In late 2014, Bobby Shmurda had New York City on tilt with his "Hot Nigga" record, marking the first hit single out of the city in years. And though Bobby's signature dance move and no chorus adrenaline shot of a song injected energy into the five boroughs, his fellow GS9 members waited in the wings with heat of their own.

The first guy to prove himself a potential star in his own right was Rowdy Rebel, whose "Computers" track was concurrently gaining steam alongside "Hot Nigga" in fall of 2014. Rowdy busted a couple dance moves of his own in the video, but both the song and the visual captured the raw energy that GS9 was breathing into the New York hip-hop scene. The rapper quickly parlayed his buzz into a joint deal along with Bobby on Epic Records.

Less than six months later, in December of 2014, the NYPD arrested 15 GS9 members including Bobby and Rowdy. They've been locked up ever since.

In the aftermath of their arrest, the mystique around GS9 has only intensified, with other Rowdy songs like "Shmoney Dance" and "My Block Hot" surging in popularity as more people started to recognize the depth within Bobby's crew. Now, a year and a half later, New York is still patiently waiting for the boys to be free.

In the aftermath of steep sentences for fellow GS9 members Rashid "Rasha" Derissant and Alex "A-Rod" Crandon, XXL spoke to Rowdy from prison about what he's been doing in there, the wisdom Meek Mill imparted upon him and how the NYPD had it out for GS9 from the jump.

XXL: You said you’ve been strengthening your mind and body in jail. What have you been doing specifically?

Rowdy Rebel: Basically I just be reading. I go to the library, I’ll be on the phone with my baby girl talking about what I’m gonna do when I get home. I work out, not trying to stress, not trying to let anything get to me, so I take it one day at a time until I get outta here.

What’re you reading these days? 

I read novels, I might read 48 Laws of Power, I might go over some words in the dictionary, write some rhymes. Anything to keep me focused.

Where are you right now? 

I’m in the box right now. I’ll be here for 30 days. I did two weeks already.

There was a recent setback recently with the sentencing of Rasha and A-Rod. What was your reaction to that?

Of course it hurt me but I gotta keep faith. I keep telling them don’t think it’s over. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Try to get them back on appeal, because a lot of stuff that went on in the trial wasn’t right. They didn’t have enough evidence to convict him, so right now our lawyers are filing an appeal and I just hope my boys keep faith and don’t lose hope.

How do you feel about your case right now?

Knowing what they did to my friends, they’re just trying to make an example out of us. So I’m just gonna do my time, get outta here and get back to music, my family and enjoying life.

How’s the relationship with Epic Records these days?

I haven’t heard from Epic in awhile, maybe four, five, six months. Last time I heard from Epic, Sylvia [Rhone] came to see Bobby, Sha Money came to see Bobby. Right now I don’t have no problem with Epic. Even though they invested in us and I expected them to try to help us get out, and they did but it was really Sony at the end who could push the button to really get us out. They don’t owe us nothing, I don’t feel like they did something wrong to me. End of the day, I still got lots of love for Epic, they changed my life and when I get home, I’ll see what’s going on and we’ll work something out in terms of my future and my career and moving forward.

A lot of people talked about how names like Rasha and A-Rod that were dropped in “Hot Nigga” are people now getting convicted. Did you guys have second thoughts about that after?

We rap how everybody else raps. Not everything in a rap is true. Leo DiCaprio make movies, they be acting and you can’t believe everything you see or hear. Everything that’s coming to light now is assumptions and he say, she say. Rasha was basically convicted off a picture the D.A. painted in front of the jury. It took the jury a week to deliberate and get to the answer. They got the answer and it wasn’t the one we were looking for.

How do you feel like the prosecution has framed the case?

I feel like they were being biased to us. Young kids from where we come from, the songs we have in their eyes weren’t really positive. So from day one…it goes back years, these cops been didn’t like us. They been harassing us. They been on our tail and our case. I’m not saying every cop is a bad cop, but at the end of the day these cops know us, we know them. We have history with them. So when we started rapping, we started making it big, they started harassing us again and when they got a big indictment, in the back of my mind I knew they had it out for us and this time could probably win.

They got big lawyers involved, big prosecutors involved, big judges involved and it’s been biased from jump. Every time somebody tries to post bail for us, it just gets denied or there’s a lack of paperwork or, "Who’s this person? They don’t have a relationship with Bobby." Right now, the law system in New York is crazy. It’s messed up.

You guys turned down a plea deal last year. With Rasha and A-Rod’s convictions, are you reconsidering that?

Nah, because now you can get an appeal still. If you just plead out, there’s no way for appeal, you just copped out saying you’re guilty.

You been writing new music in there?

Yeah, I always write down a couple hooks, couple verses when I hear a good beat. But I don’t really wanna write full songs because I don’t know my situation as far as when I’ll be home. I know it ain’t gonna be forever, it ain’t gonna be too long, but I don’t want to write a song and it’s not up to date with what’s going on in reality. But I know once I get home, it’s like riding a bike -- once you know how to do this, it’s easy. So I don’t really worry about that too much.

Have you recognized any change in your own thinking or behavior since being inside? 

I look at everything down the line and think of settling down. I watch my surroundings, see who’s here for me, who’s not. I think more creatively. I’m just ready to get home.

Have people in the industry reached out recently?

Yeah, I talk to people all the time. I talk to Meek, I talk to Fab, I talk to Migos, I talk to A$AP Rocky, Rich The Kid, Troy Ave.

Any piece of standout advice those people have given you?

Meek tell me all the time when I come home, keep my freedom like it’s $5 million. Don’t let nobody take your $5 million, cherish that $5 million. Do anything that’s possible to hide that $5 million from somebody trying to take it. So you gotta treat your freedom like that. I always take that to heart.

They’ve separated you and Bobby inside right?

Yeah, they don’t want me with Bobby. I don’t know why for, but they just separated us.

Has there been any tension from Bloods or Crips in there?

At the end of the day, people know who we are. I’m a man before anything, I’m human, so I don’t really do that gangbanging on people and all that. I’m just being Rowdy. I’m here for my brothers. You stay on your side, I stay on my side. You respect me, I respect you.

Have you been talking to Bobby? 

Yeah, I talk to Bobby. Sometimes I’ll call and he’ll be on the phone and we’ll merge the call or I’ll see him in court and we’ll talk. Or I’ll write him a letter and he’ll write me back.

What do you tell him? 

We encourage each other. Even though he’s younger than me, he’s like my little big brother. He’s always the one giving me advice, encouraging me to stay focused. He’s got a good head on his shoulders. Unfortunately, we just got caught up. But we’ll be back soon, we’ll definitely be back.

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