The 25 Realest Rap Songs About Prison

Lifer's Group "Belly of the Beast" (1991)

Producer: Dr. Jam, Phaze 5
Album: 12" Only
Label: Hollywood BASIC

Although rap is often accused of glorifying criminal culture—something it unquestionably does—most songs explicitly about prison tend to be cautionary tales. Incarceration is almost always represented as a pretty awful way of life. But the Lifer's Group, a collective of New Jersey prisoners who rapped to benefit the Lifer's Group Juvenile Awareness Program (a.k.a. Scared Straight), made their warnings even more explicit.

Successfully parlaying hip-hop's authenticity fetish into a hook to keep kids out of the prison industrial complex, a group of convicts decided to share their experiences directly in song. Of course, many rappers (including some on this list) have also had extended prison stays, and as recording artists, the Lifer's Group were fairly one-note. But what other note could they possibly strike? Their artistic limitations served as a warning as much as their raps could. —David Drake

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