words: Robbie Ettelson

Since the print version of XXL enjoys exploiting honoring the members of the rap world who have tussled with "the Beast" and lost, I thought I'd set things off this week with a look at some of the most brolic tracks about doing a bid. Having not personally spent much time behind bars - with the exception of a couple of booze-related incidents - I've had to rely on books, movies and of course rap records to get an idea of life in the bing. Midnight Express was a particularly disturbing look at the prison experience, while Penitentiary featured an extra-gully fight scene between Too Sweet and Half Dead when the latter attempts to "violate his manhood" (Penitentiary II was a shitty follow-up, despite featuring Mr. T and a midget). And who can forget American Me, which Joey Crack once mentioned in regards to something about some home-made moonshine, a bag of flour and a shiv. But enough about the flicks....

Capone-N-Noreaga "Phone Time"

It's safe to assume that a dude who was incarcerated for most of the recording of his groups debut LP is pretty gully. The way he was waving his burner around and threatening people in that Tragedy-The Story of Queensbridge DVD officially confirmed that theory. Building apon his call-ins from The War Report, Capone kicks it with NORE about his impending release, while they compare notes about their daily operations and plans for the future, for what turned out to be just about the only redeeming feature of their dissapointing second album. After announcing "We gotta think about this money, fuck them hoes/we gonna throw a pound of weed out at one of the shows", crowds at CNN shows tripled.

Akinyele "30 Days"

Following the popularity of "Put It In Your Mouth", the Akafella turned his attention to T&A rap (even releasing his own Porky's-style movie), but despite it's misleading title, Vagina Diner didn't really have any sex joints on it at all. This song houses more quoteable lines than most dudes albums - from his witty "stop snitching" declaration: "Harmonizing on a homocide rap/singin' in the precinct, tryin' to catch an R&B contract!" to his advice to you sensitive thugs "While I'm locked down, no thoughts to write me no love letter-that's for queers/couple of years, later gator, but save all the crocodile tears!" (hold ya head, Nas!). All the while, the Ak maintains his composure, despite the fact that: "I'm doin' 30 more days in the steel cage, locked down with men that go both ways".

Da Lench Mob "Lost In The System"

Originally thought to be nothing more than Ice Cube's weed carriers, Da Lench Mob suprised everyone by delivering a pretty good first album, despite the fact that Priority made them remove "Pin The Tall On The Honky" from the finished version. It turns out that these guys were no "studio gangsters" either, as two of the original three members were later convicted on seperate murder charges. J.Dee - easily the best lyricist out of the crew - delivers an action-packed tale of correctional-facility misadventure over a dope collection of P-Funk breaks (reminding me of how good LA rap was before eveyone tried to bite The Chronic). This song actually contains the four essential ingredients for a classic jail joint:

1. Stomping-out fellow inmates.
2. Shanking a cracka ("Goin' to the hole again/for shankin' the devil with my motherfuckin' ink pen").
3. Avoiding becoming someone's bitch ("Some faggot kept tryin' to choose me/stuck the faggot and sent him on his way kid/Why? Because I don't play that fuckin' gay shit!").
4. Telling the judge to suck your dick.

The Convicts "Penitentiary Blues"

Not only was the Convicts album one of the greatest records ever to come out during Rap-A-Lot's golden era, it's also the only rap album entirely based around prison (except for the Lifer's Group stuff, obviously). Big Mike offers his views on a fellow inmate: "He raped a little baby girl, Jack/I hope they fuck him in his ass until his tongue turns black" (whoa!) before getting caught-up in his own phone-time dramas: "I called my girl - some motherfucker cursed me out/I told the bitch 'I'mma kill both of you hoes when I get out!'". Gully as hell.

Tim Dog "Goin' Wild In The Penile"

The b-side to the Dog's classic "Fuck Compton" single was an amusing account of an "up north trip", with more than it's fair share of OZ-style moments: "Tryna take me a shower, wash it fast/faggots cold scopin' my ass". This was soon followed by "He stepped, I said 'Yo, what's your beef?' 'Beef? Nigga you look kinda sweet! How's about you be my stuff?'", which naturally resulted in Tim Dog layin' the smackdown to this fruit loop. No homo on the the adlibs at the end of the song though.

WC & The MADD Circle "Out On A Furlough"

The Dub BU kicks another one of his trademark stories, although it's a little more on the light-hearted tip than your standard jail tale, as he explains how he survived his bid: "Don't get me wrong, yo, I'm far from soft/but for the next six months I was rapping my ass off!". Pity for him that his crowd moving skills are a little too effective for his own good, as he gets bagged for starting a riot!

Threat "Bust One Fa Me"

Taken from his neglected but worthy Sickinnahead album (the only release from DJ Pooh's Da Bomb imprint), Threat's track is more about the cause of his incarceration than details of his time in "the big house", but it's worthwhile for this classic line: "I met this homie last night who said the last song he heard was Flashlight, and he's still in here tonight".

Public Enemy "Black Steel In The Hour of Chaos"
If you don't know this record already, then in the words of the Korean shopkeeper from Menace II Society before he got bodied: "I feel sorry for your mother".

MF Grimm "Voices Pt. 0"

Spending years of your life confined to a cell isn't all fun and razor blades to the face, as Grimm explores the psychological toll that isolation can take on the mental.

Tragedy "Death Row"

The Intelligent Hoodlum highlights another one of the downsides about life in the belly of the beast - you're friends will try to fuck your girl!

Kool G Rap & DJ Polo "Rikers Island"

The first and still the greatest of all hardcore jail records. While it's not as graphic as most of the other tracks, it didn't need to be. The Kool Genius sets the scene perfectly: "Inside the lunchroom you meet your doom, somebody's lookin' at you sharpening a table spoon!".