Is Jail Ever a Good Thing? Street Cred or Incredibly Wrong

I like Shyne. I’m not sure why, but I’ve always respected him. I think it has something to do with him being locked up for over nine years. Getting thrown into jail for drugs and/or guns has this mystifying pull over hip-hop heads. When a rapper goes to jail, it makes them real. It puts meat into their lyrics. It allows the average fan a glimpse into the gangsta lifestyle that said rapper had been purporting. Jail allows rappers to earn their street stripes, whether we acknowledge it or not. These street stripes then entitle the rapper to huge record deals, features, top production, and a ton of hype. Kind of like what Shyne had when he got out of jail.


Not so much.

Depending on the crime, it seems to be that the longer one is in jail, the more respect and hype this rapper will have when he or she gets out. Considering that Shyne went to jail essentially for refusing to snitch, as well as firing a weapon in a crowded nightclub, he was able to garner street cred. That’s why Shyne was able to heist $5 million from Def Jam upon his release. Roughly $2 million per year in the pen. When Max B gets out in 2065, I hope for his sake that he calls L.A. Reid.

Now one year removed from jail, Shyne doesn’t exactly have the same hype from a year ago. I guess that’s what happens when you rekindle lame beefs from six years ago, and rap with a voice/style that sounds as if dude spent an hour guzzling smoke from the back of an M15 bus sitting in traffic on the Lower East Side. But wait, Shyne didn’t do that. He’s not allowed in America.

Remember Remy Ma? She got an eight-year sentence a few years back. I get the feeling that when she gets out of jail in 2015, she won’t get millions from Def Jam or even a bouquet from Papoose. Same goes for Prodigy (not including the bouquet). He got 3.5 years, and is all but forgotten. A lot of the jail-success connection depends on the following one has before going in. Boosie has a following, which is why he could still hustle Incarcerated from inside the pen.

That’s the thing about jail, selling drugs, and getting shot. Whenever a rapper is involved with any of the above, it glorifies his street appeal, and makes him more real and respected, and sometimes has record labels groveling at this particular rapper’s feet with a bag full of money.

Wait, you, the reader, disagree: “What about Ludacris? He hustled his way to the top without any of that and everyone respects him.”

Hmmm… I see your Luda analogy and raise you with Jeezy. Ludacris has sold more albums than Jeezy ever will, has more hit records than Jeezy ever will, and will write better lyrics than Jeezy ever will. But at the end of the day, every single rap fan in this country will tell you that Jeezy is more real than Luda. Why? Because he’s from the streets. It doesn’t matter that Luda is an inspiring rags to riches story. It doesn’t matter that Luda out-rapped both Jay and Nas on “I Do It For Hip-Hop.” And it doesn’t matter that Luda has two classic albums in his palette. The fact is, he didn’t come from the streets, didn’t sling crack, and didn’t tote guns. Jeezy, apparently, did all of those things.

Is that fair?

Why is it that Luda has had so much trouble gaining respect among hip-hop heads? Why hasn’t he entered anyone’s top 10? It’s sad, and most people won’t admit it, but it’s because of all the aforementioned reasons. He doesn’t have that realness about him. I think he does, you may think he does, but the hip-hop collective doesn’t. He never went to jail, and probably never will.

I wonder, though. Is it a problem?

“Now tell me I ain’t real, this AR that I’m holdin got a gangsta grill.”

Jeezy raps from the heart, but also from the waist. His lyrics inspire people who can’t hustle the legal way. Not everyone can go from rags to riches without the police on their back. For those still stuck in the ‘hood with no way out, they listen to Jeezy. They find his music real. Shyne has put out very questionable music since his release, but still has respect from every rap fan because of the nine years he did. Luda can always drop a hot 16, but the hardcore Jeezy fan won’t feel it the way he feels a Jeezy verse. And that’s cool.

