10 Rappers With Real Criminal Records

Updated on May 3, 2018
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I am a blogger, writer, social entrepreneur, armchair advocate, mentee, mentor, musician, and freelance dabbler in all things.

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If you take their word for it, more than half the rappers in the world of hip-hop should be convicted felons. From drug dealing to gun smuggling to fighting in the streets, rap music and crime are inextricably linked to hundreds of MCs throughout rap’s history. So many rappers claim to be thugs, gangsters, and criminals, but how many really are? Of course, for the vast majority of artists, these supposed criminal activities are little more than a flashy and amusing way to fill time on hit songs. However, there are a handful of hip-hop icons with surprising and bona fide criminal records.

10 Rappers With Criminal Records

  1. Lil Wayne
  2. Gucci Mane
  3. Cassidy
  4. Tupac Shakur
  5. Fat Joe
  6. Chief Keef
  7. Lil Kim
  8. Meek Mill
  9. T.I.
  10. Bobby Shmurda

Below are details about each rapper's life, including their convictions and time served. I have also included music videos so that you can hear some of their intense lyrics for yourself.

Are violent lyrics in hip-hop representative of violent artists?

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1. Lil Wayne (The Rapper Who Spent Eight Months on Rikers Island)

Current Age: 35

Charge: criminal possession of a weapon

Time Served: eight months

On July 22, 2007, Lil Wayne played his first headlining show at the Beacon Theater in New York City, and decided to celebrate like many rappers claim they do: party time. Lil Wayne and another man were smoking marijuana near the rapper’s touring van when a police officer accosted the rap star. Following a brief search, the officer found a gun in a bag by Wayne’s side that was registered to his manager. The rapper was charged with criminal possession of a weapon.

In October 2009, Wayne pleaded guilty to attempted criminal possession of a weapon and was expected to serve a year in prison for his crime. However, several delays in sentencing meant Wayne didn’t start his time behind bars until March 8, 2010, when he began a one-year sentencing at the infamous Rikers Island, where he would later be released after serving eight months. Next time you hear Wayne rapping about guns and drugs, take that man seriously.

Some Gangster Lyrics:

You ain't built to squabble with us
I come to your show with heat homes and run on your bus
I drink your water up
Cool off I'm leaving with something
They leaving you something crop stolen

Song: "Gangsta Shit"

Lil Wayne on wtage
Lil Wayne on wtage | Source

2. Gucci Mane (The Rapper Who Got Away with Murder, but Not Much Else)

Current Age: 38

Charge: Expected of Murder

Time Served: Got off

A quick Google search shows that Gucci Mane has a criminal record long enough to make him fit in on an episode of The Sopranos, but his most infamous crime is one he was never sentenced for. In May of 2005, Gucci Mane was attacked by a group of men in Decatur, Georgia, and his crew didn't take the aggression kindly. Guns were drawn. The body of Pookie Loc, one of Gucci’s attackers, was later found behind a nearby middle school.

To his credit, Gucci Mane turned himself in, claiming he shot in self-defense. Eventually, Gucci got off free, when county prosecutors dropped the case for lack of sufficient evidence. Of course, at the time the charges were dropped, Gucci was in prison for assaulting a club bouncer with a pool cue. Currently, Gucci Mane is serving a prison term for pleading guilty to possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. No other major hip-hop figure comes close to sporting a rap sheet as long as Gucci’s.

Some Gangster Lyrics:

Spit the block with the AK
I heard everything got flipped
In one hour smoked a zip,
it took me one hour, she got drip
Gram of kush and a leaf

Song: "Die A Gangsta"

Gucci spending some time outside of jail
Gucci spending some time outside of jail | Source

What Is Gangsta' Rap and When and Where Did It Get Started?

