Through the years hip-hop has seen many of its favorite artists locked up behind bars. Slick Rick’s five-year prison sentence was one of the earliest examples, while 2Pac’s sexual assault conviction was the most famous. But even from behind the wall, imprisoned rappers have been able to release music to their fans using creative promotion measures.

This week saw both Lil Wayne and Lil Boosie drop albums while incarcerated. Wayne, who's serving time in New York’s Rikers Island after pleading guilty to felony gun possession charges, dropped his I Am Not A Human Being album on iTunes on Monday, September 27 (Weezy’s birthday). Boosie is locked and currently awaiting trail on federal first-degree murder charges, but that didn’t stop his label Asylum from releasing his third album, Incarcerated, yesterday (September 27).

It’s too early to tell if Wayne and Boosie’s albums will be successful or even critically acclaimed. But with the verdict still out on this week’s releases, takes a look back at 10 past albums released from imprisoned rappers. Turn to the net page to see who truly got the game on lock.

Compiled by Adam Fleischer & Rob Markman


Slick Rick Behind Bars (1994)

When Slick Rick dropped his debut album, The Great Adventures of Slick Rick, in 1988, he had the game on lock. But by the time his third album dropped in 1994, the tables eventually turned and it was Ricky D who was under lock and key due to the second degree attempted murder charges he caught in 1990 after shooting at his own cousin. Behind Bars was an appropriate title for the album released on Def Jam. The tracks, produced by the likes of Prince Paul, Warren G, Pete Rock and Vance Wright, were all recorded before Rick’s sentencing, four years prior.

To make up for the fact that Rick wasn’t able to promote the project, Def Jam shot an animated video for the single “Behind Bars” and got a lookalike to play the Ruler in the clip for “Sittin’ In my Car.” Overall, the album received a lukewarm response, but did provide some memorable moments.


2Pac Me Against The World (1995)

Nominated for Best Rap Album at the 38th Grammys, Me Against The World remains one of Pac’s most revered albums—if not his most. However, it came at a point of turmoil in his life. In late November 1994, he was shot at Quad recording studios in Manhattan; the following day, he was convicted of sexual assault stemming from a 1993 incident. ’Pac then recorded much of the album in the short time frame in between his conviction and sentencing, which occurred in February 1995.

A number of videos for singles were shot, including “Dear Mama,” “So Many Tears” and “Temptations,” but none included Shakur. The man was already a star, but this album, as well as the legal troubles and incidents that occurred leading up to its release, launched him to the superstar status he held until his untimely death in 1996. The 15-track disc also made 2Pac the first artist to have a No. 1 album while in prison. It was him against the world, baby.


Capone-N-Noreaga The War Report (1997)

C-N-N’s debut disc The War Report is considered a classic amongst many hip-hop aficionados, an amazing accomplishment considering Capone (one-half of the duo) was locked up for much of the recording and the album’s release. Amid street bangers like “L.A., L.A.” and “T.O.N.Y. (Top of New York)” were phoned-in jail skits (“Capone Phone Home”) and up-north dedications (“Live On, Live Long”).

Without his partner-in-rhyme, Noreaga was forced to carry on The War Report’s promo for self. Check the split video for “Closer (Remix)/Driver’s Seat” where N.O.R.E. appears by his lonesome. ‘Pone may have missed out, but it was the fans who ultimately won. Still, one could only wonder what the album’s fate would have become if the group was in full force.


Turk Penitentiary Chances (2004)

In early 2004, Turk was charged with second-degree attempted murder after a shooting occurred during a raid of an apartment he was in. Denied bail, the former Cash Money spitter was behind bars when his third solo project dropped in April 2004. This generally well-received 11-track album did not see the success of the New Orleans native’s previous two efforts, peaking at No. 32 on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop chart. Turk, too, never saw his individual success reach the level of any of his former Hot Boyz group mates (Lil Wayne, Juvenile and B.G.), nor the group itself. He was convicted in 2006 and is currently serving a 14-year prison sentence. Hold your head.


