No Limit Records rapper McKinley “Mac” Phipps has been behind bars for 21 years for a crime he claims he didn’t commit, and now it looks like he could be receiving clemency.
According to a report from The Huffington Post on Monday (Feb. 22), the Louisiana Board of Pardons and Parole recommended earlier this week that Mac, 43, be made eligible for parole immediately. The parole board apparently voted unanimously for the New Orleans rapper’s release, but the ultimate decision is up to Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards. If Mac’s clemency is approved, he will have to sit before the parole board once more.
The hip-hop artist, who played a pivotal role in Master P’s No Limit Records empire in the late 1990s, was convicted of manslaughter in 2001, in connection to the February 2000 shooting at Club Mercedes in Slidell, La., which killed 19-year-old Barron “Bookie” Victor Jr. Mac was sentenced to 30 years behind bars.
Mac’s wife, Angelique Phipps, seemed hopeful of the new update in her husband’s case. “Today’s been a good day,” she said. “It’s kind of the beginning of the road to freedom, but there’s still some more bases to go. It’s a start. One step closer.”
She added, “Not only is this amazing for us, but I believe that it also provides hope for those in comparable situations. Our goal is in sight, and we will get to the finish line.”
Back in 2015, an investigation led by The Medhill Justice Project sparked doubt regarding a key witness testimony. Thus, offering hope for Mac’s release due to false imprisonment.
As far as the details of the incident, Mac was present at the club that night to help promote an open mic event. His mother, father, friends and associates were there as well. Mac was arrested and charged with second-degree murder, which according to Louisiana is when “the offender has a specific intent to kill or to inflict great bodily harm.”
Mac’s account from the night of the shooting is that he was observing the venue trying to determine whether or not he should perform due to lack of crowd attendance. When he came out of the bathroom, he noticed commotion near the front of the stage, then heard a gunshot. Mac says he was concerned about his mother as she was collecting his appearance fee at the door.
The case appears to have been riddled with questionable testimonies.
A man named Thomas Williams, who worked as Mac’s security on the night of the shooting, confessed to the incident less than two weeks after it happened. Williams turned himself in to the St. Tammany Sheriff’s Office and claimed that the deceased victim—Barron Victor Jr.—had approached him with a broken beer bottle. Williams said he acted in self-defense. His testimony was later dismissed in court because the St. Tammany Sheriff claimed it didn’t match up with the physical evidence.
The key witness, victim Victor’s cousin, Nathaniel Tillison, claimed that he saw Mac fire shots at the victim from point-blank range. However, other witnesses from the club contradicted Tillison’s version of the story, but also placed him at locations where he wouldn’t have been able to see the shooting. Tillison also said that Mac was the aggressor, but in a prior testimony, he identified one of the rapper’s associates as the aggressor. Apparently, he also claimed to a deputy at the St. Tammany Sheriff’s Office that he saw another man with a gun, saying, “If Mac didn’t do the shooting, you know who did.”
A woman named Yulon James admitted to not seeing the incident, but in a 2013 affidavit, James said St. Tammany law enforcement coerced her into making Mac out to be the shooter.
Meanwhile, Mac and his mother felt that No Limit Records artists were being targeted by authorities at the time. They also believed that Mac was named as the shooter because he was an identifiable face.
When it came to the trial, there appears to have been inconsistent testimonies and a lack of forensic evidence, so law officials turned to Mac’s music as a defense in the case, using rhymes from his 1998 Shell Shocked album, particularly the song “Murda, Murda, Kill, Kill.” But Mac’s mother said these records were based on accounts the rapper heard from his father who was in the military and fought in the Vietnam War.
It’s also important to note that although there were firearms at Mac’s home—he had a gun on him that night as well—none of the ammunition matched the firearm that killed Victor. The murder weapon was never found and there hasn’t been any physical evidence that would’ve connected Mac to the shooting.