Gangsta' rap came to prominence on the East Coast. Schoolly D, of Philadelphia, penned tales of gangs and violence such as “PSK—What Does It Mean?” Boogie Down Productions, formed in New York City by DJ Scott LaRock (Scott Sterling) and KRS-One (Lawrence Krisna Parker), offered intense descriptions of crack-cocaine-related crime on Criminal Minded (1987). In Texas, the Geto Boys’ violent music was the subject of outrage by the powers that be. Nevertheless, gangsta rap became a national phenomenon in California, where a distinct school of West Coast hip-hop began with Eazy E’s Los Angeles group N.W.A. (Niggaz With Attitude).

Gansta' Rap Moves West

In Oakland, Too $hort had become a regional force. Too $horts' profane and sexually explicit style influenced N.W.A. member Ice Cube. It was N.W.A.’s controversial album Straight Outta Compton that shifted hip-hop’s center. The most distinguishing characteristic of N.W.A.’s approach was the straightforward way that violence was described. Their lyrics were not cryptic, but plainly spoken. These lyrics described the violence that occurred in the streets of south-central Los Angeles and neighboring Compton. The group argued that the lyrics were harsh because they needed to express the violence in a realistic way.

What's the Purpose of Gansta' Rap?

Contrary to what the U.S. government has said from 1988 to the present, the purpose of gansta' rap is not to recruit the youth into gangs, nor is it to advocate for violence. Rather, the edgy lyrics used in rap music are a tool to illustrate the struggles of the poor as they fight to survive the violence perpetrated upon them by a system that has turned a blind eye to their communities.

While not all gangsta' rap is well-intentioned, the idea that rap is designed to radicalize the youth is unfounded. Many artists would argue that you have to show brutality and inequality as bluntly as possible if you want to move people to action. Honesty doesn't require everyone to feel comfortable.

The Most Dangerous Cities to Be a Rapper

City
Rankings in Crime
Famous Local Rapper
1. Camden, N.J.
Assault: 6, Murder: 1, Rape: 8, Motor Vehicle Theft: 8, Robbery: 1, Burglary: 41
Joe Budden
2. St. Louis, Mo.
Assault: 2, Murder: 4, Rape: 45, Motor Vehicle Theft: 4, Robbery: 4, Burglary: 13
Aye Verb
3. Oakland, Calif.
Assault: 7, Murder: 12, Rape: 14, Motor Vehicle Theft: 1, Robbery: 3, Burglary: 116
Keak da Sneak
4. Detroit, Mich.
Assault: 3, Murder: 8, Rape: 169, Motor Vehicle Theft: 3, Robbery: 8, Burglary: 16
Royce da 5'9"
5. Flint, Mich.
Assault: 1, Murder: 13, Rape: 9, Motor Vehicle Theft: 60, Robbery: 16, Burglary: 1
MC Breed

3. Cassidy (The Rapper Who was Charged With Murder, but Received Manslaughter)

Current Age: 35

Charge: third-degree murder

Time Served: eight months

The West Oak Lane neighborhood in Northern Philadelphia was anything but quiet on April 15, 2005. Rapper Cassidy and two of his friends, strapped to the nines with pistols and an AK-47, got into an argument with three unarmed men, and things turned violent fast. Desmond Hawkins, one of the three men who angered Cassidy’s posse that night, was fatally shot in the back. His two friends ended up in the hospital; Cassidy’s crew ended up in court.

While the case looked pretty open and shut to start, a series of hold-ups on behalf of the prosecution resulted in the trial consistently moving in Cassidy’s favor. Original charges of first-degree murder were downgraded when the prosecutor’s primary witness withdrew testimony, and Cassidy was charged with third-degree murder. Eventually, he was sentenced for involuntary manslaughter, a crime he would serve only eight months for. If you run into Cassidy in the streets of North Philly, do not piss him off.

