When jail gives you lemons, make “Lemonade.”
Let’s address the proverbial elephant in the room. Why are these two men in the same sentence?
Gucci Mane is a rapper who’s been known to assault his own fans.
Malcolm X is one of the greatest civil rights activists in American history.
Gucci Mane had an ice cream cone tattooed on his face to prove that he’s “so icy.”
Malcolm X only experienced ice cream with a spoon. His personality was far from cold, as he burned with passion from the inside out.
Yes, the two men are polar opposites in some regards. However, there is one common denominator that deserves attention. They both spent years in jail, and both came out more transformed than a Kardashian after plastic surgery. Let’s take a look at their lives before and after prison:
Gucci Mane (Before)
Born Radric Delantic Davis, Gucci Mane was raised in Atlanta and began rapping at 14 years old. At 25, he released his debut album, Trap House. Trap House was the beginning of Gucci’s rise in the music industry, though that came with some bitter consequences. Surprisingly, having a trap house wasn’t one of the main causes:
Gucci Mane was involved in the death of Young Jeezy’s associate Pookie Loc. Gucci and Young Jeezy were in a royalty payment dispute at the time of the murder. Gucci only spent a few months in prison because the judge ruled that he acted in self-defense.
Gucci violated his probation by only completing 25 out of his required 600 community service hours. He was incarcerated for six more months.
Gucci Mane had a giant ice cream cone tattooed on his face. When asked why, he replied, “I’m the coldest emcee in the game.”
Gucci was charged with assaulting his fans in two separate instances. He did three weeks in jail. Later that year, he was convicted on a number of charges, including firearm possession and disorderly conduct. He faced up to 20 years, but his guilty plea saved him time. As we now know, he would be released in 2016.
Malcolm X (Before)
Malcolm Little was born in 1925. Scholars believe that his father was murdered by the KKK when he was six. Amidst racial oppression, Malcolm had no father figure, and his mother was placed in an insane asylum. There was little income and no discipline for him. As a result, Malcolm got into some trouble:
At nine years old, Malcolm began stealing food from markets. Motivated by his burning hunger, he didn’t see an issue with it.
Malcolm was arrested for the first time at 19 years old. He had stolen his sister’s fur coat and pawned it. This arrest was unrelated to his ongoing involvement in prostitution rings, drug dealing, gambling, and mugging.
Malcolm’s reckless lifestyle caught up with him. He was sentenced to jail for participating in a Boston burglary ring. Malcolm would be locked up for six and a half years.
During the beginning of his time in prison, Malcolm spent his time pacing back and forth. Many of the inmates called him “Satan” because he frequently screamed curses at God and the Bible.
Malcolm Little and Radric Davis were not angels by any stretch of the imagination. But after serving their multi-year sentences in jail, they were almost unrecognizable:
Malcolm X (After)
Malcolm finally stopped cursing God and began to explore his interests. He became a voracious reader and began to learn about slavery and American history. Malcolm developed a love for knowledge so deep that he memorized the dictionary. Reflecting on his time in jail he said, “You couldn’t have gotten me out of books with a wedge.”
1948 – 1952:
Malcolm Little began his journey, changing his name to Malcolm X. His brother, who was thrown in jail with him in 1948, introduced him to the Muslim faith. It couldn’t have been easy, but drastic change almost never is. Malcolm went from cursing God to praising Allah as he joined the Nation of Islam.
1950s and ‘60s:
Malcolm X became one of the most powerful Civil Rights leaders in the United States. His passion for knowledge equipped him for the battles he fought against racial oppression in America. His speeches motivated millions, as “By Any Means Necessary” is still quoted today.
The transformation of Malcolm X wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for his prison time. Unlimited time in a dark, solitary cell is bound to provoke some sort of introspection. Gucci Mane had ample time for deep thought as well. Just look at how he changed:
Gucci Mane (After)
Although he was released only months ago, Gucci’s transformation has been widely acknowledged. Before jail time, he took pride in muttering indecipherable words. It was his swag, whether in interviews or the studio.
Nowadays, Gucci Mane speaks clearly. Social media exploded when they heard him using adjectives like “mind-blowing”. Some have even said his newest album (Everybody Looking) contains lyrics that are more intelligent and thought provoking than before.
Additionally, and maybe most importantly, Gucci Mane finally removed his face tattoo. The ice cream cone had to go.
If terminating the ice cream cone isn’t Gucci’s most valuable transformation, then it’s the fact that he cut back on eating ice cream itself. It’s easy to see how much weight he’s lost and there is no doubt that his time in prison triggered his lifestyle change.
In this way, Radric Davis and Malcolm Little leave similar legacies. They both emerged from prison with more influence than when they entered their cells. Malcolm X turned to Islam and changed the world. Gucci Mane had a nationwide prison release party that’s still going on as we speak…who else can do that?
The big difference between the two former prisoners is that Malcolm X’s entire story has already been written. He was assassinated 51 years ago. Gucci is only 36 years old and can make many more changes.
Will Gucci Mane come out as a Muslim next? Probably not, but he’s released at least three new songs since you started reading. He works fast.
To be clear, this was not written to encourage people to do some time in prison. It’s only to point out that when jail gave Malcolm and Gucci lemons, they made lemonade.
Speaking of Lemonade…