B.G. starts a fourteen-year bid behind bars.
Words: Brendan McCarthy
THE 32-YEAR-OLD MAN SHUFFLES INTO THE VISITING BOOTH AT FCI BEAUMONT MEDIUM, PART OF THE BEAUMONT FEDERAL CORRECTIONAL COMPLEX, ON AN OCTOBER AFTERNOON. HE’S SLOW, banged up, recovering from a broken foot in a prison basketball game. He shows other signs of mortality too: A dash of gray in his shoulder-length twists, an extra 15 pounds or so on his frame, an orange jail jumpsuit.
Christopher Noel Dorsey, inmate No. 31969-034, convicted of gun possession and witness tampering, is the son of a murdered man; the child of a broken home. He is a former drug addict. He pays his child support on time. He repents to God for his demons.
But you know him as B.G., short for “Baby Gangsta,” celebrated star from the nation’s most murderous city. His rhymes are a warning on how to get by on New Orleans’ streets: Shooting, slinging, never snitching.
While his ol’ running buddies and rap mates—at least the ones still alive—are out making music videos, banking millions and living the dream he thought he could have, he sits behind this window. His words spew not through club loudspeakers, but through a tiny metal slot fi t for a corner store cashier.
He slides into a cheap plastic chair and pushes his sleeves up past the track marks and tattoos. He’s got this look—part sneer, part grin—like he knows something you don’t; like he successfully pulled one over on you.
“What’s happenin’?” he asks.
What’s happening is this: In July, B.G. was sentenced to 14 years in federal prision following a tumultuous career and years of drug addiction. His legecy is complicated, to say the least, but secure since he didn’t snitch. Things didn’t have to end this way, though.
Dorsey started rapping around the time someone shot his Dad dead in 1992. He spat his anger in verse and fell in with Cash Money Records and its’ bosses, brothers Bryan “Baby” and Ronald “Slim” Williams. The New Orleans-born brothers became B.G.’s first managers and record label bosses. But they were more than that. “Baby was my father figure; raised me from a boy,” he says.
Dorsey’s first offi cial venture into rapping was as part of Cash Money’s The B.G.’z. At 15, he was the bigger, meaner half of the duo, which partnered him with a precocious pal named Lil Wayne. Soon, the pair joined Juvenile and Turk to form the Hot Boys. They charted on Billboard, toured the country, drove fast cars, entertained easy women, and dominated late 1990s hip-hop.
But while the world moved fast, Dorsey was still a kid from the ’hood. At 15, one of his boys, a dope addict named Doody Cone, was shot dead. Dorsey snorted a bag of heroin in his honor. It was his first taste; the start of a spiral.
“Everythin’ seemed right,” he remembers. “I was seein’ so much money, gettin’ money, things were great. I never had to rob a nigga to get loaded, ya know? It was easy.”
At 16, he was arrested with crack and marijuana. A year later, pills and pot, with more serious crimes on the horizon. “One minute, I was Christopher. The next, I wasn’t. I wore too many hats,” he says from behind the jailhouse window, dirty with smudged fingerprints. “In a way, I threw it all away for all that street shit. I fucked up, yeah.” But not before achieving worldwide fame with a string of hits, including “Bling Bling.”
By 2002, B.G. had parted ways with Cash Money after a financial dispute with Baby and Slim. He stepped out on his own creating his own label, Chopper City Records, in 2001 and signing a deal with Koch Records (now eOne Music). But despite the positive changes in his life, B.G. was still battling drugs. A police report notes that offi cers spotted him, half-hanging out of a GMC Yukon, the driver’s side door open. He was “looking down, holding a hypodermic needle, preparing to inject…” He pulled out, tossed the needle to the floor, where the New Orlean’s Police Department found heroin foils, cocaine and a blunt. The officers wrote in the report that Dorsey had “burnt veins” on his arms, a side eff ect from shooting heroin.
There was a trip to rehab in Minnesota. Didn’t work. A rehab stint in Los Angeles; no good either. His lawyer and a local judge went out of their way and steered him into a court-ordered drug treatment program around 2003. Dorsey kicked the heroin habit but replaced it with methadone.
He made business associates in Detroit and began to travel back-and-forth between The Motor City, where he was trying to refocus, and the Crescent City, where he was building his own label. “You know, Cash Money, I carried it on my back,” he says. “I figured if I could make millions for them, I could do it for myself.” But problems followed him North. In December 2005, Dorsey was arrested in Detriot for driving with a suspended license and carrying a concealed weapon—a gun that had been stolen from the New Orleans Police Department. Within days, another arrest. A passerby found Dorsey in his car, apparently unconscious. Cops found a gun and marijuana in the car. And two months later another arrest, this one for possession of marijuana, a handgun and body armor. Detroit court records show he still has an open arrest warrant there.
Around 2006, while B.G’s city lay in tatters from Hurricane Katrina, and after several successful years with Koch Records (he dropped four solo albums and two Chopper City compilations with the indie giant between 2003 and 2009), B.G. inked a deal with Atlantic Records—one that reportedly came with an $800,000 advance. He began recording his eleventh solo album, Too Hood 2 Be Hollywood, executive produced by T.I., which wouldn’t be released until December 2009. At the same time, he also got addicted to pills: Lortab, Percocet, Soma, Xanax, and cough syrup with codeine.