Also, in 2016, The Huffington Post released a report on jurors at Mac’s 2001 trial that did not receive the full story of the case and pertinent information was kept from Mac’s defense attorney. The report said the jury “never heard the testimony of Jerry Price, who says Tillison was outside Club Mercedes in Slidell, where the concert took place, and couldn’t have seen the shooting.”
Mac is not the only No Limit rapper who’s fortunes have taken a wrong turn for the worst In 2009, rapper C-Murder (real name Corey Miller) was sentenced to life in prison after he was convicted of murdering 16-year-old Steven Thomas, who was shot and killed at a Louisiana nightclub in 2002. The case, which was recently brought back to attention, in BET’s new doc-series No Limit Chronicles, proved controversial, with two key witnesses recanting their 2018 testimonies, alleging that they were pressured into identifying Miller as the shooter by both police and prosecutors.
Before Cory was living up to his name in 2003, MYSTIKAL Born: Michael Tyler; New Orleans , Louisiana , 16 January 1975 was indicted on charges of sexual battery and extortion. On January 15, 2004, he was sentenced to six years in prison after pleading guilty to forcing his hairstylist to perform sex acts. He served the full six years of his sentence and was released on January 14, 2010 and more recently in 2020 Prosecutors dropped rape and kidnapping charges against New Orleans rapper Mystikal, The rapper had been indicted again in 2017 but a second Caddo Parish grand jury returned a no true bill clearing Mystikal, “Additional evidence and information were discovered and the case was resubmitted to this second Grand Jury in the interest of justice,” the statement said.
Rappers That Also Went To Jail
On Nov. 3, 2015, police raided Lil Wayne’s Miami Beach mansion with a levy warrant, which is used to seize property, due to unpaid debts in relation to a judge’s ruling that the rapper be ordered to pay $2 million to jet leasing company Signature Group in a civil suit. Lil Wayne, who was not at home during the time of the raid, would comment on the raid via Twitter, writing, “It’s days like 2day dat make me ? everything,even myself But I guess dis is da thx I get. Sum times it’s tough 2b tough & even tougher 2b me.” He also referred to to the women in his immediate family as his motivation for pushing on.
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One of the more infamous raids to occur in hip-hop happened on Dec. 18, 2014, when Brooklyn rapper Bobby Shmurda and members of his GS9 crew were arrested during a raid at Quad Studios in Manhattan, N.Y. as a result of a lengthy investigation of the Brooklyn-based crew. The raid, which came at the height of Bobby Shmurda’s popularity, uncovered 21 guns, crack cocaine and marijuana. The incident would rock the rap community, who had positioned Shmurda as a budding star in the game. Ultimately, Bobby Shmurda would plea to conspiracy, weapons possession and promoting prison contraband and be sentenced to four years in prison, with the majority of his cohorts being hit with even more serious amounts of jail-time for their own involvement in the case. He’s since had time added to his prison sentence.
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On Jan. 16, 2007, DJ Drama and Don Cannon found themselves in hot water after officers from the Morrow County Sheriff’s Joint Vice Task Force and the Clayton County Police raided the pair’s Atlanta-based Aphilliates Music Group offices. Drama and Cannon were arrested on felony charges under the RICO Act. During the raid, 81,000 mixtapes were confiscated, as well as computers, recording equipment and four cars. Although DJ Drama and Don Cannon would not face any jail time, the raid was a big blow to the mixtape game, and stands as a pivotal moment in rap history.
