STARS BEHIND BARS: A VICIOUS CYCLE

Posted: January 15, 2011 by Jay Rasean in Kasual

Let’s start this post off with some numbers…statistics if you will.

The number of individuals currently incarcerated is roughly 2.3 million. A little over 90% of these individuals are male, and of that percentage, 43% of those males are black (despite making up 12% percent of the total U.S population!). This means HALF the men in jail are black, the other half are other…Hispanic, white, etc.

Despite their claims of innocence, its a given that people in prison are there due to a crime committed (whether they are guilty or not). Crime statistics seem to be higher in areas of high poverty. Blacks and Hispanics are the dominant races in low income, high poverty areas. The relationship between high poverty areas and the population in prison is established by the propensity for minorities to commit crime. So basically, poor people are more likely to commit crime, thus, these individuals are the bulk of the prison population.

Its safe to say, If one were to strive to achieve a more substantial life by leaving the hood, they are less likely fall victim to the aforementioned statistics. To quote the late Notorious B.I.G…

“Either you’re slingin’ crackrock, or you’ve got a wicked jumpshot”

This quote specifically explains that the outlets to achieve greatness are minimal.  In contrast to Biggie’s so eloquently vocalized lyrics, there are indeed many other options available to young men to achieve greatness. For example; higher education, overwhelming determination, and the wonderful world of entertainment. Assuming the athletic skill, or even musical talent-is present, the pursuit of a career in entertainment should be the obvious choice over illegal sales of “pharmaceuticals”. This is why everybody wants to be an emcee or play sports.

Quite a few young minority men are blessed with the musical or athletic talent to excel. Once on a higher plateau, these young men are free from the hardships of the hood (so we thought). As famous rappers and athletes, there is no longer a reason for these beacons of hope to perpetuate the unsavory statistic of going to jail right? 

WRONG!!!
Rappers and Athletes ( Rappers especially) can’t seem to break free from being a statistic!
I don’t even get surprised by a headline stating yet another rapper is behind bars. From Tupac to Wacka Flocka ( I hate to say their names in the same breath ) rappers seem to have a hard time staying out of prison. To understand why rappers are constantly getting arrested, we must examine the factors of their predicaments. The steadily contributing factors in each case against these rappers are drug possession and weapons charges, and the lesser frequent charges such as; parole violation, assault and for rappers like mystikal, sexual battery.
Mystikal served a six-year prison term for sexual battery and extortion.
                                                        
“Once a criminal Always a Criminal”
This is not a direct quote, but a constant variable when explaining why rappers are always in the clink. Some of the most prominent rappers of our time have told vivid tales of drug slinging and violence in their rhymes. A majority of these are indeed tales,tall ones. For some of these men, the stories of a criminal upbringing are all too real.When you’re used to living your entire life dealing with excessive hardships, it takes an extreme amount of will to drastically change your characteristics. Even with the introduction of fame and fortune, rappers still have the very same mentality they had when they were struggling to survive in the harsh atmosphere of the inner city streets.
“Rubber Band Man”
Rapper T.I  was a repeat offender throughout his teenage years. The “Rubber Band Man” as he was called in the street, improved his situation and made his way to the upper echelon of hip-hop. Due to a parole violation, he was again arrested just as his career began to gain momentum. Despite this minor setback, he continued to soar to the top until he was once again arrested for weapons charges. Released early last year after seeking redemption, he was arrested yet again for possession of illegal substances, wow. It’s almost as if most rappers are uncomfortable with spotlight they so avidly gloat about in their music. Does that jail cell feel like home?

I totally understand that in the world of hip-hop, street credibility is a very important attribute of a successful rapper. But is going prison worth risking everything they’ve worked hard to achieve?
I’ve heard someone use stress as an excuse to explain the love affair between prison and rappers. I’m not going to deny that the life of a celebrity isn’t stressful, but I’m stressed 24/7 and I’ve never been arrested. Maybe my stress levels haven’t quite peaked yet, I am only in my mid twenties. Although I do believe stress won’t directly buy a round trip ticket to prison, I am aware of the elevated levels of drug and alcohol abuse due to the stresses of fame and fortune. “Mo money, mo problems” – yet another Biggie quote. Drugs are an issue for someone with no money, imagine someone who’s wealthy having an insatiable appetite for drugs. The examples are endless.

Case and point.
Before I fully commit to making this issue just a another black issue, or a rap music issue, I want to acknowledge that rappers aren’t the only wealthy people who go to prison. From rock music superstars to the “dignified” stock brokers on wall street-who are beside themselves with greed, many well off people find themselves in hot water. Greed, crimes of passion, mistakes made under the influence are all terrific reasons to do hard time.
The major point I’m trying to make is, when you’re life is so diminishing all you have is goals for a more sought after life. Not to say that all rappers come from meager backgrounds, but since the birth of hip-hop, songs of poverty have saturated our consciousness. From Grandmaster Flash’s “The Message” to 50 Cent’sGet Rich or Die Trying“, the ghetto has worn its heart on its sleeve in efforts to give the rest of America a glimpse of a hard knock life. As Hip-Hop progresses, music is more triumphant, riddled with evidence of a better life, for the lack of better phrase…many more people are eating. Rappers work so hard for a life of fame…free of mediocrity…
Why do they work just as hard to throw it a way, with a life behind bars?
PEACE!!!

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