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On August 16, 2021, JPay, the private company that provides electronic communications and financial services to prisoners, sent out an electronic message to inmates about a hip-hop track contest and the opportunity to collaborate with rap star Lecrae. 

To qualify, inmates must submit one self-written song and choose an accompanying hip-hop beat provided by record producer Zaytoven. 

Once a song is submitted, music students enrolled at Morris Brown College in Atlanta will select the top 25 candidate songs. The selected songs will then be given to Lecrae, who will make the final selection for production as a musical track.

According to JPay, all inmates will receive the winning track free of charge. In addition, proceeds earned outside of prison will go to a charity selected by Reach Records — Lecrae’s record label — that provides rehabilitative support. The sponsor of the contest is Aventiv Technologies, the parent company of Securus Technologies, which owns JPay. 

The notice said that inmates can submit entries between Aug. 16 and Sept. 15.

Morris Brown College students will make their choices by the end of the month and a winner is expected to be announced on or about Oct. 19.

According to the email, Lecrae and the audio and production teams will visit the winner’s facility in late October or early November to produce the song. 

“This will be a one-day event,” said Aventiv, “The winner can decide whether Lecrae will be recorded on the music track or not.” 

Submissions need to include name, ID, facility, state, song title, selected hip-hop beat, and lyrics. Songs cannot contain violence, weapons, alcohol, drugs, illegal activity, swear words or any hateful or offensive lyrics aimed at any group of people. 

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

Corey Minatani is a writer formerly incarcerated in Washington state. He has a doctorate in ministry in theology at International Christian College and Seminary. He is also pursuing a paralegal certificate from Blackstone Career Institute. As an industrial/organizational psychologist, he evaluates prison college pedagogy, operations and grievance systems. Corey’s pieces are submitted via American Prison Writing Archive, a partner of the Prison Journalism Project.