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Friday, January 7, 2011

Why Rappers Keep Going Back to Jail


Gucci Mane was arrested yet again. Earlier this year, Mane promised to do better and address his personal conflicts, which include drug abuse, but here he is headed back to the slammer.

T.I., who recently finished serving prison time for a weapons charge, was recently re-arrested for having illegal substances in his car and testing positive for opiates -- all a no-no for the terms of his probation.

And the troubled rapper and actor DMX appears to have bought time-shares in prison, given how often he has been arrested and jailed.

So what the heck is going on with these rappers?

Is it that they like the prison food and accommodations? Do they feel more comfortable in jail than out in society?

Many critics believe that it is because these rappers were once street thugs who now just happen to be rich thugs. They point out the violent street wars that claimed the lives of Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls and point to rap lyrics that often speak to a violent subculture.

Think about it, if nothing else, violence and rap is often viewed as being as natural as peanut butter and jelly. It is a guilt by association that may even subconsciously encourage violent and illegal behaviors that often land these rappers in jail time and again.
Still, this kind of explanation carries some credence, but only if we view rappers as being one-dimensional bad boy (or girl) characters.

The reality is they are often complex, smart, if not brilliant, artists and musicians who cannot seem to break free from the cycle of inappropriate and dysfunctional behaviors, despite their tremendous commercial and financial success. Therefore we must analyze further what drives them to engage in self-destructive and self-sabotaging behaviors where they become recidivists:

Maintaining Street Cred

Whether it is their choice or that of the managers or record label executives, there are rappers who believe that their music and media presentation must be backed up by continued illegal or inappropriate behaviors in order to keep the legitimacy of their public persona and music.

It doesn't help the cause for good behavior that Lil Wayne recently emerged from a stint at Riker's Island as a tortured hero. During his incarceration, he released the best-selling album 'I Am Not a Human Being.' I defy anyone to tell me that his jail time is not viewed by many as a badge of courage and furthers his reputation as a survivor if not victor. He is now hotter than ever!

Though I am sure he does not want to return to jail and repeat this experience, there may be other rappers who look at his situation and believe that jail may not kill a career and may even enhance it!

Unresolved Drug and Emotional Issues

Many rappers are ensconced in the drug culture and are active recreational users and abusers. It comes with the youth and image of hip-hop and rap. Of course, the drug use can result in dysfunctional behaviors and troubles with the law, but recreational use aside, drug abuse is often a tool for self-medication of deeper emotional issues.

The point is that there are many rappers who come from troubled backgrounds and have emotional issues that have never been addressed or treated clinically. In some respects, their rap lyrics tell their stories and thus are cathartic but just not healing enough.

Therefore the dysfunctional behaviors continue unabated, even though they have achieved great artistic and commercial success. Going to jail once, twice or thrice will not extinguish their emotional issues and accompanying destructive behaviors. That, in fact, was the unfortunate destiny of the late great ODB, the self-tortured artist who spent the latter part of his young life dealing with severe emotional issues and incarceration.

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