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Can rap careers survive prison stints?

Bansky Gonzalez

 // Jul 2, 2018

Artist // Instagram

Last Wednesday, Watts rapper 03 Greedo missed a flight he probably wishes he could have missed over and over again. The 30-year-old was set to report to Potter County Detention Center in Amarillo, Texas for a 20-year prison sentence on drug and weapons charges, but fate intervened and he was afforded a few extra hours of freedom. Eventually, after maintaining communication with prison officials, he made his way to Texas and began his sentence, immediately halting his burgeoning rap career.

For most of this decade, Greedo was either in prison or gradually forging his niche and progressing as a rapper, first under the moniker Greedy Giddy, then later as 03 Greedo. The new name is a play on his former name and an homage to the infamous 103rd street in Watts, where the Jordan Downs projects resides and Greedo earned his stripes as a Grape Street Crip. His unique blend of Auto-Tuned warbling and menacing street rap feels like a mix of Young Thug and Mozzy, with a spectrum of content as varied as any rapper currently pelting the internet with consistent releases.

Of all of the blue chip prospects in rap's current landscape, Greedo seemed the most likely of all to breakthrough in 2018. Even Drake cited him as one of his influences for his new album but, unfortunately, prison will put a halt to all of that momentum for the time being. Sources close to the rapper say he could be incarcerated for just five years with good behavior, but only time will tell.

But Greedo's prison stay does not mean the end of his career as a rapper, no matter how dejected he was when he tweeted, "Never thought id have to retire the year I blew up" back in April. History has shown rap careers can survive prison stints, and even thrive during and after them. It's an odd quirk, and obviously not something any rapper should bank on, but the genre's history is deep with rappers spending time up North and not losing a beat.

In fact, rappers in jail and prison are almost as much a part of rap's lore as the punchlines and similes. Some rappers even record entire albums, over the phone, in prison. X-Raided, a Sacramento rapper currently serving 31 years to life for murder, has recorded and released over a dozen albums from jail. Bay Area legend Mac Dre once did the same. Shyne did as well while serving time for two counts of assault, reckless endangerment and gun possession related to the infamous club shooting in 1999. Others like Lil Wayne and Kodak Black have recorded guest verses over the phone.

The list of rappers who spent time in jail or prison in the middle of their careers goes on and on and on. Offset from Migos, Cassidy, Beanie Sigel, Prodigy, Royce da 5'9", Slick Rick, Tony Yayo, Young Buck, Da Brat, Foxy Brown, Meek Mill and many, many more. That list doesn't even include the likes of C-Murder, Tay-K, Max B and others who are still incarcerated.

In Greedo's case, rappers who bounced back after their release could serve as a template. Tupac's mystique only grew stronger when he spent time in prison. Pimp C remained a rap icon while serving time in prison. Gucci Mane became a mythical figure and hit the ground running immediately after his release in 2016. T.I., famously shot music videos while on work release from prison, and after more time in prison later in his career, he rebranded himself as a changed man, and his star power only grew as he began to take Hollywood by storm. Boosie responded to a lengthy prison sentence with the biggest album of his career in 2015, as Touch Down 2 Cause Hell debuted at No. 3 on Billboard's album chart.

The women of rap have done time and rebounded as well. Lil Kim released The Naked Truth the day she was sentenced to a year in jail for perjury and the album went on to go double platinum. Remy Ma served six years in prison and returned with a platinum hit in "All The Way Up" and two Grammy nominations.

What most of those instances have in common is an extraordinary workrate. Everybody returning from prison got right back to work. Tupac notoriously made the classic album All Eyez on Me in a week's worth of legendary, marathon studio sessions. Gucci Mane has kept up an unmatchable pace since his return.

Greedo seems intent on matching those efforts, even while in prison. He proclaimed he was making 30 albums before he went to prison, and he released one of them, the much-anticipated, 27-song project God Level, just days before he turned himself in. If he actually completed even half of his 30-album goal, he'll be able to keep a steady stream of releases going for the entirety of the five-year he's hoping to serve.

If Greedo does that, and keeps an even marginal buzz going during his incarceration, anticipation will ramp up whenever it appears he may be released. Every time a Max B release date trickles into the news, it causes a fervor. A witness recanting their testimony in the case that earned C-Murder a life sentence for murder became nationwide news recently. A photo of Bobby Shmurda's new muscles became a viral moment. If and when Greedo comes home, people are going to care, especially if he maintains a steady drip of new music during his time in prison.

There will be life after prison for 03 Greedo, and if he plays his cards right there will be a rap career as well. It's been done before, and in the age of the internet where nobody truly disappears, Greedo possesses the tools to make sure he truly never leaves the consciousness of the rap world and his devoted fans. Sure, he didn't reach the heights of superstardom that he'd hoped before he went to jail, but he just might do that during his time there. And if he does, the world will be anticipating that customary "First Day Out" track he's sure to drop.

Hopefully it'll be in 2023, and not 2048.


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