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Many may point to Murder Inc.’s beef with 50 Cent’s G-Unit crew and affiliates as the catalyst for the label’s fall from grace, but an investigation into Murder Inc.’s business dealings with a notorious drug lord would also be crippling and have lasting ramifications. On Jan. 3, 2003, in the wee hours of the morning, a team of FBI agents and NYPD investigators arrived at Universal Music Group’s Manhattan location, raiding the Murder Inc. offices, going as far as to bring along drug-sniffing dogs in an effort to find any dirt on Irv Gotti and his company that they could. Although authorities would confiscate documents and laptops, no arrests would be made the day of the raid. However, two years later, Irv Gotti and his brother, Chris Gotti, would be charged with laundering over $1 million in drug profits for Kenneth “Supreme” McGriff, the leader of the Supreme Team, a criminal organization that controlled the drug trade in Jamaica, Queens and beyond during the 1980s. Although McGriff would be found guilty of murder conspiracy and drug trafficking, Irv Gotti and his brother would be acquitted on all charges in 2005. This was one of the more high-profile criminal cases in rap history.
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Gillie Da Kid
Philly rapper Gillie Da Kid found himself within the long arms of the law on Feb. 6, 2007, when the former Cash Money affiliate was arrested and accused of running two drug stash houses in the Oxford Circle section of his hometown. He was apprehended while leaving one of the locations with five other associates in a fleet of luxury cars. Officials received a tip that the buildings were a hotbed for drug activity. Gillie would be charged with conspiracy and possessing narcotics with the intent to deliver after officers raided the two homes and found upwards of 89 pounds of marijuana, with a street value of over $404,000 according to Narcotics Capt. Chris Werner. Although Gillie would be accused of supplying various drug dealers all over the city of Philadelphia and beyond, in 2008, the rapper would be cleared of all charges.
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Seven years ago, Atlanta rapper Waka Flocka Flame’s Georgia home was raided in relation to an investigation into possible prostitution and evidence of guns and drugs at the location. And although Waka Flocka was not home at the time of the raid on Dec. 16, 2010, rapper Gucci Mane was—he lived with Waka and his mother for a period of time. Gucci was cuffed after police found weapons and a small amount of marijuana on the scene, but he would be subsequently released. Waka Flocka’s mother would also claim that police were looking for evidence of her son being affiliated with any street gangs, with Waka adding that the notion that he would be gang-banging is a hilarious one and a reach on the cops’ part.
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Nipsey Hussle was set to hit the stage at the 2014 Made in America music festival, but a police raid that occurred hours prior to his scheduled performance threw those plans off course. On Aug. 29, 2014, LAPD arrived at Slauson Avenue Clothing in L.A.’s Hyde Park section in response to a probation complaint search, arresting the man in question, as well as Nipsey Hussle. The rapper missed his scheduled performance that day, but posted a $13,000 bail to ensure that he would be able to rock the house on the second day of the Made in America festival.
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On Feb. 2, 2011, Harlem rapper and Dipset member Juelz Santana surrendered to authorities and was charged with various felony drug offenses after a January 2011 raid of his New Jersey music studio. The search turned up two fully loaded handguns, ammunition and 17 plastic Ziplock bags of marijuana. The raid, which was the culmination of what authorities say was a 10-month-long investigation, resulted in Santana being charged with possession of a handgun without having a permit, possession with intent to distribute a controlled dangerous substance within 1,000 feet of a school zone and two other similar counts. The rhymer would post $125,000 bail and claim that he was being unfairly targeted by the police, a gripe that is not new within the hip-hop community.
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Canadian rapper Belly was very unhappy with Ottawa police following an August 2008 raid on his home in the city’s outskirts. Officers from various law enforcement departments executed a search warrant for firearms, busting down the rapper’s door with a battering ram and even attempting to break a camera, which captured the incident. Much of the rapper’s belongings were tossed around in the search of any contraband. While authorities found imitation firearms, no sign of criminal activity was present and no charges would be filed against Belly, which did little to appease the rapper.
“I’m so twisted up about [the raid] right now. I have so many mixed emotions about it—I get angry, then I get sad, then I get frustrated. It’s like I got nowhere to turn about it,” Belly said to reporters after the incident. “Every musician knows your studio is like—it’s a bubble for you. It’s a personal space. This is where I work, where I create. It’s crazy. I just feel like this is violation.”
