Locked up

Some of you 24/7 keyboard freaks already know I’m a Mysonne fan. So it should come as no surprise that I’m hyped he’s been released from prison. (Almost as hyped as Jae Millz. But not quite.) XXL’s own BFred did an interview with Mys earlier this week and he had some interesting things to say. Most notably, The General charged hip-hop magazines—and prison issues in particular—with glorifying jail:

A lot of that stuff is bogus. A lot of these dudes will be in jail and they talking about “Yo, I’m holding it down” or “I’m doing this, I got people who love me.” Come on, that’s not the reality of it. They not telling you that they wake up in the morning at six o’clock for count. They don’t tell you that when you go visit, they gotta strip search you and look inside your rectum and all that. They don’t tell you the negative parts…I think the editors need to take the time when they interview somebody to listen to what they talking about.

He continued:

The most fame you can have in jail doesn’t amount to the smallest fame you can have out here. The smallest peace of mind, the smallest bit of freedom doesn’t amount to nothing. It’s like you trying to glorify controlling a closet. A man is locked in a closet and he’s trying to make you believe that he’s holding it down in that closet. He’s got that closet on smash. And since you’ve never been in the closet, you don’t understand that he’s in a fuckin’ closet…When I was young, they glorified it so much that it made us feel that if we didn’t go to prison, then we wasn’t tough, you wasn’t a real dude.

This seems to be a common complaint from rappers that have actually done hard time, though it’s usually directed at studio gangsters rather than the media.

Rappers may boast about dominating the cell block or the yard, the argument goes, but they won’t depict the horrors that go on. Nobody wants to talk about the sexual assaults, the dehumanizing beatings, the shackled existence, the depression. 

Tupac said as much in his Riker’s Island interview in Resurrection:

I know when I was young, I couldn’t wait to get to jail, straight up. I mean, I was scared and everything, but I felt that’s part of being a man. Now that I’m here, this is not the spot. I know everybody that comes out says, “This ain’t the spot.” This isn’t the spot. Somebody tells you when to get up, when you can shower, do this, do that. They can speak to you any way they want to, and you’ve gotta accept it. You can die here, know what I mean? Yesterday, a dude was murdered…I’m telling you, it’s dirty. It’s filthy. It’s like you’re an animal.

Saigon expressed similar sentiments when I interviewed him a couple of months back for Pound, Canada’s hip-hop magazine:

I used to sit in jail and watch these videos and feel like these dudes were profiting off my pain. That shit used to make me sick to my stomach. I lived that life, B, and I’m in here paying for it with years of my life that I’m never gonna get back. And these dudes go to the studio and they glorify it. Not only the fact that they frontin’—but you’re glorifying it. You’re making it look—you’re not giving these kids the harsh realities of this lifestyle.

In the past year, numerous high-profile artists have been incarcerated and/or released, attracting truckloads of attention to the link between rap and prison culture. 

Beanie Sigel was freed last August. Pimp C got out just before New Years. Cassidy was released in March. Lil’ Kim finished her bid earlier this month. C-Murder was let off house arrest last week as he awaits a retrial on his case. DMX was briefly jailed for missing court dates for (surprise!) traffic charges. DJ Quick was recently sentenced to five months.

The growing presence of rappers in custody likely has more to do with trends in the US judicial system than with hip-hop per se. The prison industry in the United States is expanding at a furious pace—in 2003 the population surpassed two million inmates, half of whom are young black men.

One has to wonder about the rappers that find themselves caught in this ever-widening net. Will those that make music about jail shed light on all aspects of life in the pen, or will they sex up their stories ala 50 Cent’s “21 Questions” video? 

  • kevinplayer

    yo u forgot Shyne

  • LBDII

    WoW. Im glad someone did an article about that.

  • dsa

    I don´t think it´s only in rap it´s glorified just check out any mafia movie.

  • CreativeMind

    It’s not just Hip Hop, or rappers. For one those things would be around without any rapper rapping about it, or having it on camera. Look at any of these movies or TV shows. What do you think they’re doing? Look at something like OZ. So blaming everything on Hip Hop and the rappers isn’t going to solve anything.

    As far as these high profile rappers getting in trouble with the law. They are human beings. Which the fans and general public, even their Hip Hop peers seem to forget. Interesting that you mentioned Saigon’s comments. Although I’m not necessarily disagreeing with him. He can’t just say (insert rapper here) is profiting off of his pain. He isn’t the first or last person to be in that perdicument. I know people there who are never getting out. So a rapper doesn’t have to tell me about anything about that.

  • B.K.

