Hip-Hop Producer Helps Inmates Work on Singing Behind Bars

David Jassy, a hip-hop producer, served 11 years from a 15-year sentence inside a California state prison. He arrived in 2013 and started working with only a keyboard and a stripped-down version of producing software. He noticed younger inmates trying to watch him produce music, which led to him creating a professional singing recording studio.

David Jassy
Hip-Hop Producer Helps Inmates Work on Singing Behind Bars

“Singing Evokes the Temple of the Soul”

David Jassy says that it was the interest of young inmates that inspired him to create the Youthful Offenders Program Mixtape — a singing and music-focused mentoring and rehabilitation program.

However, his original plan was to make music from the prison’s instructional channel. He never wanted to have “glorification of crime,” but the word about this project quickly got out. He decided to partner with the nonprofit DreamCrops and its criminal justice arm #cut50. This turned out great as his contacts from the music industry helped solicit donations of new equipment and software.

Years of Hard Work Behind Prison Paid Off

David Jassy in his prison studio, professional singing behind bars
Hip-Hop Producer Helps Inmates Work on Singing Behind Bars

Jassy’s idea was to pitch gang leaders the benefits of supporting his program. He also wanted to make it clear that he would never tolerate profanity in the studio. This turned out to be a success as even the “tension from the yard disappeared,” Jassy said.

This worked out even better as everyone felt that the tension from the yards disappeared. Many of the inmates had never been to a club or heard music through speakers, not to mention singing in a professional studio.

“The San Quentin Mixtape, Vol. 1.”

The group of inmate artists released a new project on Friday. It was entirely written, recorded, and produced from prison for four years. Artists including DJ Khaled, J.Cole, Common, Meek Mill, and T.I. appear on the intro of the mixtape.

This undated image shows music artist J Cole, left, with incarcerated Swedish music producer David Jassy at San Quentin State Prison in California. Jassy, whose sentence was commuted by California Gov. Gavin Newsom this year, produced an album "San Quentin Mixtape, Vol. 1," featuring work from 17 incarcerated rappers.
Hip-Hop Producer Helps Inmates Work on Singing Behind Bars

All proceeds from the mixtape will be donated to the Potrero Hill Neighborhood House, National Center for Victims of Crime, and The Boys & Girls Club of Oakland.