Free At Last: Chi Ali Speaks About His Time in Prison & Regrets Plus New Music (Exclusive Interview)

| October 17, 2012 | 0 Comments

 

Chi Ali Griffith aka Chi Ali began his life in what many would say was hip-hop dream. At the age of 13, Chi Ali was a full-fledged member of the legendary Native Tongues crew. Imagine being a young kid from the Bronx, and you’re expected to have your bars on par with the likes of Q-Tip, Pos One and Queen Latifah. His released his first album “The Fabulous Chi-Ali.” His first hit record “Age is just a number,” where he spoke grown-up lyrics to young girls telling them that “The girls look so good, but their brains are not ready. I’d rather talk to a grown woman, because her brain is so steady, ” was a product of that album. That classic line has gone on to be sampled plenty of times on other classic records, but many wouldn’t know the voice behind that line. There was a good reason for that.

In March of 2001 Chi Ali was arrested in the murder of Shawn Raymond, the brother of his baby mother. The two got into an altercation that ended in violence, and Chi Ali going on the run. His name was in the spotlights again in the 2000’s, but it was for being featured on Americas Most Wanted and a fugitive. He was later apprehended in New York and was sentenced to 12 years in prison for that crime. You would think he would fade away from the hip-hop scene forever.

That was not the case. In 2012, Chi Ali was released from prison a free man. His debt was paid to society and back to what he loved and was born to do, rap. Since he’s been out, he’s been spotted at video shoots and getting back into the mix of things. What is Chi Ali working? What does it feel like to be a free man? How did you maintain your mind in jail and do you have any regrets. Hip Hop Enquirer asks these questions and more to Chi Ali via phone as he cruises the streets a man not a number.

Hip Hop Enquirer: How does it feel to be free?

Chi Ali: It feels great to be home. It’s like a surreal feeling. I’m riding around now and laughing. I’m heading to the studio and I’m just laughing and enjoying life. It’s a feeling words can’t properly describe.

Hip Hop Enquirer: I’m not going to bring you all the way back to why you got locked up. Speak about how you maintained after going to jail?

Chi Ali: I maintained. Basically it was a situation where you really didn’t have a choice. You had to make lemons out of lemonade and make the best out of a bad situation and I was determined to do that. In the beginning I couldn’t see the end. What they say, ‘when in Rome, do what the Romans do.’” I got into a lot of dumb shit in the beginning. I worked my way through it and felt my way though and I found myself in prison. I worked on my body. I rested. Most of all, I took care of my mind. I read a lot of books. I got my associates degree. I found ways to keep my mind busy where I didn’t think about the time. I didn’t keep much contact on the outside either. That makes it harder for you to do the stretch.

Hip Hop Enquirer: Do you feel like in some way going to prison was for the good. Do you feel like it was a way of telling you something?

Chi Ali: Absolutely. I believe that everything happens for a reason. At some time in my lifetime, I did something’s in my early age. I was involved in a lot of mess that I shouldn’t have been involved in. I don’t think I did my time just for the case that I went in for. Everything you do in life catches up with you in the end. I think it was something I had to go through. It helped me to grow up.

Hip Hop Enquirer: What was it like when you got home and saw all the love that people showed?

Chi Ali: So far, everybody has been showing love. The old school guys are genuinely happy to see me back outside. The young dudes, most who have heard of me, were happy to see their kinfolk back on the streets. Nobody wants to be locked up. If you know someone who is locked up, then you can appreciate someone when they’re coming home.

Hip Hop Enquirer: I know you had a chance to perform some since you’ve been out. What was like being back on stage?

Chi Ali: I performed once with Skyzoo at A3C. That was pretty cool. I got to get my swag back. Critiquing myself, I feel like I got to loosen up a bit. Performing is one of those things where experience is the best teacher. You learn things based from experience. You’ll be able to see the crowd and see what the atmosphere is like. I think it’s one of those things you can’t teach someone.

Hip Hop Enquirer: I remember you back in the day as part of Native Tongues. For those who don’t know, tell us how you got into hip-hop.

Chi Ali: I got into hip-hop through Queen Latifah. She used to be around my way in the Bronx, Cobb City. All the rappers would come through. I was the kid, so I was in awe of seeing all the familiar faces I would see on Rap City and Yo Mtv Rap. I started hanging out with them. I would run to the store and things of that nature.

Hip Hop Enquirer: Speak about Chris Lighty and his influence on your life in rap.

Chi Ali: I met Chris Lighty, Baby Chris. Rest in Peace Chris Lighty. We hooked up and he had happening to be working on a deal with Relativity Records for his Violator imprint. U told him I could rap. He put me on stage with the Jungle Brothers. They thought I was going to scared or nervous. I was scared, but I went on. Chris said after the show that he wanted to sign me. It was history ever since….Chris was a mentor. You have to remember that I knew Chris was as big as he is now. I mean, he was always big to me. Back when he was a roady for the Jungle Brothers, who in my mind was the biggest artist in the world. He was big in my eyes. He always did things the right way. I’ve been around a lot of positivity and negativity and he showed me no negativity. Chris showed me nothing but positivity. He never brought me around weed or drugs or guns. Chris kept it music with me and I think he kept it music in his life. He was one of the few people that in the world that I would say was a good dude. You won’t find many people who would say anything bad about Chris.

Hip Hop Enquirer: So what are you working on now? Do you have a mixtape or EP you’re working on?

Chi Ali: I have a mixtape/EP I’m working on. Nothing definite just yet, everything is tentative. We don’t have any titles or things like that yet. I have about 11 songs right now. I want to have about 20-30 songs ready and pick the best 10. It it’s going to be an EP, I just want to make sure I put out quality material and stay relevant with the music and stay relevant to my old school fan base.

Hip Hop Enquirer: Can you speak on some of the people you will be working with and some of the producers on the project?

Chi Ali: Fat Joe, Maino, Mysonne. I have a lot of stuff that’s tentative, in the works. I don’t want to say anything until it happens. As far as the beats, I’m down in D.C. today working with my dude Hollywood, Showbiz from Show & AG and Premier. I bumped into Illmind at the A3C and I ran into Just Blaze and 9th Wonder, all people I’ll probably be doing stuff with but nothing has happened yet. It’s all in the works, just trying to put everything together and work fast to put out quality work.

Hip Hop Enquirer: Looking back on your life, from the beginning of your career to where you at now, including jail. Is there anything that you look back and regret?

Chi Ali: I regret the crime I did to come to prison. I was in an emotional state and I allowed my emotions to supersede my intelligence. I regret that because I took a life. I definitely send my condolences to the family of Shawn Raymond….That’s my biggest regret. I was involved in a lot of street activities that I wasn’t proud of and I do regret that. I think it made me a better person, but I still too from my community. I don’t think a person should be proud of that.

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