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Paul Wall’s drink of choice may have been lean during his rise to fame, but in 2016, the rapper got caught in a controversy involving a drug of a different variety. On Dec. 23, 2016, the “Sittin’ Sidewayz” rapper and a group of 10 individuals, including Baby Bash, would be arrested after police raided Paradise Smoke Shop, where the group had been holding a private party, collecting toys for disadvantaged children. The rapper was charged with manufacturing and delivering Tetrahydrocannabinol, commonly known as THC, after being found in possession of the drug. Paul would later be freed on $20,000 bond and has since been exonerated on all charges, making this run-in with the law a close call.
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Soulja Boy’s antics finally caught up to him on Dec. 15, 2016, when police raided his home following a Crime Stoppers tip that the rapper had been threatening individuals on the internet with violence. The search would turn up a firearm which, being that he is a convicted felon, is a violation pf his probation, leading to Soulja’s arrest. Charged with felony gun possession, Soulja would plead no contest in April 2017, receiving five years probation and 240 days of community labor. He’s also not allowed to threaten anyone or possess any deadly weapons, not even a replica or toy gun, as part of the terms of his plea agreement.
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Trick Daddy was blindsided by Miami police on April 3, 2014, when he was detained while getting out of his car. The rapper was arrested on charges of drug and gun possession after authorities obtained a search warrant for the rapper’s home, where they discovered cocaine, a handgun and ammunition. Charged with possession of cocaine, possession of a firearm and ammunition by a convicted felon, and driving with a suspended license, Trick would be released on bond and all charges would be dropped in May 2015.
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Apparently, police raids in hip-hop don’t only occur in the U.S., but also abroad as well. U.K. rapper Stormzy found this out the hard way on Feb. 14, 2017. The front door to the rapper’s London flat was damaged after Metropolitan Police attempted to raid his home after mistaking the millionaire for a burglar. “Woke up to Feds destroying my front door coz apparently I’m a burglar who burgles his own home,” the rapper wrote on Twitter, posting a picture of the damage done. “@metpoliceuk need your bank details still.” Authorities claimed that they received a call reporting “a conspiracy to burgle a ground-floor flat, believed to have been vacant.” Stormzy and his associate were lawful occupants of the home, and law enforcement would issue an apology for their blunder by suggesting that the rapper send them a DM if he had any further complaints about the mixup.
Frederick M. Brown
On Nov. 15, 2002, deputies from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department raided the Beverly Hills office of Suge Knight’s record label, Tha Row, one of the mogul’s properties in Las Vegas and several other locations in search of evidence connected to the June 2002 murder of Eric Daniels, a gang member from Compton, Calif. Receiving a tip that the murder may have been planned at Tha Row offices, investigators would arrest three men during the raids, including Tha Row employee Theodore Kelly, charging them with murder-conspiracy. Knight, who had recently been released from prison at the time after serving a four-year sentence for violation of probation, would not be arrested nor charged.
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Ten years ago, a T.I. arrest sent shock waves through the music world. On Oct. 27, 2007, officers from the ATF, U.S. Marshal’s Fugitive Task Force, Fulton County SWAT, Fulton County PD, Dekalb County PD and the ATF/Atlanta PD Violent Crime Impact Team all teamed up to execute a raid on the rapper’s house after he had allegedly purchased guns illegally through one of his bodyguards. The raid, and T.I.’s immediate arrest, would coincide with the 2007 BET Awards ceremony and bring back to light hip-hop’s strained history with law enforcement. While the optics appeared irreparable on first glance, T.I. would plead guilty to weapons charges and was sentenced to a year of prison time, a relatively light sentence in comparison to what many had predicted, giving the trap king-turned-mainstream star a second lease on life.
