Literature has the power to spark self-evolution, and Vic Mensa stands behind that.

With the launch of 93 Boyz — his own legal, equity-focused cannabis company — the rapper spearheaded Books Before Bars as its first program, as previously reported by AfroTech. The mission is to send a large number of books to Illinois jails to liberate those who are incarcerated. 

“The goal of Books Before Bars is to bring liberation and freedom to people who are incarcerated through literature because I believe strongly that when you change your inner reality, you begin to influence your external reality,” Mensa shared with AfroTech in a recent interview.

Before Books Before Bars, Mensa was already active in mailing books to his friends including fellow rapper Hundred Round Kado. For nine months, he sent close to 40 books. The selection featured “The Game of Life and How to Play It” by Florence Scovel Shinn.

Although the two friends were in two different physical spaces, they were both on a journey of shifting from negative to positive mindsets.

“As I was in the free world, just trying to find some mental freedom and I’m reading these books, Kado was in the opposite,” Mensa said. “He’s locked down but we’re both coming to some realizations at the same time through the same set of books. I just thought it was really profound to see how at the same time I was making this radical shift in my energy out here.”

Both could see firsthand Hundred Round Kado’s transformation after reading the books. Since then, he has been building himself as a businessman. In addition to his music, Hundred Round Kado has a barbershop, hair salon, clothing store, studio, and art gallery.

“I attached myself to businesses that have more human interaction where I’m actually helping…My partner is really the reason I got into the business aspect of life and being a Black man,” Hundred Round Kado told us. “And just trying to make sure I have something to keep me going. Seeing Vic with SaveMoneySaveLife made me want to go and start my own nonprofit. I’ve been mentoring kids and whatever I learn I just pass it over right then and there.”

To hear more about Vic Mensa’s Books Before Bars program, his and Kado’s efforts in the movement for incarcerated individuals, and what each of the rappers has in the works, watch the full interview on Blavity TV on Wednesday, November 2, 2022, at 3 p.m. EST.