Posted by Billyjam, October 29, 2009 04:00pm | Post a Comment
Pleasant Vallley State Prison

The Creative Process in Prison
by Aneraé "X-Raided" Brow

I am entering my fourteenth year of imprisonment in the California Department of Corrections and (so-called) Rehabilitation. The entire time, I have written songs for myself and others, as well as short stories and essays, and even a column for Murder Dog magazine and a blog on my MySpace X-Raided behind barspage. The thing that stands out in my mind, in terms of what it's like trying to be creative in this environment, is that the opportunity to do so just may be more available than in other settings. There can be a lot of solitude and isolation in prison, and for someone who knows how to utilize the lack of distractions it can be fertile ground for creativity.
I once joked to a friend that when Moses needed to think, he went up Mount Sinai and came back down with the Ten Commandments. Jesus went out to the desert and was tempted, then returned stronger. When Muhammad was stressed from the things he was seeing in his environment, he went into a cave where the Qur'an was revealed to him. All of them received their messages or strength at a time of trial and difficulty in their lives and the common denominator is that they had solitude with which to better hear the voice when it spoke to them. I joked to my friend, maybe we can utilize our solitude in order to better hear the voice as well. The voice of creativity, that is. It's all the same. All ideas come from somewhere. How do we explain that an idea just pops into our heads out of the blue?

I would say it's probably easier to be creative in prison depending on the circumstances. Easier than what, exactly? A person could have a place to retreat to that is peaceful and quiet where they can write and think without being disturbed. Maybe they paint or draw, or they dance and make up new routines. Creativity comes in many different forms. I believe it's easier to obtain solitude in prison, but I definitely think the same can be said for someone who is not in prison that is serious about their peace. Billy Jam, my good friend, once told me that he was going out into the middle of nowhere with a tent, in a forest I believe it was, one of many times I've known him to do so. I would imagine that's one way to get some peace and quiet. I'd take that over a year in Administrative Segregation any day. I'm sure I'd write plenty out there.

For me, what I do enjoy when I'm working on something is the lack of outside stimulation. I'm not inundated with images and sounds that kind of tend to box most writers in. A person's imagination tends to X-Raidedbe limited when there is a force at work establishing a parameter within which they can come to believe they have to work. That's why so much of the new hip hop sounds similar. That's one of the reasons anyway. Auto-Tune worked for T-Pain and the next thing you know, the whole industry is using it.

Someone about to write the next great song could possibly be struggling with whether or not they have to use Auto-Tune in order for their song to work. Yet someone who has not been overly exposed to the goings on, someone who may have more isolation, could realistically write the next great song and come up with the next great thing that everyone copies, all because he or she didn't believe that they had to conform to what was already going on in the game. In my personal opinion, that's the good thing about writing in this situation. A song like ‘"Darkness Descends," off of my Unforgiven 2 CD, could never be written by someone worried about conforming to what is happening within the box right now. An idea like that can only come to you when you have the isolation to hear it in the silence.

I wouldn't advise going to prison as a way to cure your writer's block, though.


Click here to read X-Raided's last Amoeblog entry -- HIp Hop In Prison, about how those incarcerated get to hear new music and what meaning the music provides for those behind bars. X-Raided's latest 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 here to the Amoeblog. To contact X-Raided 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

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