My only problem with this is that sometimes a rapper like Luda can get shafted in terms of image. The average dude should be inspired by him. Yeah, he came up clean with mixtapes and DJin’, but isn’t that how it should be done? Isn’t that a much better message for kids as well as adults? I know we can’t ban the Snowman, but are we banning the legal hustler? Jeezy’s climb up the ladder was grim, ominous, and sinister, thus making for a great story. But his climb up the ladder will likely land those who attempt it in jail for a very long time. One thing’s for certain: jail isn’t worth it, because more often than not, L.A. Reid will not be standing there with a check when they get out. Shlomo

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  • mko

    the only thing going to prison proves is that you’re dumb enough to get caught

    • M

      or that your dumb enough to do the crime


    U aint been to prison then guess what u pussy in yo heart nigga dont ever act hard bitch cuz u aint shit til u been in that yard nigga


      Mainnn I despise niggaz like u. What the fucc is so good about being away from your family, not making no money, cant get a job when u get out, cant vote, cant teach you kids shit? u not a real nigga u a damn retard!!! fucc is wrong with u? just like being on a slave ship in cargo fucc nigga I feel sorry for and hate u!!1 damnnnn

  • Q461

    Going to prison is NEVER a good thing for ones career. Look at dumbass T.I. And he was blessed to still have a following after his one year bid..only to be thrown back immediately. Ask Weezy, I’m sure he would say going to jail aint a good thing. Shynes career lost all of its momentum also, although I agree trying to bait 50 and the whole flow changeup didnt help much with his first impression after a 10 year stint in the bing.

    As far as your Jeezy vs Luda comparison. I like both rappers, but Luda is a better MC hands down. Better lyrics and flow. I dont really care that Luda wasn’t in BMF or a trapstar. Makes never difference to me, I care about the music, not the back story. Thats real.

  • TicNitty86

    Read “real nigga” post for proof of who jail is for.

    I agree that some rappers like Luda are missing that realness to them as far as coming from the streets and the struggle. But I would rather have 20 Luda’s than one Jeezy who makes the street life seem fun and sweet. Take rappers like Face, Pac, DMX, and others who tlaked bout the street but made sure you understood it was not the place to be. I always got a yeah I got luv for the hood but I am not trying to promote the hood vibe form them.

    These pampered fucks have no real reasons to kep getting in all this petty trouble. I understand no one’s perfect and shit happens but when it happens again and again you have to look at yourself and your surroundings.

    Give me street knowledge over street ig’nace anytime.

  • Moving Sideways

    Ludacris has more hit records, fans and, most importantly, money!

    Your last paragraph doesn’t really bring that up, just the fact of getting caught and going to jail which is definitely a possibility. What you don’t bring up is that illegal hustles are short term money, building a brand/business/investment, that is long term, self-sustaining money. If money is what’s most important, than nothing trumps that fact.

  • jonny bizness

    Fuck jail!!!!!I’d rather be broke out here than be rich in there.I think pac started the trend when he got sent away in 95 but now u need more than a rap sheet to sell records now that gimmick has run it’s course thank god.In my eyes kanye changed the whole game regarding rappers as a image he was himself and not trying 2 be somebody else plus in the internet age u will get found out if u saying things u ain’t about.

  • http://comcast d.

    I can’t even believe that XXl would even posethis question. This is why black people are lost. It’s like asking does gettin shot make you a man. Come on man!!!!!

    • TDO

      but this is hip hop on a higher level.

  • god-Meta

    Kanye isn’t from the streets and he’s in everyone’s top 10. Luda makes stupid songs and markets himself as a cartoon character rather than a serious rapper.

  • El Tico Loco

    Mko said it best, your dumb ass got caught.

