Corey Miller raps under the name "C-Murder." Miller's new album, released last month, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard independent charts and was in the Top 5 on the Billboard R&B/hip-hop and rap charts. It's a feat made all the more remarkable by the fact that Miller recorded parts of the album and some of a video from inside the Jefferson Parish jail in Louisiana, serving a life sentence with no chance of parole for killing a 16-year-old at a nightclub.
Miller insists he is not glorifying criminality. So what does the lyric mean when he brags of doing things "you never heard-a?"
"Well for the fact that me doing this album in jail and doing my video," Miller told ABC News in a phone interview. "Just outstanding things, I mean as a black man, that a lot of people wouldn't be able to do or wouldn't even think about doing."
Why does the jewel box sticker of his album say "behind bars, still thuggin'?"
"It means I'm behind bars and I'm not changing who I am as a person," Miller said. "'Thuggin' to me means that I'm standing my ground and being the person I am."
What's perhaps most jarring about Miller's album is how accepted it is within the current climate of hip-hop to have a convicted murderer releasing albums from jail.
The revolving door between hip-hop and the criminal justice system is nothing new. In 1997, the founder of Death Row records, Marion "Suge" Knight, was sentenced to nine years in prison. Rap superstar Tupac Shakur also served time before being killed in 1996.
Even hip-hop mogul Sean "P Diddy" Combs -- with his fancy upscale clothing line and relatively benign lyrics that are the epitome of how mainstream rap and hip-hop have become -- has not been able to escape the violence that plagues the world of hip-hop. At a New York City nightclub six years ago, after a patron insulted Combs, a member of his entourage -- Jamal "Shyne" Barrow -- pulled a gun and fired into the crowd. From the prison where he is currently serving a 10-year sentence, Shyne recently signed a $3 million record contract with the Island Def Jam label, part of Universal.
And being in jail on weapons charges has not stopped Beanie Sigel's new album -- from Damon Dash Music Group -- from debuting at No. 3 on the Billboard charts.
It's a guilty pleasure, admits talk radio host Williams, who says that you cannot take the 'hood out of hip-hop. "Hip-hop is not necessarily from a household where said child goes off to Cornell and becomes a rapper," she said. "If that's the case then you'll have all hip-hop music sound like Will Smith. I'm from the suburbs, I'm raising a son, I don't want to hear happy rap. Isn't that terrible? But it's true."
"The blueprint now is an image that promotes all of the worst aspects of violent and anti-social behavior," said Source editor Mays. "It takes those real issues of violent life that occur in our inner cities, it takes them out of context."
Attorney Londell McMillan, who represents Lil' Kim and many other hip-hop performers, says the record labels and radio stations push the artists toward a more violent image. "They all seek to do things that are extraordinary," he said, "unfortunately it's been extraordinarily in the pain of a people. They are often encouraged to take a certain kind of approach to the art form."