Jay Z

Jay Z Takes On the Criminal Justice System With ‘The Kalief Browder Story’

"Kalief Browder is a modern day prophet; his story is a failure of the judicial process." - Jay Z

Jay Z

Jay Z, Kalief Browder

The man who famously said he “wrote his way out the hood” is turning toward a new medium to tell important stories. Shawn “Jay Z” Carter and Weinstein Television have teamed up with Spike TV for a series that will rock the airways and forever change the way the justice system is viewed in this country. 

The documentary project will center on Kalief Browder, a 16-year-old high schooler from the Bronx who found himself caught up in a nightmarish trap.



In 2010 Browder was walking home from a party when he was arrested for allegedly stealing a backpack. Though it was a minor charge, Browder spent three years at New York’s infamous Rikers Island jail awaiting trial because his family could not afford to bail him out. Of those three years behind bars, Browder spent two of them in solitary confinement. During his time in jail, Browder maintained his innocence and even turned down several plea offers before his case was ultimately dismissed in 2013.

Though he was free, Browder remained haunted by his time on Rikers Island, where he discussed being assaulted and harassed. Six months after he was released he attempted suicide. In 2015, Browder succeeded in taking his own life.

The Kalief Browder Story will be a powerful six-part series that explores American freedoms, and who actually gets to enjoy them.

“Kalief Browder is a modern day prophet; his story is a failure of the judicial process,” Jay Z said during an event about the series. “A young man, and I emphasize young man, who lost his life because of a broken system. His tragedy has brought atrocities to light and now we must confront the issues and events that occurred so other young men can have a chance at justice.”

For Jay Z, who made a career out of relating the stories of the hood to the masses, Browder’s story is personal.

“Kalief was dealt a horrible hand, his life and his story inspires others. I think it is very clear that solitary confinement for a 16-year-old is inhumane,” he said, becoming emotional as he spoke of the deceased young man. “It’s difficult for me to find the words.”

Debuting on Spike on March 1, 2017, The Kalief Browder Story will be one for the record books. Personal accounts, footage and cinematic recreations of Browder’s time spent in jail will shock viewers and further explain why his story has become a catalyst for criminal justice reform.

“Kalief’s story should endure and inspire much-needed change in the criminal justice system,” said Sharon Levy, Spike’s Executive Vice President, Original Series. “When Weinstein Television brought us this project, we immediately knew it was a story that had to be told.”

Jenner Furst, the director of this six-part series, echoed Levy’s thoughts.

“The story on the evening news created a lot of attention and action around Kalief Browder, but it wasn’t the whole story. If Kalief Browder’s life matters then his whole life matters, and that’s how we have been approaching this project.”

Jay Z will serve as an executive producer on the project along with Harvey Weinstein, David Glasser, Jenner Furst, Nick Sandow, Julia Willoughby Nason, and Michael Gasparro.

A press conference was held in NYC to announce the showing of the project. We captured a few Q&A audience questions between Jay Z and the crowd. Check it out below.

This isn’t the only film project Jay Z has in the works. The rapper signed on to produce a biopic on legendary comedian Richard Pryor. Empire’s Lee Daniels will direct.

Watch TIME: The Kalief Browder Story on Wednesday, March 1 at 10pm ET/PT.


Diahann “Dee” Williams is a photographer, writer, and Social Media Specialist for the EBONY brand. You can connect with her on Twitter & Instagram or DeexDee.com





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