A few months after I graduated high school, I was arrested after looting a local Sam Goody record store and leading security guards and authorities on a 40-minute foot race throughout Long Beach (and I would have gotten away with it had they not cheated and chased me down in a truck). A few things actually prevented me from doing actual jail time, though: I was roughly six months away from turning 18, and I was $150 short of being charged with a felony.

Definitely not one of my prouder moments in life, as I was more ashamed of the fact that I embarrassed my family more than I was of myself, but it was only a coincidence (or was it?) that I had Raekwon’s “Criminology” playing in my ears while ducking behind cars and trees. Whether I did this out of “parental rebellion” or “musical inspiration” I’m not sure to this day, but I did notice that once I dumped most of the street talk for the Rawkus stylings I wasn’t as compelled to snatch a kid’s Jordans anymore.

Rap has been widely criticized as a misogynistic, ultra-violent medium (those naysayers obviously haven’t sat through an hour of dancehall music) that supposedly warps the minds of white, Midwestern children across the nation, with rappers constantly being jailed for the most trivial of crimes sometimes. Pundits against it have been clamoring for change for about as long as I’ve been born, but I don’t think they realize how much weight rap pulls. Specifically, within the prison industry.

Every two-bit, knucklehead rapster still thinks that having an unfuckwitable street rep includes doing jail time, which almost always includes doing the lettuce exchange with their bunkmate – ironically the least thugged out thing evAr. Despite the bodyguards, weed carriers and other hangers-on essentially designed to take a bullet for them, artists still insist on carrying a firearm with them at all times. And why have one anyways if it doesn’t get used? More often than not a rapster is getting sent up the river for just having a gun. If that were me, I’d at the very least fire a couple rounds into the air; how would I look like collecting guns like they were deadstock sneakers?

While prisons continue to survive and thrive on its residents, rappers also receive a boost in profile. Gucci Mane got locked up after spraying up someone who had the sheer gall to look at his blood diamond-enriched Odie chain the wrong way, and came out even more popular than ever. T.I.’s camp became an extremely hot commodity after he got caught with guns that rivaled those of a Transformer, with reality shows, a platinum album and more. Wayne is set to do the same once he gets out from the grab-ya-ankles facilities as well.

Does rap need prison? Of course not. But it does make for great music sometimes. Imagine if Big Lurch came out of prison right now; he’d probably be the hottest rapper out. I mean, homeboy killed and then ate his victim on some Hannibal Lecter shit; you can’t get any gullier than that.