While the history of rap is long and complex, the stereotype of the genre is clear: rap stemmed from politically troubled or economically downtrodden areas and, often, it’s been made by people who use the music to speak to the issues of injustice, crime, and violence in their neighborhoods.
While this is not wholly true of the form itself — rapping can be traced all the way back to centuries-old West African traditions — the conventions of the genre as we know them today came out of underprivileged areas whose residents were being systematically forgotten by the rest of the population. For that reason, the music speaks to many who find themselves in similar situations and many of rap’s biggest players decided to use their own rhymes to speak to the same issues. Unfortunately for many of these acts, it’s hard to leave behind the world they grew up in, especially when their careers are built on maintaining that image.
The list of rappers who are currently behind bars for various offenses is long, but we’ve pulled out a few who are serving time for everything ranging from drug charges to murder.
Keep reading to find out which rappers are locked up.
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Born Robert Rihmeek Williams, songwriter and rapper Meek MIll was first signed by T.I. in 2008 before moving to Rick Ross’s label in 2011. His first album, Dreams and Nightmares, debuted at number two on the Billboard 200.
After finding massive fame over the past several years, Meek Mill was no stranger to legal troubles. He was first arrested when he was 18 for the illegal possession of a firearm, and he has since been arrested four times for violating parole. He served jail time from 2008-2009 for drug dealing and gun possession and later served five months for violating the terms of his probation.
In November 2017, Meek Mill was sentenced to two to four years for violating his parole yet again. This famously ignited cries of #FreeMeek from fans around the world. The lengthy sentence continues to spark outrage, as many felt the judge was being too harsh on the Philly rapper.
Rapper Jay-Z, along with several other celebrities, infamously spoke out against the sentence, using his concerts as a platform to talk about Meek’s situation. “He caught a charge when he was, like, 19. He’s 30 now; he’s been on probation for 11 years. F**king 11 years,” Jay said during a performance in Dallas. “Judge gave him two-to-four years because he got arrested for being on a bike and popping a f**king wheelie.”
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Suge Knight has been an established name in hip-hop for decades. Aside from his time as an NFL player, Knight is best known for being a music executive as the co-founder and former CEO of Death Row Records. This label experienced major successes thanks to signed artists like Dr. Dre, Tupac, and Snoop Dogg.
However, Death Row Records ultimately suffered and closed largely due to Knight’s recurring legal issues. He was first arrested in 1987 for domestic violence and then again for auto theft, weapons possessions, and attempted murder.
In 2015, Knight turned himself into the LA County Sheriff’s Department following a hit and run that resulted in the death of one of his friends. He has since been serving jail time amidst ongoing health issues. His trial is set to begin in April 2018.
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Rapper, producer, and actor Earl Simmons, better known as DMX, has had an illustrious career.
He exploded to popularity in 1999 with the release of his best-selling album …And Then There Was X and its hit single “Party Up (Up in Here).” Some of his famous movie credits include Belly, Romeo Must Die, Cradle 2 the Grave, and Never Die Alone.
DMX, however, also has a long history of legal problems, including illegal weapons possession, animal cruelty, assault, possession of drugs and paraphernalia, DUI, robbery, and outstanding child support. In 2017, DMX was charged with 14 counts of federal tax fraud after failing to file income tax returns between 2010 and 2015. He pleaded guilty to one count of tax fraud in November 2017 and was sentenced to one year of prison (and three years of supervised release) in March 2018.