For some peculiar reason, jail seems to be the college degree of the rap game.
Rappers are better-received and appealing to audiences after sporting a well-fitted orange jumpsuit and spending some time behind bars.
However, the instant street credibility associated with having been to jail is a little clichÃ© and naive on the consumer’s part.
Of course rappers could possibly use their experiences from jail as inspiration – they could somehow find that special cellblock muse to help diversify their lyrical stock, but in the end it definitely limits the listener in terms of subject matter.
Instead of the age-old, yet classic storytelling, you’re left with the same old, drawn out “fight for my sanity and battle for my body” jailhouse lyrics.
To place an artist in higher esteem, just because they had to fight for corn bread and soap is not very smart at all. And there is nothing “gangsta” about having your manhood or womanhood tested, especially in a well-furnished, Martha Stewart-esque decorated cell.
What I mean to say is, although I’m sure jail is no picnic, I often wonder about it when considering certain musical factors.
The following is an excerpt from one of Lil’ Kim’s letters to her fans:
“Dear Fans…Things are cool and I’m keeping myself busy as usual.
“I am on the volleyball team and from the first day I played, my team was on a five-day winning streak.
“We were punishing teams left and right.
“Bong! Bong! Bong! ”
Oh yes, Lil’ Kim just seems to be so real, chilling with her volleyball posse, but for some odd reason this watered-down version of prison worked out very well for her career.
The rapper reported to jail on Sept. 19, 2005 – her album was released Sept. 27, 2005, a mere week and a day afterward.
The album ended up receiving “five-mics” from The Source magazine, marking the first time a female artist ever received the highest, rarest accolade from the prominent hip-hop publication.
If you think it worked just for her, then you’re sadly mistaken.
Shyne’s last album, “Godfather Buried Alive,” debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 album chart and Tupac Shakur scored a No. 1 album while in jail for sexual assault in 1995.
In this game of bling, rhymes and rims, it takes a lot to get on top and stay there, but if all else fails, you can always just go to jail.
Yewande Addie is a freshman newspaper journalism student from Atlanta. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org