Some Gangster Lyrics:

Wit the Rolls gold, got they wrist froze like Cass
Who can play the strip and get it sold like Cass
This rap life done switched to my old life fast

Song: "Husslin'"

Cassidy writes raps when he isn't stockpiling weapons
Cassidy writes raps when he isn't stockpiling weapons | Source

4. Tupac Shakur (The Rapper Who Served Time for the Ugliest of Charges)

Current Age: Died on September 13, 1996 at the age of 25

Charge: sexual abuse

Time Served: four months

While Tupac is widely considered one of the greatest rappers of all time, and largely acclaimed for his socially progressive lyrics on many tracks, he was convicted in 1995 of the ugliest of offenses. He and several members of his posse were charged with sexual assault when a 19-year-old woman claimed that Shakur and his crew entered her hotel room and raped her. Pac maintained his innocence, but a judge thought otherwise.

In December of 1994, Tupac was convicted of sexual abuse and served four months in prison with five years of probation to be completed upon his release. Critics of gangster rap pointed to the trial as evidence that the music’s violent lyrics led to real crime; fans of Pac believe the rapper was innocent. In either case, Shakur’s legendary career is tainted by jail time and ugly charges.

Some Gangster Lyrics:

Now I'm face to face with the devils
Cause they breedin' more rebels than the whole damn ghetto
And police brutality
Shit, it put you in the nip and call it technicality
So you reap what you sow
So reap the wrath of the rebel, jackin' 'em up once mo'

Song: "Rebel Of The Underground"

Tupac was saddened by rape allegations
Tupac was saddened by rape allegations | Source

5. Fat Joe (The Rapper Who Went to Jail, but not for Assault)

Current Age: 47

Charge: Tax Evasion

Time Served: four months

Legendary New York City golden era spitter Fat Joe has had his share of legal
troubles, but ended up in jail for a somewhat mundane offense. In 1998 the MC was arrested for alleged assault and robbery. He and fellow rapper Big Pun were accused of beating a man with a baseball bat and stealing his gold necklace. Later, in 2002, Fat Joe was slapped with another assault charge for allegedly getting into a fight at BB King’s blues club in New York City. Neither charge stuck though, and Fat Joe never saw a minute of prison time for another decade.

Fat Joe, in a case entirely unrelated to his youthful penchant for assault charges, made his first guilty plea in December of 2012. Apparently, the rapper went came up short by about 3 million dollars in his income tax payments between 2007 and 2010 and, after pleading guilty, Fat Joe spent four months in prison. There is no such thing as easy jail time, but Joe must have been happy that the only charges he couldn’t dodge were for something as mundane as tax evasion.

Some Gangster Lyrics:

Raw to the core, I grew up poor
Once I hit the door, I began to explore
Curiosity killed my cat, but not me
because I learned how to kill with agility
I grew up in the South Bronx, punch you in your mouth punk

Song: "Da' Fat Gangsta"

Top Gangsta' Rap Albums

Artist
Album
Dr. Dre
"The Chronic"
N.W.A
"Straight Outta Compton"
Ice Cube
"Death Certificate"
Tupac Shakur
"All Eyez on Me"
The Notorious B.I.G
"Ready to Die"
The Wu-Tang Clan
"Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)"
Na
"Illmatic"
Mob Deep
"The Infamous"
Fat Joe, rapping while avoiding paying the IRS
Fat Joe, rapping while avoiding paying the IRS | Source

6. Chief Keef (The Rapper Who Did Hard Time in the Softest of Cells)

Current Age: 22

Charge: Fleeing the scene

Time Served: Home Detention

While Chicago MC Chief Keef may not have the longest running legal record in hip-hop, he got a very early start in his life of crime. At 16, the young MC got in an altercation with the police that involved a chase on foot. The police opened fire, but did not hit him. He ended up with a juvenile detention sentencing for the youngster. Unfortunately for Chief Keef’s street cred, the rapper only spent a short amount of time in a correctional facility before a judge decreed he be sentenced to home confinement. In a much more embarrassing kind of confinement, Keef was sent to live with his grandmother.

