Realness, Place and Snitching in Richmond City Jail Rap Lyrics. Part IV


Will Roberts, University of Richmond Class of 2021, Summer 2020

Note from the Author: This article is a work in progress. A final version will be published here in December. In the meantime, I encourage comments, feedback and quarrels. You can contact me at

Table of Contents: 


Part I: How Real is This? 

Part II: Place in Richmond City Jail Rap Lyrics 

Part III: Mass Incarceration and the Informant Institution 

Part IV: Conclusion


Part IV: Conclusion

The three themes examined in this paper – realness, place and snitching — interrelate through the racial geography and history of Richmond. As discussed in Part Two, realness in rap musics is a complex and ambiguous concept, used, not in the sense of “this is a record of fact,” but in the sense of an artform making an existential protest against forces of mass incarceration and intergenerational, systemic oppression. To remain real in the face of these forces, for many, is a form of individual and community resistance. And the city of Richmond’s vastly and seemingly immutable landscape of inequality is the context on which most of Richmond city jail artists’ raps are written. These places become battlegrounds. Part of the battle is remaining real in the face of forces and incentives that work to turn you into a snitch. References to snitching in Richmond city jail rap lyrics refer to the ways in which the carceral state undermines realness – loyalty – in order to control and disrupt community in already socially and economically disadvantaged areas. Together, these themes emerge as a hidden transcript of the subjugated knowledge that incarcerated musicians produce to describe the systems that attack their survival, loyalty and freedom. This knowledge is sonically realized in the musics created in the Richmond city jail studio, epitomized in the thematic intersections of realness, place and snitching.