By Stacy Jenel Smith and Stephanie DuBois
Rick James, who skyrocketed to fame in the 70s and 80s with such hits as "Mary Jane," "Give It to Me Baby" and "Super Freak" was sentenced in 1994 to five years in Folsom Prison on assault and drug charges, but was released after two years. The funkmeister says his life was turned around by his time spent in. "I don't ever want to go back," he said of his time in jail. "And I don't ever want my freedom taken away. I don't ever want to get drugged out to the point where I could go through all that s--- that I went through - all that defamation and degradation crap. I don't want to lay my hands on anybody. I've lived through overdoses, I've lived through prison and I'm still here. I'm in a more spiritual place now." James says he wrote some 300 songs while in prison. "I was just laying my heart and soul out and really reflecting on my life and how I ended up in this position." He went on to do the lackluster, "Urban Rhapsody" album before having a stroke a couple of years ago. He's said he wants to share the lessons he's learned with today's youths. his first album in nine years. He has kicked his habit and his old ways, he says, and wants to concentrate on family and his music. "I've wasted a lot of time doing drugs and wasted a lot of my life being self-indulgent with bull---- ," he says. "I want to talk to kids about the evil of crack abuse and the goodness of staying in school and the results one can get without doing drugs. I never wanted to be a role model, but somebody has to tell them. It was a revelation I had in prison."Bobby Brown seems to be making a career of going in and out of jail. In February he was back after being found in violation of his probation. The judge found Brown, 35, in violation of several conditions of his release, including refusing to submit to a drug test, failing to pay his court-supervision fees in a timely manner, failing to provide proof that he completed his substance-abuse rehabilitation program and not complying with the terms of his house arrest. The judge also ordered the singer back to jail because he'd failed to stay out of trouble -- having been charged with misdemeanor battery for allegedly striking his wife, Whitney Houston, following an argument. Brown is scheduled for a May 5 preliminary hearing in that case.
James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, who was arrested in January on charges of domestic violence, is no stranger to prison. At age 15, he served three years of an 8-year sentence for stealing clothes out of cars. His career already in decline for several years, Brown found himself in trouble with the law again in 1988 when his wife accused him of assault and battery. After a year of legal and personal troubles, Brown led police on an interstate car chase. He was arrested and charged with assault, carrying a pistol without a license and assaulting a police officer among other things. Brown was sentenced to 6 years in prison, but was paroled after serving two years. He released a couple of albums since then, but has never regained the luster of his early success. He was recently honored at the Kennedy Center as "one of the most influential musicians of the past 50 years" and continues to tour.
"Spy Kids" actor Danny Trejo did stints in both Folsom prison and San Quentin on drug and robbery convictions. While in prison he began winning boxing bouts and through a 12-step rehab program was able to overcome his addictions. He got his first film break by sheer accident in 1985 when he went to meet a young man he was supporting in Cocaine Anonymous on the set of "Runaway Train" and was offered a role as a convict, natch. Also on set was a screenwriter who'd done time with Trejo in San Quentin. Remembering Trejo's boxing skills, he hired Trejo to train the actors for a boxing match. The director saw him training the film's star, Eric Roberts, and immediately offered him a feature role as Roberts' opponent in the movie. Trejo has since starred in such films as "Mi Vida Loca," "Desperado" and "Once Upon a Time in Mexico."
Former "Motley Crue" rocker Tommy Lee, spent several months behind bars in 1998 after his then-wife, Pamela Anderson
accused him of hitting her in front of their children. Lee, who'd decided to break off with Motley Crue after getting out of prison, began writing tunes for his album, "Methods of Mayhem" while serving his term. He reportedly was so concerned that guards and cellmates might steal his material, he used his designated phone time to call his answering machine and leave recorded lyrics and melodies. Tommy and Pamela divorced while he was in prison, then reconciled only to break up again after his release. (Lately it's looking like another reconciliation is in the works?)
Gangsta rap icon-cum-martyr Tupac Shakur's legendary rise actually spiraled after he was sentenced to four and a half years in prison at New York's Riker's Island Penitentiary for sexual abuse. While in jail, his third album "Me Against The World" debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts, spent four weeks at number one and went platinum in seven months. Tupac reportedly kept himself busy in jail reading, and writing music. He's also told Vibe Magazine that his jail time had caused him to rethink his lifestyle. "Thug Life to me is dead. If it's real, let somebody else represent it, because I'm tired of it," Shakur told Vibe magazine. "I represented it too much. I was Thug Life." When Tupac's case was appealed after eight months, Death Row Records head, Suge Knight bailed him out jail and promptly signed him to his record label. Shakur's double album Death Row debut, "All Eyez On Me," sold more than 5 million copies, scored a number one single, and included tracks with new label mate, Snoop Doggy Dogg, and Dr. Dre.