However, as he reached adulthood, Chief Keef continued his criminal activity. In 2013, the rapper spent sixty days in jail for a parole violation. Hopefully, the young rapper will leave his parole violations and grandma’s house arrests behind and be able to focus on his career in the future.

Some Gangster Lyrics:

Fuck with my family and you are finished (Bang, Bang)
And bitch we at the top,
We so use to winnin'
Bodies gettin' dropped,
we so used to winnin' (Bang, Bang)

Song: "Winnin"

Chief Keef's rise has been marred by criminal charges
Chief Keef's rise has been marred by criminal charges | Source

7. Lil Kim (The Rapper Who Everyone Forgets Went to Jail)

Current Age: 43

Charge: lying to a federal grand jury

Time Served: one year

That’s right, everyone forgets that Lil Kim did a stint in Jail, but this 90’s era friend of the Notorious B.I.G. has a record as bona fide as the hardest criminals on this list. While she was merely in the wrong place at the wrong time, she also lied at the worst possible time.

In 2001, Lil Kim and her entourage had a run in with another rap act, Capone-N-Noreaga, outside of a popular New York City radio station. Shots were fired, though Kim never was charged for being involved. Instead, she was found guilty in 2005 of lying to a federal grand jury. When called to the stand to divulge her involvement with the Capone-N-Noreaga incident, Kim claimed that two of her close friends, who had been with her at the scene, were not there. Apparently, her two entourage members didn’t get the memo and confessed to being involved. This put Kim out on a lurch and eventually lead to her conviction. She was sentenced to a year-long prison sentence. Remember kids: NEVER lie to a grand jury, especially if you have two friends who aren't smart enough to play along.

Some Gangster Lyrics:

Niggaz remain in awe, when I brought a Dillinger
Throw it to ya jaw, uhh
Never a flaw
Never before, have you seen such magnificence
In the black princess, yesss
Flow's phenom, I'm the bomb-diggy

Song: "Drugs"

Lil Kim's image wasn't marred much by jail time
Lil Kim's image wasn't marred much by jail time | Source

8. Meek Mill (The Rapper With the Funniest Court Sentence of All Time)

Current Age: 30

Charge: drug dealing and gun possession charges

Time Served: 5 year probation period

While Meek Mill has been rapping since 2003, he has only gained some larger notoriety and fame since 2008 (the same year he was first convicted of drug dealing and gun charges). The MC served 6 months in prison and is still completing a probation term related to the 2008 charges. Despite being on probation, Meek Mill hasn’t been on his best behavior. Recently, he received one of the most amusing sentences in the history of rap music.

In Meek Mill’s defense, it must be hard to balance a rap career with the constraints of probation, but the rising star hasn’t done a very good job of meeting his 5 year probation period’s travel restrictions. In 2013, Meek appeared in court for violating probation by not informing his probation officer when he had to travel for shows. While in the courtroom, Mr. Mill was not on his best behavior. He was so disrespectful that the presiding judge sentenced him to an amusing punishment: the young rapper was forced to take “etiquette classes” to improve his manners and shape up in general. Careful, Meek. Keep violating probation, and you may get sent to time out.

Some Gangster Lyrics:

The early bird get the worm first
Sixteen, we was out there on that curb first
With a quarter tryina see who get a bird first
Like fuck a undercover cop we tryna see who gettin served first
Yeah we was dead wrong but we had to learn first
We ain't give a fuck whoever fronted us got burnt first

Song: "Get Dis Money"

11 Great Gangsta' Rap Songs

Artist
Song
1. Notorious B.I.G
"Juicy"
2. Dr. Dre
"Nuthin' but a G Thang"
3. Tupac Shakur
"Hit 'Em Up"
4. Snoop Dogg
"Gin and Juice"
5. N.W.A.
"Straight Outta Compton"
6. Warren G
"Regulate"
7. Nas
"N.Y. State of Mind"
8. 50 Cent
"Many Men"
9. Public Enemy
"Fight the Power"
10. Geto Boys
"G.E.T.O"
11. N.W.A.
"Fuck Tha Police"
Meek Mill
Meek Mill | Source

