For Chi-Ali, It’s ‘Surreal To Be Back In The Free World’ After Prison

(Chi-Ali on life before and after prison)

By Nadeska Alexis with reporting by Dino Speelberg

Bronx rapper, Chi-Ali, returned home at the end of August after serving 12 years out of a 14-year prison sentence and MTV News caught up with the former Native Tongues MC out in Miami (where he kicked back with Fat Joe) for a special “RapFix Live” segment.  Ali was 16 when he released his debut ’92 The Fabulous Chi-Ali with the hit “Age Ain’t Nothin’ but a #” but, a second-degree murder charge cut his career short. Upon his return, Chi-Ali admits, “The feeling is surreal to be back.”

In 2000 Chi-Ali, born Chi Ali Griffith, spent over a year eluding capture after the shooting death of his then-girlfriend’s brother Sean Raymond, and he was eventually arrested on March 5, 2001 in the Bronx, New York. This week he told MTV News that those months on the road got him ready for  the reality of life behind bars.

“My preparation for the bid, I believe, was done [during] the 15 months that I was on the run,” he said. “I wasn’t technically a fugitive, because it wasn’t like I got locked up and jumped bail or anything. When the situation happened, I just left–but I knew what it was. [During] that time I spent a lot of time up and down the East Coast, and I was alone most of the time and that time really helped me prepare.”

The 36-year-old says he was able to cut down a little bit of his sentence, but still tried to put some of his incarcerated time to use. “I was charged with a homicide, I ended up taking a plea deal and they lessend the charge to manslaughter in the first degree,” he explained. “I was sentenced to 14 years and I did 12 years out of the 14. I got a little time off for good behavior and I got my associate’s degree while I was away so they gave me six monthsextra time off.”

After more than a decade behind bars, Chi-Ali had trouble explaining exactly how it felt to be free, but he tried his best. ”The feeling is surreal to be back in the free world, to be among my family, kids, wife, parents, siblings…it’s a feeling that words can’t really describe properly, so I don’t think I can do it the proper justice. Being incarcetaed is a whole different world–it’s a world within itself.”