On Monday, Nov 24th, President Bush chose to offer 16 prisoners commuted sentences and pardons. In that number was Fugees affiliate John Forte, who will be released from prison on Dec. 22nd . He’ll serve the next 5 years under supervised probation.
The rapper/producer, who is best known for appearing on Wyclef Jean‘s ‘We Trying To Stay Alive,’ was midway through serving a 14 year bid in Fort Dix, New Jersey. He was arrested at Newark International Airport in 2000 for possession with intent to distribute cocaine and conspiracy to distribute. Police discovered Forte with two briefcases filled with liquid cocaine, which they estimated were worth $1.4 million.
Though he had no prior offenses, due to New Jersey’s “mandatory minimum” sentencing laws, Forte received an excessive sentence that many in the music community, including Senator Orrin Hatch and Carly Simon publicly lobbied against.
Many were surprised at Forte’s conviction as it seemed out of character for the rapper, who was known for his positivity and honor-roll background. After graduating from Phillips Exeter academy on a full scholarship, Forte had attended New York University, where his roommate was Talib Kweli, who in turn helped him land an A&R gig at Rawkus Records, where he met Lauryn Hill. He quickly began working with The Fugees, producing two songs on ‘The Score,’ before signing with Columbia, where he released his first album ‘Poly Sci’ in 1998.
Through his prison term, Forte has maintained his innocence, refusing to accept a plea bargain, and campaigning, along with Hatch, Simon and her son, a good friend who attended Exeter Academy with Forte, for his release.