9. T.I. (The Rapper With a Machine Gun Romance)

Current Age: 37

Charge: illegal possession of a firearm

Time Served: one year

Nowadays T.I. may be best known for introducing Iggy Azaela to the world, but in the mid-2000s he was famous for dominating the charts, and he was infamous for being charged with some very extreme gun charges at a very inopportune time. In 2007, while on his way to the B.E.T. awards (where he would win two recognitions), T.I. was arrested for illegal gun possession. While, at the time, T.I. wasn’t carrying a pistol or shotgun, the rapper planned on rolling up to the B.E.T. awards with three machine guns and two silencers. Several more machine guns with a large amount of ammunition were later found at his home.

T.I. went on to serve a year-long sentence beginning in 2009 based on his outlandish gun charges, but the rapper's trouble with the law wouldn't stop there. In 2011, T.I. was sent back to prison for an 11-month sentence after he violated his probation by possessing the drug ecstasy. It is easy to imagine that, had he not spent so much time in prison, T.I. could have had an even more prodigious career. But, as they say, give a rapper a machine gun, and he will want another.

Some Gangster Lyrics:

I done been locked up wit the worsest of niggas
Armed robbin con men and murderous niggas
The dope boys be the first to deliver
Green, brown, or blow, got mo snow than Buffalo in the winter
Think these lyrics is comin from a pretender
If I said it I done seen it or done it
So I mean it when I say you don't want it

Song: "You Ain't Hard"

T.I. probably has more music in him, if he can stay out of jail
T.I. probably has more music in him, if he can stay out of jail | Source

10. Bobby Shmurda? (The Rapper Who Might Be Innocent)

Current Age: 23

Charge: murder, attempted murder, assault, attempted assault, weapons possession, criminal use of a firearm, reckless endangerment, narcotics sales, criminally using drug paraphernalia

Time Served: TBD (5 years left on his sentence)

If you know three things about overnight sensation Bobby Shmurda, you probably have heard that the Brooklyn rapper dropped the biggest club hit of 2014, has a unique and hilarious relationship with social media (Google the Shmoney Dance), and now faces one of the longest laundry lists of criminal charges in rap history.

On September 2, 2016, as part of a plea deal, he pleaded guilty to one count of third-degree conspiracy and one count of weapons possession. He was sentenced to seven years in prison. He cannot appeal the sentence, but will be given credit for two years served, leaving 5 years left on his sentence, followed by 5 years of probation.His lawyer expects that with good behavior, Pollard will only serve approximately three and a half years.In early 2017, Pollard was given a four-year sentence for sneaking a prison shank into his cell. The sentence will run concurrently to his ongoing seven-year sentence, meaning he will not face any additional prison time.

Some Gangster Lyrics:

I been selling crack since like the 5th grade
Really never made no difference what the shit made
Jaja taught me flip them packs and how to maintain
Get that money back and spend it on the same thing
Shorty like the way that I ball out

Song: "Hot Nigga"

Bobby isn't in the money any more
Bobby isn't in the money any more | Source

More Rappers With Real Criminal Records

Artist
Crime
Inga Marchand
Assault, Criminal Contempt
Marshall Mathers (Eminem)
Possession of a Concealed Weapon, Assault
Carlos Coy
Aggravated Sexual Assault of a Child
Chi Ali Griffith
First-Degree Manslaughter
Dwight Grant
Attempted Murder
Reminisce Smith
Assault, Illegal Weapon Possession, Attempted Coercion
Terrance Boykin
One Count of Bank Robbery, Violation of Federal Firearms Statutes
Albert Banks
Illegal Weapon Possesion

BONUS: Suge Knight (The Non-Rapping Rap Tycoon Who Probably Killed a Guy)

