Hip Hop News

C-Bo Goes Back To Jail
Over Rap Lyrics

March 6 1998

Bay Area rap star Shawn Thomas aka C-Bo has been going through some major drama.. In case you're not familiar.. Here's a guy who has made a name for himself by being a hardcore 'gangsta' rapper... He thus far has sold lots of units and has amassed lots of fans.. Before becoming an artist, C-Bo was out on the streets 'grindin' [selling dope].. He was also gang bangin'.. It was in this capacity that he garnered a bit of a reputation which eventually led to him being sent to jail. Last June C-Bo was granted parole from Folsom State Prison under one condition... That he no longer do any gangsta rap... This is where the trouble begins...

To start, the constitutionality of such a law is questionable.. Whether you like it or not..doing gangsta rap is not a crime.. It's no more a crime then an actor like Robert De Niro or Al Pacino playing a Mafia role in 'gangsta' movie like The Godfather... It's entertainment. But unfortunately rappers who rap about being criminals are seen in a different light. C-Bo did what most people in his situation would do.. He agreed to no longer record gangsta rap so he could get out of jail. Who wouldn't ?

The question then arises as to what constitutes gangsta rap? If C-Bo were to do a song that depicted him blasting away Saddam Husseim, would that be gangsta rap? In C-Bo's case the California State parole board stipulated that he could not engage in any behavior which promotes the gang lifestyle, criminal behavior or violence towards law enforcement...This controversial piece of legislation is a part of the increased crack down by law enforcement designed to stop the spread of gangs.

The next question that arises centers around the rights of the government.in interpreting art and other forms of self expression? In C-Bo's case they apparently did.. His new album 'Til My Casket Drops' had the parole board deeming ever song as a violation of his parole.. The most blatant song was a cut called 'Deadly Game' in which C-Bo talks about shooting a police officer... The result of all this was C-Bo being arrested and sent back to prison for parole violation.. He could be put away for up to a year..

According to folks within C-Bo's camp and his label AWOL Records.. C-Bo was put in a coercive situation.. He was told he could get out of jail provided he doesn't say certain things within his music...That's good in all, however, C-Bo has a recording contract with AWOL Records which states that C-Bo is supposed to perform a certain genre of music... 'We signed C-Bo because of his original rap style.. we don't make any money if he all of a sudden changes up', said label president Bobby G.. He went on to add that C-Bo has come from a lifestyle in which all he knows is reflected in the music.. Yes he can be adventurous and try and stretch out and explore new avenues.. But C-Bo has up until now earned his living putting forth a certain type of rap.. He becomes seriously handicapped if you take that right away from him... Bobby G went on to add that as a record label they have the final say as to what material gets released on an album.. So even if C-Bo was to do a 'positive' song the label would still have the option of not releasing it...The label is not in the business to adhere to parole conditions but instead to make money... The whole deal put C-Bo in a catch 22 situation. If C-Bo's not allowed to do 'gangsta rap' then you position him to not be able to make a living.. If C-Bo is not able to make a living.. he runs the risk of returning to a life of crime and drug dealing where the financial rewards were are potentially more lucrative...

In looking at the larger picture, one has to be concerned about the type of conditions the California State Parole Board can put on parolees.. Today they can disallow 'gangsta rap'.. and for the most part a lot of people can readily agree or at least see the point behind this.. However, later down the road they may stipulate that a parolee can't associate with certain political parties and organizations.. Pretty soon this same parole board will control the type of food one eats and who they sleep with.. It seems far fetched now.. But just a few years ago telling someone they couldn't do 'gangsta' rap would've seemed far fetched..My question at this point is.. 'would C-Bo have been violating his parole if he was hired to play a Mafia king pen in a movie? Or what if he did a song about embezzlement or running a red light?

On the other hand, one has to look at what the reality is for people who are on parole.. As one parole officer put it..'Being on parole does not mean you are free.. It means you are still under the jurisdiction and control of the penal system.. Parole is an extension of that.. It means your freedom is limited.' Hence while all of us may be disturbed by C-Bo's situation, he may not have much of a leg to stand on especially if he agreed to the conditions put forth by the Parole Board.. Some of these conditions may vary from inmate to inmate.. In this instance.. C-Bo on his own free will agreed to abide by a certain set of rules.. By putting material on his album that was deemed offensive... He violated those rules and thus should suffer the consequences.. Remember Parolees can not leave town without permission... even though the constitution allows for us to freely move around.. Parolees can not hang out with certain types of folks.. i.e. gang members and other known criminals.. They can't do this even though the constitution gives us a right to freely assemble and associate.. So in C-Bo's case he couldn't do 'gangsta' rap even though the constitution guarantees us freedom of speech...

The other question that gets raised centers around the scientific proof about the effect music has on one's behavior.. While we all have strong opinions about this... it's been hard to 'officially' determine what is actually the case.One thing is for certain... all this leads to us looking at a much larger picture... It also opens up the age old discussion about hip hop and it's negative lyrics... Finally we have to acknowledge that C-Bo will become a household name before this is all over... He now joins the ranks of NWA, Eazy E, Luke and Ice T to name a few..all of them being artist who have went up against what is oftentimes an oppressive and reactionary system... One last note, at the time of this writing.. it was noted that C-Bo maybe getting out of jail within two weeks.. All this controversy may have led to the charges being dropped...We'll keep you posted as these things develop.

written by
Davey D

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