Shyne Godfather Buried Alive (2004)

Shyne was once pegged to be “the next one” in a long line of great New York MCs. However, his chance to enjoy any potential superstardom was derailed after a shooting at a Manhattan nightclub in 1999 and a subsequent 10-year conviction on two counts of assault, reckless endangerment and gun possession. Po was also locked up for the release of his debut, 2000’s Shyne; however, unlike that complete body of work, Godfather Buried Alive was a compilation of previously laid vocals, boasted numerous rap features (Foxy Brown, Kurupt, Swizz Beatz and others) and included the track “For the Record,” a diss aimed at 50 Cent and recorded over the phone from jail. The album’s lead single “Jimmy Choo” featured R&B singer Ashanti and its video was pieced together using footage of Po filmed in visiting room. Whatcha gonna do.


Beanie Sigel The B. Coming (2005)

Jay-Z wasn’t trying to change Beans, just give him some game. Despite his prime positioning with Roc-A-Fella records, in 2004 it became clear that Beanie Sigel couldn’t exactly make the transition from the streets to the fame. The Philly rapper was sentenced to a year and a day fed time after catching weapon charges, but recorded his third album The B. Coming before turning himself in. Despite the drama, the album was released in 2005 and became Sigel’s most critically acclaimed work.

The Broad Street Bully also had the foresight to film videos like “Feel It in the Air” and “Don’t Stop” featuring Snoop Dogg before his bid. He later used those clips to promote the album while locked up. With only 435,000 copies sold to date, The B. Coming wasn’t the most successful album, but it proved that even under extenuating circumstances Beans was a force to be reckoned with.


Pimp C The Sweet James Jones Stories (2005)

While Chad “Pimp C” Butler made his mark as one-half of the beloved rap duo UGK, his solo debut was marred in controversy. In 2002, The Pimp was sentenced to eight years in prison for violating his probation, which he received as a result of a previous aggravated gun charge. With the “Free Pimp C” campaign in full swing, UGK’s label Rap-A-Lot Records dropped Pimp’s debut The Sweet James Jones Stories in 2005. It was an album filled with older, previously unreleased material, placed over new beats. With little to no promo, the LP remained largely overlooked, but Butler was redeemed in 2006 when he was released from prison and dropped Pimpilation.


C-Murder The Truest Shit I Ever Said (2005)

Convicted of second-degree murder in the death of a 16-year-old fan, C-Murder recorded this entire album from prison on his lawyer’s hand-held recorder. After releasing a disc every year from 1998 until 2002, this was his first solo project since the 2002 shooting. The Truest Shit… was unable to achieve the mainstream success of the No Limit soldier’s first three releases, each of which landed in the top 10 on the Billboard Top 200, but it did hit No. 1 on the Top Independent Albums chart.

A video for the lead single, “My Life” included footage of C-Murder in jail, as well as clips of people on the outside rapping his lyrics and wearing commemorative T-shirts. This album may have been the truest shit he ever said, but the smartest shit he ever did was changing his moniker to C. Miller during a 2009 trial.


South Park Mexican When Devils Strike (2006)

Hard to imagine who would buy a rap album from a convicted child molester, but 146,000 people went out and purchased South Park Mexican’s 2006 When Devils Strike— his first album released after his 2002 conviction of aggravated sexual assault charges. The album dropped on SPM’s own Dope House Records and was a relative win for an independent. Two years later the Latino artist dropped his 10th album The Last Chair Violinist in 2008 and racked up another 90,000 units sold. With little to no promotion, one has to marvel at SPM’s dedicated-yet-baffling fan base.


Gucci Mane The State vs. Radric Davis (2009)

After hitting with “Icy” in 2005, Gucci was finally beginning to rebuild his national buzz in 2009 when legal troubles once again nearly ruined his success. Sentenced and escorted directly to jail on November 12, 2009 for a parole violation from a 2005 charge (Gucci only completed 25 of his necessary 600 hours of community service), the Alabama native was behind bars when his album dropped less than a month later.

Promotion for the album had already begun, though, and videos for the first three singles—“Wasted,” “Spotlight” and “Lemonade”—were shot and serviced. Ultimately, Gucci’s name remained hot even during what turned out to be a six-month bid. The album reached No. 10 on the Billboard Top 200 and climbed to No. 1 on the Top Rap Albums chart, proving that even though he was locked up, it was still Gucci time.