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HIP-HOP BEHIND BARS: A FIRST PERSON ACCOUNT BY X-RAIDED, PT I

Posted by Billyjam, October 20, 2009 06:22pm | Post a Comment
Pleasant Valley State Prison in Coalinga

Back in February of this year when the Amoeblog, in celebration of Black History Month, featured a series of blogs about various aspects of black culture, I invited long incarcerated rapper Anerae “X-Raided” Brown to participate in the series. Brown, who has been behind bars for over half his lifetime, did this in two parts: in both the form of an Amoeblog interview and also via an in depth essay he wrote under the title Black History Month: A Convict's Perspective.

Like everything else Brown writes, from his lyrics to his still to be published autobiography to the guest articles he has penned for Murder Dog rap magazine, X-Raided's writing is always articulate and X-Raidedinformative. Furthermore, it provides an insight into a world that most of us, thankfully, will never have to enter. Brown has been incarcerated since age 17 on a charge of conspiracy to commit murder -- he never killed anyone but was young and foolish enough, he readily admits, to have been caught up in the gang lifestyle, and to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I have known the 34 year old Brown since he was first incarcerated. Initially I got to know him as a journalist reporting on him and his rap career, something he incredibly has managed to maintain from behind bars over the years (he just released his latest, The Unforgiven Vol. 2, three weeks ago). But as the years progressed he has become a friend and someone I admire for maintaining both his sanity and creativity all the while being locked in the pen. If you have ever been behind bars or if you have ever visited anyone in jail or prison you have an idea of how horrible it is to be incarcerated.

Following the positive reaction to the Amoeblogs that X-Raided did back in February I invited him to write more to be published here. One will be about his new album and the meaning behind each of the songs on it. Another will cover the creative process from an inmate's perspective. The Brown essay below is one I invited him to write about the topic of "hip-hop in prison," explaining how much the music means to those incarcerated, and how they get to hear it or hear about it. What he wrote follows:
 

Hip-Hop In Prison
by Anerae “X-Raided” Brown

Incarceration is a tricky subject. A lot of times, especially when it comes to entertainers, incarceration is breezed over, or it is conversed as if it is just a pit stop. A minor annoyance. No big deal. In urban communities, what we call the ghetto, incarceration is viewed almost as a rite of passage. Somewhere along the line, we have failed to adequately instill a sense of trepidation into the youth when it comes to prison. I am very cautious when I write about prison, because I don't want to appear to be glorifying or trivializing the experience.

Most of the time when someone is incarcerated, there is a tragic event attached to their experience. People go to jail for a wide range of crimes. The one thing that is true for all inmates is that, at some point, a sense of normalcy sets in as time passes. One becomes more acclimatized. Stimulation takes on great importance.

Inmates are avid readers. Some read classics, others read magazines and newspapers. You can find a wide variety in every housing unit, from urban books to the hottest titles on the best sellers list. One of the reasons for this is the fact that, regardless of custody level or privilege group, every inmate is allowed to receive reading material, as long as it comes directly from the publisher.

There is a significant amount of Hip Hop related reading material floating around in prison. For a lot of inmates who ran the streets, hip-hop magazines and music are their only source of information on that lifestyle. It is their connection to the streets. Murder Dog, Ozone, and XXL magazines are all over the place. These guys don't miss an issue.

There are a variety of privilege groups in California state prisons. If an inmate stays out of trouble and reaches privilege group A/B, he or she is allowed to purchase a CD player and headphones, or a boombox of some kind. Retention of it is dependent upon their behavior. As long as an inmate stays out of trouble, he or she will be able to purchase CDs and enjoy music practically all day.

For a hip-hop junkie such as myself, what I have to go through to get new music is almost like '88 all over again. We don't have Internet access in prison. Can't just go online. No satellite radio. The radio stations we pick up are based on the institution we're housed at. For me, since I'm at Pleasant Valley State Prison in Coalinga. CA, the majority of the radio stations I pick up are from Fresno. One of them B95, plays underground Hip Hop every Sunday night from 7:00 - 9:00 PM. Danny Salas, the DJ, will even throw on some X-Raided or Brotha Lynch Hung here and there.

Pleasat Valley State Prison

We have to order music from approved vendors, such as Access, Walkenhorst's, Union Supply, and Packages 'R' Us. Some are more reliable than others when it comes to locating more obscure music, but it certainly beats a zero. Most of the guys run around selling and trading CDs. A person can go out to the yard and find music ranging from E-40 to Jay-Z up for trade or sale, as well as Mac Dre and anything with Thizz Entertainment on it. Quite a bit of Black Market material out there too.

Many inmates live out life through music: We read the magazines each month; we buy the newest releases; we argue over who's really killin' it; and we don't miss much in terms of who either will be or should be the next person to blow. A lot of us remember years by which albums dropped, or who won the NBA Finals or the Super Bowl. For incarcerated hip-hop babies, nothing helps to pass the time and makes us feel free like listening to new music.

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X-Raided's new CD The Unforgiven Volume 2, released September 22nd on Bloc Star Entertainment, is available at Amoeba Music. For more artist information visit X-Raided's MySpace. Special thanks to Elayne Brown at Bloc Star Entertainment for her assistance in getting this X-Raided essay. To contact X-Raided directly you may do so by writing to him directly via the address below.

Anerae Brown K-17737 A5-202L
Pleasant Valley State Prison P.O. Box 8501
Coalinga, CA 93210
   

Relevant Tags

Ozone (2), Murder Dog (1), Xxl (4), X-raided (12), Coalinga (1), Pleasant Valley State Prison (1), Hip-hop (179), B95 (1)