Bobby Shmurda Is Coming Home. What Happens Next?
It was less a specific dance sequence and more of a stylistic template: a pliant sway, a kind of two-step dressed up with silky swagger. The Shmoney Dance, 2014's viral craze, juxtaposed with the grimy lyrics of 19-year-old rapper Bobby Shmurda's breakthrough hit "Hot Boy," rocketed the kid from East Flatbush into pop culture's stratosphere. But then, just as quickly as he'd entered the spotlight, he disappeared.
Born Ackquille Pollard, Bobby Shmurda has spent the last six years serving time on illegal firearm and conspiracy charges, handed down as part of a major police takedown of his neighborhood crew, GS9. As NPR investigated in a three-part arc on Louder Than A Riot last fall, the story of his December 2014 arrest, just months after he signed to Epic records, goes deeper than one rapper's downfall. It's also the story of how police and prosecutors use conspiracy law to build steeper cases, how an entertainment industry that values authenticity can turn street crews in poor neighborhoods into prime targets of criminal investigation, and how the families who experience loss in the process can get lost in the shuffle.
In Bobby's absence, curiosity has mounted about the artist's potential return to music, burnished by a #FreeBobby campaign on social media and the mythmaking effect of his faithfulness to his crew through his trial and sentencing. Louder Than A Riot's reporting focused on the larger socio-political contexts for GS9's takedown, including RICO-like conspiracy charges being weaponized in communities of color and the criminalization of hip-hop personas. Now that he's getting out, he's going to be forced to grapple with many of those same pressures.
As reported in September 2020, Bobby was up for early parole in December but was denied. Now, according to the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, he has been granted a conditional release on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. While Bobby's family and friends prepare for his release, questions linger about his future, both in hip-hop and on the streets that made him. Here are a few factors to consider:
Louder Than A Riot hosts Sidney Madden and Rodney Carmichael joined NPR's Audie Cornish to discuss what might be next for Bobby Shmurda. Hear their full conversation at the audio link.
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