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Let’s Get Free: Hip-Hop Prison Breaks

Today is the 20th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s release from a South African jail, after 27 years in prison. In the spirit of Black History Month, I wanted to highlight that moment in time, but with a hip-hop twist. Rappers are far from political prisoners, but we’ve heard enough “Free RAPPER NAME HERE” T-shirts to know what it’s like to anticipate a jail homecoming. Here are some of the most memorable prison releases (in chronological order) of hip-hop’s incarcerated Scarfaces. —Rondell Conway

10. SLICK RICK – January 1996

The Ruler’s Back!
Serving time for shooting at his cousin during a family dispute, ’80s rapper Slick Rick was transferred from prison into a work release program in 1994 and worked on his third album Behind Bars. Two years later he was out of work release and officially a free man.

9. 2PAC – October 30, 1995

Check Out Time
As the legend goes, ’Pac was free on parole after serving eight months of a four and a half year sentence for sexual assault. The controversial rapper left New York’s Clinton Correctional Facility and headed straight to the studio to record his multi-platinum Death Row debut, All Eyez On Me.

8. T.I. – June 21, 2004

Party Crasher
Fans in attendance at ATL’s Hot 107.9’s Birthday Bash concert got a pleasant surprise when T.I. burst on stage to cheers from his hometown crowd and sparked his much talked about beef with Houston rapper Lil Flip. At the time everyone thought Tip was still in jail for parole violation. Little did they know the King was fresh out the joint when he made his way over to the show to get a few things of his chest.

7. BEANIE SIGEL – August 9, 2005

State Property No More
The Philly MC was released from Federal Correctional Institution of Fairton, New Jersey, after serving a year and a day on gun charges. Beans was welcomed home by a mob of friends and family led by Dame Dash. The then Roc-A-Fella CEO presented Sigel with a State Property gift box, which included a DVD copy of State Property 2 (Sigel starred in the flick, but never saw it), some State Property gear and a pair of sneakers from Sigel’s State Property shoe line. Ha! Oh, the irony in it all is just too much.

6. PIMP C – December 30, 2005

Big Pimpin’
The release of the Houston rapper brought an end to the widespread “Free Pimp C” campaign. Pimp, one half the veteran rap duo UGK, was incarcerated for three years on an assault charge. Wonder what everyone did with their “Free Pimp C” T-shirts?

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