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Rap and Redemption on Death Row 

Based on a book by Alim Braxton and Mark Katz

Adapted by Jalen McKoy, Keith Randolph Smith, and Joseph Megel

Starring Broadway Actor Keith Randolph Smith

Directed by Joseph Megel

March 1-2 2024 at 7:30pm
Swain Hall Black Box Theater

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Rap and Redemption on Death Row is based on the correspondence between death row inmate Alim Braxton and UNC music professor Mark Katz. The correspondence, consisting of hundreds of pages of handwritten letters, chronicle a period of Braxton’s life that saw the tragic death of his sister, a cruel and unwarranted thirty-seven-day stint in solitary confinement, the nationwide protests in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, and the reality of living on Death Row in the shadow of COVID-19. Most importantly, however, during this time Braxton recorded a full-length hip hop album over the prison phone. Titled Mercy on My Soul, the album tells Braxton’s story and advocates on behalf of those wrongfully incarcerated on death row, including his best friend, Stacey “Sabur” Tyler. The album, and a book, also titled Rap and Redemption on Death Row, will be released in April 2024. 


Both despite and because of his history, Alim Braxton has a great deal to teach us—about rap and redemption and so much more.


Alim Braxton, who performs under the name Rrome Alone, has been incarcerated since 1993 and on death row since 1997. He credits hip hop and Islam for saving his life and giving him purpose. With producer Nick Neutronz he has collaborated on dozens of hip hop tracks, including the album, Mercy on My Soul. Braxton is a co-author of Crimson Letters: Voices from Death Row and Inside: Voices from Death Row.


Mark Katz is John P. Barker Distinguished Professor of Music. His scholarship focuses on music and technology, hip hop, cultural diplomacy, music and incarceration, and the violin. His books include Capturing Sound: How Technology Has Changed Music, Groove Music: The Art and Culture of the Hip-Hop DJ, Build: The Power of Hip Hop Diplomacy in a Divided World, and Music and Technology: A Very Short Introduction.

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