While it was Akon who famously sang, “I’m locked up/ They won’t let me out,” his miniature stint in the pen is nothing in comparison to many other sentences handed out in the hip-hop community. With bigger incarcerations coming in the form of Chi-Ali, who has just come home after a 12-year bid for manslaughter; and ex-Bad Boy rapper Shyne, who was released in 2009 after serving a nine-year sentence for attempted murder, assault, and reckless endangerment; it seems as if jail time and hip-hop, at times, go hand in hand.
Enter Tab Virgil, Jr., better known by his stage name Turk.
A Cash Money Records ex-signee, the New Orleans rhymer was a member of the highly successful group the Hot Boys. Alongside Lil’ Wayne, B.G. and Juvenile, with Baby aka Birdman, Slim, and Mannie Fresh overseeing things, Turk and the crew quite literally took over the airwaves between the years of 1998 and 2002. Selling records in their millions as a label, Turk’s only solo effort with Cash Money came in the form of the Gold selling 2001 release Young & Thuggin’.
After leaving the label disputing financial differences, Turk’s world would evidently be turned upside down in 2005 when he was convicted on federal charges of being a felon in possession of a firearm, a fugitive from justice in possession of a firearm, and an unlawful user addicted to a controlled substance in possession of a firearm. With all of these charges stemming from the shooting of a police officer early 2004, it was obvious that Turk was in hot water and there was no way of cooling it down.
Serving his time whilst also releasing a few albums in the process, Turk was finally released in October 2012 and Soul Culture were granted some time with the unsung Hot Boy.
“Life is good,
you know what I’m saying?,” he states excitedly when asked how it feels to now be a free man after so much time. “I’m back in the hood. [It’s great] not being told what to do and when to do it. I got my everything back laying to the side of me (referring to his fiancee). Everything’s gravy.”
While previous release stories that relate to rappers being freed from prison feature limos, money and women, the first thing Young Turk did was very, dare we say, un-gangsta; “[I] took a bubble bath with bubbles all the way up to my neck. It felt like a dream.” On the list of activities completed upon his exit, praising the almighty was number one on his priorities list; “First thing I did was thank God… [I wanted to] let him know how much I appreciated it, and how grateful I am to be released after all of those years.”
Reflecting on his time locked up, the lessons learnt seem to have really made an impact on his thought process. “I learnt that no matter what you choose in life, whether it be bad or good, you’re gonna have to reap what you sow.” He adds, “Now that I’m older – I’m 31-years-old – I try to do more good things than bad things. [I want to] try to treat people the way I wanna be treated. I’m not perfect but I strive for perfection.”
“The only thing I wish I had done differently was never picking up any drugs.
“It was the reason for my self-destruction from the beginning.”
“I don’t regret anything that I ever did in my life because it made me who I am today. But if I could have changed anything it would have been that first time I picked up drugs. [However,] it made me the person that I am today so I guess it was all in God’s will for me to go through it all to become a man.”
Attributing his focus whilst away to God on more than one occasion, it was also the support of his fiancee that kept him from straying from the straight and narrow; “What kept me focused was my spirituality and knowing that as long as I believe in God there’s nothing I can’t do. Then I had the support system in my fiancee. She stood by me the whole time that I’ve been gone.
“I had a strong woman and I had God.”
Not dwelling on the mistakes made, Turk’s intentions coming up were not to include any form of wrong doings. In fact, rap wasn’t even on his agenda first time around let alone crime. “I came up playing football,” he explains. “I started playing football for high school and then the rap game was just something that came. I used to want to be able to help my mom out. I come from a single parent household so my mom used to work two jobs.”
The New Orleans native breaks down his infiltration in to the game. “The street life just wasn’t getting it,” he further insists. “All of my homeboys were getting locked up and doing this and doing that. That’s something I didn’t want so I chose to do the rap thing.
“As soon as I started taking it seriously things started happening for me. Then one day Baby and Slim wound up coming to the Magnolia, and they had a female artist, Magnolia Shorty, rest in peace, that used to be signed to Cash Money. She introduced me to Baby and Slim, as well as Mannie Fresh, who was DJin’ at the time. They gave me a card and told me to come to the studio and the rest is history. We just put it down after that.”
Going on to describe what life as a Hot Boy was like, Turk at first didn’t see the success as much as everyone else. “Back then I just wasn’t feeling like [we were as big as] people said we was.” Continuing on, he adds, “It wasn’t something that just happened overnight. The world just caught on to the music that we came with. But when you’re in it you can’t really see. You know what I’m saying? So I didn’t really have any kind of feeling about it. I was just doing what I wanted to do at the time 0 and that was rap and being able to provide for my family. It was a good feeling being able to do that.”
Acknowledging that he learnt a few things from his time at Cash Money, he says of his experience,
“I learnt that hard work pays off.”
“If you grind and stay focused then you’re gonna reap what you sow. You gotta make it a lifestyle in order for it to happen.”