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Wiz Khalifa had his own run-in with the law when his tour bus was raided on Nov. 9, 2010. Police raided the rapper’s bus while he was performing onstage, arresting him and nine other individuals following the performance. Everyone taken into custody was charged with felony counts of trafficking marijuana, a felony count of maintaining or storing marijuana and one misdemeanor charge of possession of drug paraphernalia. Wiz would be released on $300,000 bond and the charges against him would be dropped in September 2011.
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July 15, 2015 was not the best day for Young Thug, as the rapper would be arrested at his home on an outstanding warrant. During the time of his arrest, his home was also raided, with officers discovering drugs and guns on the premises. He was charged the following day on various felony drug and weapons charges, but Thugger would be released on $10,000 bail. Eventually, all of the charges against him were dismissed after the initial raid of his home was deemed as illegal, leaving the rapper scot-free.
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J. Cole isn’t the first rapper you think of when it comes to police raids but it happened to him on March 18, 2016. While the MC and his Dreamville Records squad was down in Austin, Texas for the annual SXSW Music Festival, his North Carolina studio was being raided by armed SWAT team members. The incident served as the inspiration for his song “Neighbors,” from his 2016 album, 4 Your Eyez Only. The raid, which was captured on camera, shows 12 SWAT team members approaching the house and breaking through the door, with one of the officers disarming the camera that was recording the fiasco. Going off of a false tip by a neighbor who believed Cole and friends were growing marijuana or using the house as a drug den, the officers jumped the gun, resulting in one of the best rap songs of the past year.
Houston rapper Maxo Kream and his Kream Clicc Gang were arrested and charged with numerous drugs and weapons charges on Oct. 20, 2017, after members from various law enforcement agencies banded together to perform raids on several locations connected to the crew. According to investigators, Maxo Kream and company were using the U.S. Postal Service to ship marijuana from California to Texas, which lead to the raid across multiple residences in Fort Bend County and Harris County in Texas. During the raid, authorities turned up approximately 85 pounds of marijuana, 2,000 Xanax pills, 13 firearms (three confirmed stolen), body armor, cash, jewelry and drug contraband indicative of manufacturing, packaging and distributing illicit narcotics. Maxo Kream, who would post $200,000 bail, would proclaim his innocence via social media. “They’re out here saying organized crime, bro,” he wrote. “I’m organizing music for my album….Doing right….Trying to take care of the family.” As of press time, the charges against Maxo Kream and the rest of the Kream Clicc Gang are still pending.
The new year started off on a rough note for Chief Keef, as the Chicago rapper found himself in deep trouble when he was arrested on Jan. 26, 2017, on suspicion of armed robbery in connection with a home invasion that took place in San Fernando Valley. The victim of the home invasion, producer Ramsay Tha Great, claims that Keef and a group of other individuals entered his home against his wishes. Ramsay mentioned the rapper by name in a social media post and accused him of stealing cash and a Rolex watch, in addition to assaulting him while one of the Keef’s cohorts menacingly carried an AK-47. After identifying Keef as the suspect in question, authorities obtained an arrest and search warrant for the rapper’s home, where he would be cuffed and taken into custody, but would be released after posting $500,000 bail. The case remains ongoing.
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MoneyBagg Yo’s March 2016 release party for his compilation mixtape should’ve been a celebratory affair, but instead it was a chaotic night, as 28 attendees were arrested by Memphis police during a raid of the party. An estimated 60 representatives from local, state and federal agencies took part in the operation, which was intended to target gang activities, violence, probation and parole violations, and fugitives. The cops’ search would yield 10 weapons, a bulletproof vest, cash and drugs, with a majority of the 28 people detained hit with charges involving drugs, alcohol or weapons.
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Things got especially heated for former Hot Boys member Turk in January 2004, when the rapper found himself in a shootout with Memphis SWAT Team members during a raid in a Memphis apartment—they were searching for drugs and weapons. Although Turk would maintain his innocence and deny knowing who fired the shot that critically wounded a SWAT team officer, in October 2005, the rapper would be found guilty on three weapons charges and sentenced to 10 years in prison.