics. President Barack Obama has described him as a “generous” campaign contributor.
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