    BISHIP BOSS IS THE FUTURE
    Tell A Freind To Tell A Friend

  • zayus

    good read. i wish i could say people are beginning to realise that most of the thug rap today is a lie but apparentally people are still buying it, so whatever

  • http://www.myspace.com/writeonpointmagazine janice

    Brilliant post Tara. It’s true, life behind bars is constantly being glamorized. When I hear rappers talking about their time behind bars ie. Cassidy, who more or less said that he was respected whilst in prison, and how he “held it down” blah blah, I just thought, who is he trying to kid? He was probably in his cell in tears every night, depressed and fearful. No one wants to discuss the harsh reality of being in prison, the sexual assaults etc, they just want to paint this fantasy picture for the youngsters.

  • Big Jay

    I knew there was a reason I requested you as a friend on myspace ;p.

    Great post. To you, and to all you readers, you should read “Are Prisons Obsolete?” by Angela Davis. Yes, the Angela Davis formerly of the infamous Black Panther party. This book goes into depth reference the state of the American prison system and the corporations who profit from their suffering.
    Just some statistics for those of ya’ll who care ( and if you don’t you really should)

    Costs $34,000 to keep one prisoner behind bars
    $600,000 prisoners are reconstituted back into society every year of which..

    80% have a reading level between 3-7th grade
    90% are parents
    90% are survivors of childhood or sexual abuse
    80% are high school dropouts
    (In one area in California, 4 out of 5 “feeder” schools supply 75% of the inmates – all dropouts)

    Just some things to think about…

  • http://www.allhiphop.com Rey

    Very good post, Miss Henley. Pop culture as a whole is fixated on this anti-authority, counter-culture, bad ass, fast’n'furious image, and it’s really getting fuckin’ tiresome. It’s all bullshit, and it’s corrupting the more impressionable youth, especially those with little to no parental supervision.

    I don’t really know why being a thug, convict, or an asshole in general is popular, but I can’t wait until the bastards glamorizing this fall off, or have that lifestyle catch up to them.

    UNO.

  • Styles

    Props on the article glad someone brought this shit out.

  • DJ Lucky Luke

    Yo, I went to jail one time–I was at this fair and they had one of them cages put up in the middle and for $10 dollars, they’d “arrest” one of your friends and lock him up in the jail for 10 minutes. Well, a good buddy of mine, Ty Howell, paid for me to get locked up. Sure enough, these two dudes came and arrested my ass and escorted me to the cage. Man, that was the worst 10 minutes of my life–I’m still scarred by that shit. I couldn’t eat, sleep, make no phone calls, nothing. I never want to go to that place again. But you guys don’t worry, once they released me, I paid to get my friend Ty locked up. He took it like a bitch though and let these big dudes molest him and shit. This just goes to show that Lucky Luke “holds it down” in jail and that Ty is a pussy. He wasn’t no “real nigga.” He still won’t go to the fair-grounds. Last I heard, they had arrested a lot of good friends man–shit’s fucked up like that. See you when you get free, buddies! –DJLL

  • Mikey Ess AKA SukedowN

    Bragging about prison stays is somewhat common. It’s just another aspect of portraying a certain image or gimmick to sell records.

    But who is actually convinced that going to jail is cool?

    How many kids really think jail is cool? I have never encountered a child of whom is a rap fan whether from the inner-city or the suburbs who thinks jail is cool.

    Theory is great, but practicality trumps.

  • rizzop

    Tell em whom exactly said jail was cool? I never heard that in a song b4. I think by holding it down means that you aint going fucking crazy sitting in that box. And it is terue that if you go in all timid, you can get fucked with by niggas that doinglife and have nothing to live for..

  • rizzop

    Tell em whom exactly said jail was cool? I never heard that in a song b4. I think by holding it down means that you aint going fucking crazy sitting in that box. And it is true that if you go in all timid, you can get fucked with by niggas that are doing life and have nothing to live for..

  • tHe tRaNsIeNt

    mayn, nobody care about this socio-political shit, tara

    just make wit tha titty pix and niggaz is good

  • DJ Lucky Luke

    Fo’ realz…Tara could be an Eye Candy of the Month fo sheez…

  • Big Jay

    some of ya’ll some ig-nant brothas/negros.. pick up a phuccin book.

  • John Cochran

    Jail is glorified in music becuase its glofified in the hood. Everybody wanna shout out they locked up buddies and when they get out they party and shit. It’s just the fucked up way people think in the black community.

  • Belize

    FREE PO!

  • Samhain Misfit

    Tell em whom exactly said jail was cool? I never heard that in a song b4.

