Various Artists – 16 Bars: Original Documentary Soundtrack Album

Labels:Lightyear Entertainment
Number of Tracks:14
Total Time:00:44:02
From the Album:16 Bars: Original Documentary Soundtrack Album
Formats:Americana,College,Non-Commercial,NPR,Urban,Urban AC
Available Date & Time: Sep 27 2019 11:00:00 EDT
Impact Date: Oct 14 2019 00:00:00



“A riveting slice of contemporary culture.”


“the material of which stars are born”


Penitentiary riddims as a means of redemption – tunes from the inside to look at the not-so-bright side of life.

"Imprisonment has long been part of American social landscape and songs from the lockup has long been part of American lore, yet recording inmates was usually reduced to crowd noise on LPs like Johnny Cash’s “At San Quentin” – although there’s a number of platters, such as “The Truest Shit I Ever Said” by C-Murder, that got actually laid down, over the cellular or with lawyers dictaphones, while serving time. But “16 Bars” is a different kind of project: devised by Todd “Speech” Thomas of ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT and documenting an initiative of Richmond City’s correctional facility, where Virginian jailbirds are encouraged to create their own music, it’s a riveting slice of contemporary culture."

"The four artists, two black and two white, whose voices are captured here, run the creative gamut from rap to spiritual, and the results, while not raw in sonic terms – the producer augmented basic tracks and vocals in his studio – bare the performers’ raw nerve via stream-of-consciousness rhymes, given scope by snippets of Speech’s interviews which intersperse these pieces. Whereas Teddy Kane’s metronomic “Inspire” is shot through with a heavy bass line to let horror be lifted once the angelic strands of children’s choir ascend on the track, shadows of slavery hovering over Garland Carr’s “Lay My Burden Down” propel communal unity to cathartic, yet dreadful, heights. There’s cosmic vibe to “Lost One” – a hypnotic attack on the unjust system – from the former, and the country pining – adorned with pedal steel and mandolin – to “Two Stamps” from the latter but if Anthony Johnston’s stumbling “Recidivism” turns gangsta stigmas inside out to convey inner turmoil and hopelessness hailing from the lack of choice in life, Devonte James’s “Broken Chains” channels defiance and acceptance in equal measure."

"Whether experiments like this succeed remains to be seen. What leaves no doubt is the fact that talents on the inside are the material of which stars are born."


"These men are behind bars…but their voices have to be heard." – Speech


16 BARS offers a rare glimpse at the human stories and songs locked away in our nation’s jails and prisons. The documentary follows a unique rehabilitation effort in a Virginia jail that encourages inmates to write and record original music. In the jail’s makeshift recording studio, four men collaborate to produce an album with Grammy-winner Todd “Speech” Thomas of Arrested Development. As the creative process unfolds, these incarcerated artists must confront the traumas of their past, and music becomes the key to unlocking a new chapter in their lives.


Music magic happened in that jail, and this is that Album.

Two-time Grammy-winner Speech Thomas is widely considered one of the godfathers of conscious hip-hop. His band Arrested Development’s 1993 debut album “3 Years, 5 Months & 2 Days in the Life of…”  went quadruple platinum and achieved what few thought was possible at the time, establishing an Afrocentric alternative to gangster rap that was commercially viable. 25 years later, Speech continues to tour the world with his band and seek out opportunities to use music to address issues of social and racial justice.
 The film, and this album, documents his journey to the Richmond City Jail, where he conducted music workshops with inmates. His goal was to shed light on the complex issues in our criminal justice system by bringing the voices and stories of incarcerated people to a larger audience.


The four featured artists are: Teddy Kane, Garland Carr, Anthony Johnston, and Devonte James.  All the basic tracks, rapping and singing were recorded in the Richmond City Jail.  The album is somewhat eclectic.  There is music here that will appeal to Non-Commercial/NPR, Americana, College, Urban, and Urban AC.  The rap music here is personal and conscious, in the vein of stars such as Kendrick Lamar and 2Pac. Garland Carr, on the other hand, may remind you of a young Johnny Cash. “Inspire” was sweetened by a children’s choir (who Speech recorded in his home studio, at the artist’s request). “Lay My Burden Down” features a gospel choir comprised of fellow inmates, and was recorded in the facility’s cafeteria.

While the musical genres vary, there is a connecting thread – all these songs (other than the Bonus Track by Arrested Development) were written by incarcerated men dreaming of being free.

The music video for Lay My Burden Down can be found HERE

As noted, the album features multiple music genres.

Here's a rough guide…

  • Singer-Songwriter/Outlaw Country/Americana tracks: tracks 8, 9, 10, 11 & 12
  • Rap/Hip-hop tracks: 2, 3, 4, 6, 7 & 14
  • Gospel track: 9
  • Spoken Word tracks: 1, 5, 8, 13

The music video for Inspire can be found here

The trailer for the documentary film can be found here

For more information, you can visit this website:

The album drops on digital and vinyl through Lightyear/Caroline/UMG on November 8.   The movie’s theatrical release begins on the same day.



Contact: Crystal Ann Lea, M:M Music


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