The benefits of being part of a multi-platinum label are endless – however for Turk it was more about the relationships than any material gain. “Me and [Lil’] Wayne were really close. We used to do a lot of things together. Me and B.G. got close a little later down the line. Then me and Juvenile were close in our own way… We all just had different relationships. So that was the good thing about it. We all came together, worked and knew what it was. We were straight getting it in. We put everything else to the side.”
Time and time again stories are told that relate directly to the music industry where naysayers and individuals with negative input put an unwanted spin on success. “The worst thing about being on top is you get people coming from out of everywhere and they like to get in your ear.” He adds, “In spite of it all you’ve gotta be able to watch [and] pay attention because a lot of things are coming at you at one time. It can be very stressful and can cause your own destruction if you don’t catch it.”
While he said, she said talk might have contributed to Turk’s departure from Cash Money, it was in fact the latter part of the label’s name that began to break up the crew. “The money was funny,” he admits. Switching from the negative to a positive, the now independent rapper adds, “Birdman called me the other day. We’re all grown up now. Back then we were all young. I actually did a song with them the other day [referring to the Mystikal and Mack Maine featured “I’m On It”].
“I believe everything will be on the up and up now that we’re older. When you’re younger you make crazy decisions. You don’t know no better. So if you don’t know no better you ain’t gonna do no better, but when you know better you’re gonna do better. I just believe that was a time in our life where we were meant to learn, and you have to learn from experience. Experience is the best teacher.”
With talk for years of a Hot Boys reunion, the question had to be asked. “The Hot Boys reunion is something that the fans want and I’d love to give that to ‘em,” he makes clear. “That’s why if it’s in God’s will then it will happen.”
Referencing B.G.’s recent 14-year sentence for gun possession and witness tampering, Turk lets it be known that it can never be a full Hot Boy reunion because of this hiccup. “The Hot Boys is me, B.G., Juvenile, and Wayne. Without all four members it ain’t gonna be right. Fans will be like, “Man, it didn’t have B.G. on it,” or, “Man, it didn’t have Turk on it.” So all we can do now is do songs together and free B.G.. Hopefully the fans will be pleased with that, but I doubt it because so many people want that old thing back.”
Briefly touching on B.G.’s imprisonment, Turk claims to not have any advice for his Hot Boy brethren – “B.G. a man so he know what to do. I can’t really speak no advice to him because he already knows. I’m gonna hold him down while I’m out here. You know what I’m saying?
“It’s free B.G. in everything I do.”
While the Hot Boys were huge in an era where selling records was just that bit easier, they were incredibly popular. However, Lil’ Wayne appears to be the only member who has truly achieved worldwide superstardom. Now a boss, and one of the biggest rappers on the planet, Turk says it’s no surprise he’s as popular as he is.
“He’s a megastar and he always has been. I salute Lil’ Wayne. I respect everything that he doing and everything he bringing to the table. He’s opened up so many doors for other people. He’s doing his thing right now. I can’t say anything but. I’m proud of him. We’ve sat in hotel rooms plenty of times and we never thought it would ever be as big as it is, but me knowing the work that he put in it’s no surprise.”
Speaking of Lil’ Wayne, racking up a lot of jail time between them, it’s rare that all official members of a group, post fame, have all be arrested and sentenced to hard time. With that said it seems that trouble just can’t help but follow the four New Orleans spitters. Turk’s take on it all comes down to a person’s environment.
“It’s all about the City that we come from,” he explains. “If you’re doing certain things and ain’t completely stopped doing things, it’s called karma. It’ll come back to haunt you. It might not be something you’re doing right now. It might be something you did in your past that comes back to haunt you. You gotta pay for that. So everything you do you gonna be held accountable for in some way or another.”
With years of lost time to make up for, Turk’s focus is solely on working harder than the next guy. Attempting to build an empire isn’t easy but he believes it possible. Following his recent mixtape, Blame It On The System, he’s also working on an autobiography, a double CD, and a screenplay called Reckless About My Life.
“I’m working on a foundation which gives back to the youth,” he adds. “It’s called T.H.U.G.G.I.N., which is an acronym for Taking Hardships and Using God’s Gift In spite of Negativity. I just want to show the youth there’s a better way to live than the way that they’re living now with me being a role model and showing them how to live right.
“You can always be an actor or a rapper but you’re gonna need to live what you’re saying. Like Denzel Washington in Training Day. He’s a bad cop but he’s not a bad cop when he goes home. You’ve gotta know the difference and I think a lot of youngsters out there don’t know the difference.
“They try to live the life of a rapper, but the rappers ain’t really living that life.”
With so much to say and many experiences to recount, Turk’s album should be eventful by any standard. Claiming that the Turk people grew to love will still make an appearance, there’ll also be a few extras added on for a more refined feel. “The music is still gonna be young and thuggin’, just grown up,” he reassures his original fans.
“I’m gonna be talking more about the jail stuff that I went through, and just my life. [I’ll be] talking about my drug addictions. A lot of people out there are trapping and hustling on the block. I can’t talk about that because I ain’t doing that.