“Spiritually, I’ve never been more free in my life,” wrote the former Fugees confidant, who was sentenced to 14 years in prison in November after being found guilty of possession of 31 pounds of liquid cocaine with intent to distribute. “I am comfortable in my skin… [and] I have seen glimpses of life beyond these walls. One’s ‘state of mind’ can be equivalent to one’s ‘state of grace.’ My journey does not end here.”
His solo debut, the elegant gangsta album Poly Sci, was released in 1998 and executive produced by Wyclef. It featured songs such as “Ninety-Nine (Flash the Message)” – which sampled the 1984 Nena hit “99 Luftballons” – and was thick with boastful raps and a nonstop party atmosphere, including guest shots from DMX and Fat Joe.
If Poly Sci was the out-of-control party, I, John is the mellow morning after, a time of reckoning and assessment.
“Creatively, I wanted to evolve,” he said. “I didn’t and do not hate rhyming, I hate being labeled as… only a rapper. I am and have always been a musician. Every so-called ‘rapper’ I know is a musician first and foremost… We don’t just rap, we create music.”