    Theres a skit on the TRU record (can’t remember the title, sorry)where their sittin in jail talkin about what they came there for…anyway one guy insisted he was in for murder but the homies clowned him when he was released for auto theft. He was beggin to stay in jail…

    Lets see…Snoop and the Death Row roster rappin from jail cells at the Source Awards (actually, they were let OUT of the jail cells to rhyme, then put back in…

    What else…How bout the annual “rappers in jail” issues of the Source. You ever seen a Revolver mag with “heavy metal guys in jail” have you? (Yeah, I know thats not a “song” but you know what I’m talkin about, dont play crazy…)

  • Meka Soul

    >Yo, I went to jail one time–I was at this fair and they had one of them cages put up in the middle and for $10 dollars, they’d “arrest” one of your friends and lock him up in the jail for 10 minutes.>

    jesus… is that what criminals do as part of their work release?

    it makes you wonder why people are always glamorizing prison. i almost went to jail when i was 17 and i damn near shit myself in the back of the squad car. prison has the 3 things that keeps me on the straight and narrow path:

    beatdowns
    murderings
    butt sex

    i’m extra cool on all those.

  • d.GUTTA

    dont u guys see it? our young black people have this mentality that celebrates violence, drugs, promiscuous sex, jail, crime……everything that to the average person would be negative. Because of this mentality we have the worst statistics, the worst living conditions, worse average life span, ect….on and on.
    the key for our salvation i believe is to locate where this mentality comes from and how do to heal it.

  • d.GUTTA

    ^^^how do we heal it.

  • http://www.dmcworld.com/technics2004/video/2004dj1-100k.wvx Florida Sux

    Black kids have an affinity for jail because it affirms them as real niggas in society and they can somehow feel accomplished and respected simular to how other kids feel when they graduate from college. “Normal” activities like holding down a job, raising your kids, or retiting never appeal to black kids because they see it as “white” or unachieveable.

    Jesse warned us to “keep hope a live” and instead, lke the ‘nothing’ in The Never Ending Story, we embrassed the despair.

    Black America won’t exist in a 100 years…Because America no longer needs us.

  • Tha muhfuckin Rapture

    fuck jail.

  • TSF

    Good post Tara. And with the corporate buyout of a lot of America’s jails, aren’t we really witnessing the rebirth of slavery? Think about it: young black males locked up at an unprecendented rate and basically forced to work for something ridiculous like 12 cents/hour? If that doesn’t piss you off, I don’t know what will. It goes to show the power of white privilege; you don’t see white rock stars getting locked up over some bullshit. Hell, even Eminem beat his case and only got probation.

  • Ogeezy

    Anyone who came up in our hoods know its like a right of passage. I was once the same way. I know better now and i’m making for damn sure my kids and the rest of the youth I come in contact with knows the real.

    Good Blog.

  • smartass

    Tv stations could just replay them scared straight movies. Or them talk shows when them bad ass teens get put in jail & the inmates verbally put them in their place. That should be enuff 4 fools 2 stay outta jail. Being in jail ain’t keeping it real, its failure.

  • smartass

    Tommy Lee is white & he got locked up in jail for beating Pam Anderson. Fool even got protection from other inmates who wanted 2 beat him down cause they like Pam.

  • http://XXL TASHAWN

    I AHVE A GENUINE LOVE, AND INTEREST IN ALL HIP HOP ICONS. MALE OR FEMALE. THE ONLY THING THAT’S FUCKED UP ABOUT A LOT OF RAPPERS/ INTERTAINERS. THEY SAY THEY ARE ABOUT THEIR FANS BUT MAJORITY OF THEM REALLY DON’T GIVE A FUCK ABOUT US, AND THEY’RE DISRESPECTFUL. ME MYSELF BEING A NORMAL INDIVIDUAL I SHOW COMPASSION FOR ANYONE WHO GOES TO PRISON OR JAIL. I’VE EVEN WROTE A COUPLE OF CELEBERTIES INCLUDING LIL KIM. I DIDN’T GET MY MAGAZINES THAT I SENT ALONG WITH MY CORRESPONDANCE, BUT I AIN’T MAD. I AM MAD THAT I WROTE SHYNE I WANTED TO SHOW HIM LOVE AS WELL, THAT NIGGA JUST KEPT MY SHIT. THAT WAS THE NLY MEMORABILIA I HAD LEFT OF HIM. I’VE BEEN COLLECTING EVERYONES MAG SINCE 03 S2S, XXL, VIBE, AND THE SOURCE BENZINO FREE! I FELT DISREPECTED BYE SHYNE AND IT’S PEOPLE LIKE HIM WITH THE ATTITUDE AND COCKINESS, THAT SHOULD BE LOCKED UP. I WENT TO LOOK FOR HIM ON-LINE THRU NEW YORK DEPT. OF CORRECTIONS, AND HIS INFO WAS NO LONGER ACCESSABLE I GUESS THAT MEANS HE’S OUT TOO, YOU ALL OR NO ONE JUST DIDN’T KNOW

    TASHAWN
    DETROIT

  • Mrs.Jones

    It’s intersting…

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