    There’s no way in hell you gonna get on here and say that jail is a good business move for anybody. If that’s the case Bernie Maddoff and the enzyte pill dude are just in there bubbling for their comeback. But you’re right about Jeezy I mess with him for rhyming from the heart, I always noticed that but the Recession confirmed it, Luda is just a beast but he’s doing stuff that he clearly ain’t feeling himself, I mean if he made a straight ripping a track apart album from start to finish with the machine he has behind him, standards in hip hop will change back to normal, but is obvious that he’s conforming just like everyone else out there. Shit that’s what’s missing from the game now to be honest, a non comformist attitude, which is the main thing that made it hot in the first place.

  • MTI

    prison hurt the careers of shyne (see ya later), chi ali, steady b, max b, ODB, slick rick, drove 2pac crazy, j-dee, dmx, prodigy. rappers who never did jail time during ther RAP CAREER i.e not complete fools but who talked about street life from a real perspective: ice-t, kool g rap, biggie, jay-z, fat joe, clipse, 50 Cent, scarface. however we all know how much prison time helped rakim, big daddy kane, guru, public enemy, epmd, run dmc, krs-one, melle mel, tribe called quest, ice cube, buckshot, nas, ludacris, outkast, eminem, ll cool j, joell ortiz, de la soul. common, ghost, meth, rae, rza, redman, drake, and kanye. without their extensive prison time, where would these artists be with both their abilities and commercial success? success??

  • Malik

    Luda has two classics?

    • Simple like ABC, 123

      - Word of Mouf
      - Chicken-n-Beer

  • Anonymous

    jail is in no way, shape or form a good place to be and somewhere i hope i never have to be. however, jail is good for some people because they actually learn from their mistakes and realize that is not a place they want to be. everyone makes mistakes, everyone, but people who actually learn from those mistakes are the real hustler’s out there. i’m a big t.i. fan, but how many times does it take to screw up and ruin some very good things you have going in your life, before you grow up, be a man, and stop getting in trouble. a lot of the problems in this country are because people have the attitude of mko; you’re just as bad as people in jail, even though you may not have gotten caught. it doesn’t take a lot of balls to pull a gun on unarmed people and rob them of their hard earned money, but it does take balls to get up everyday at 5:00am and get your lazy ass to work and earn a living. anyone who thinks jail is good for your cred is a loser and should be put in jail to rot for the rest of their lives…yeah, real cool.

  • illest

    Luda has two classic albums??? what the fuck are you smoking.. I really thought this article was going somewhere, but it seems ur more of a luda fan than a hip-hop purist. Sure, Jeezy is seen as a “realer” artist than Luda is. But Luda did it to himself…he started off as a cartoon character and now he wants to be taken seriously. It doesn’t help either that his last two albums didn’t sell that much.

  • TDO

    afterthought: prison helped maino, cuz it helped him get his head on straight. but most rappers who know the system, like him, who tell the truth, you’ll never hear on the radio: cormega, blaq poet,c-bo, freddie foxx. another one jail harmed was beanie siegel. this is all not to mention that prison has destroyed generations of families, institutionalized gang warfare, torn up neigborhoods, and is a place of rape, violence, stabbing, scars, lives wasted and ruined, and grown men crying, all with a revolving door. peace to lil wayne.



  • Justa Phella

    Weezy did it, not for street cred. but for more attention


    i like Luda..he is a better MC than Jeezy will ever be..but last time i checked..people aint running around blasting “Red Light District” in Detroit.. hell when i was in georgia Luda wasn’t getting alot of play..not because of the fact that he isnt good..its the fact that people find that stuff Luda talk about boring..and even tho i am all for lyrics..I relate more to what Jeezy says than Luda..but I think the one thing that i can say about Luda that i cant say about allot of other “Clean Background Rappers” is he does get respect from a “street” standpoint..its just that his music sometimes is kinda un-relateable and people dont wanna hear that…its a recession..naw..its a depression,and Listening to “I Do it for hip-hop” aint putting food on nobody’s plate..sometimes you gotta “Trap Or Die” cuz that “Thug Motavation” is “Inspiration”… but Luda is a lyricist..and well go down in history as one of the greatest