Current Age: 53

Charge: violating probation

Time Served: four years

One more outstanding case, which again is in the early stages of development as this list is pressed, is so huge and so shocking that it earned a spot in spite of the fact that the criminal in question isn’t a rapper. Suge Knight, the legendary hip-hop mogul behind Tupac and Dr. Dre’s “Death Row” record label, allegedly hit and killed a man with his car on January 29th, 2015. Suge Knight is being held in custody pending a 2 million dollar bail, and it is unclear how large of a case will be mounted against him. In any case, this isn’t Suge’s first run-in with the law: the mogul spent time in prison from 1997-2001 for violating his probation, which resulted from an earlier assault case. Whether or not Mr. Knight gets convicted for the recent murder charges that have been filed against him, it is clear that there isn’t much sweet about this infamous tycoon.

Suge Knight may face Death Row
Suge Knight may face Death Row | Source

Who Is Innocent?

What do you think? Did all of these hip-hop figures commit the crimes they were charged for, or are some of the innocent? Tell us below in the comments!

Questions & Answers

    Comments

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      Post Comment

      • profile image

        Black 

        4 weeks ago

        Joe Budden ain't from Camden

      • profile image

        magnumforce 

        8 weeks ago

        Only ten?

      • profile image

        Crash 

        2 months ago

        DMX? He's been booked for armed robbery, possession of crack, Child support, Driving Under Suspension, DUI, Domestic Violence, Tax evasion. Hardcore right there.

      • profile image

        Cjrdhbk 

        3 months ago

        lol Mac Dre…

      • profile image

        Serial C 

        4 months ago

        50 cent is also a criminal. you should add him too.

      • profile image

        Nixo 

        4 months ago

        xxxtentacion is also a criminal but his fans claim that he's innocent.

      • profile image

        Xavier 

        5 months ago

        U should add xxxtentacion

      • profile image

        a ain't sh*++ 

        7 months ago

        You

        should add Gunplay

      • profile image

        Klipper 

        8 months ago

        You should add Tay k because he committed murder at 17

      • profile image

        Shawshank 

        8 months ago

        This page says this article was posted January 2017, but it is very dated. Gucci got out of prison in summer of 2016 and Bobby shmurda got convicted and is currently in prison. Update this!

      • profile image

        FPX 

        9 months ago

        "Unfortunately for Chief Keef’s street cred, the rapper only spent a short amount of time in a correctional facility"... this is probably the dumbest thing i ever read, no one gets street cred for being in slavery... Cassidy Michael Kakin speak on what you know something like bicycles, you corny lame

      • profile image

        Daisy 

        9 months ago

        y'all should add Kodak Black, close to 5 arrests just in less than a year

      • profile image

        'Whitebread' the dapper rapper 

        10 months ago

        Rappers, more like crappers. Silly rabbit, rap is just a FRONT 4 criminal activity bro!!!! EVERY BODY knows that & talk about NO TALENT, NO CLASS LOW LIVES!!!! HAW!!!

      • profile image

        Unknown 

        11 months ago

        Suge knight also has a few conspiracies of killing biggie sooooo?

      • profile image

        Person 

        14 months ago

        You guys should add Kodak black he is charged with sexual assault probation stuff and drugs and fire arms

      • profile image

        unkown 

        14 months ago

        U forgot boosie he got charged with possession and almost got put on deathrow and there's a whole label that got indicted for cocaine charges

      • profile image

        DonDadda 

        15 months ago

        This list is missing all the real gangster rappers. Do your homework first. lil Wayne?? Lol

        SMDH

      • profile image

        Manwithacomputer 

        16 months ago

        Bobby Shrumda was the only real one.

      • profile image

        person 

        17 months ago

        chief keef was for more than those two things

      • peachpurple profile image

        peachy 

        3 years ago from Home Sweet Home

        Wow these rappers are chsrged with illegal possession

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