Cleared Of Murder Charges, Mista Cain Picks Up Where He Left Off

“I could be dead, real talk.”

Baton Rouge, Louisiana’s Mista Cain is explaining how things could have broken worse for him. That said, recently life hasn’t been that easy. In 2012, Cain was arrested and charged with second-degree murder. His bail was denied and he subsequently sat in jail while the case wound through the state’s dysfunctional judicial system, only to be acquitted in 2015. At the time of his arrest, he was arguably the hottest street rapper in Baton Rouge. His Cain Muzik Mafia crew was bubbling and he was fielding calls from major labels.

With The Verdict, out this week, Cain hopes to pick up where he left off. On it he doesn’t spend much time dwelling on the case or his time in jail, opting instead to celebrate his success, especially on “Made It Out” and the excellent “Remember When,” featuring Boosie Badazz. On the whole, it’s a little smoother than last year’s mixtape, CAIN, his first release since coming free, but The Verdict still maintains the country bounce that’s become his city’s signature. Cain’s flow is a combination of Starlito’s sneaky agility and Young Dolph’s brute force raps. As it goes, the Chicago and Nashville MCs show up for guest spots on the album, as does Boosie himself and Atlanta’s reliably gruff Trouble.

When asked if he resents spending three years locked up despite not being convicted, Cain points out that being mistreated by the Louisiana judicial system hardly makes him special. “They might have treated me bad, but I just fell in line with all the other people they treated bad,” he says.

It’s impossible to talk about the thriving rap scene in Baton Rouge without talking about prison. It’s no coincidence that the city’s two superstars, Boosie Badazz and Kevin Gates, have both faced numerous legal hurdles. Boosie faced a bevy of charges, starting in 2008. While he beat a first-degree murder rap, he still ended up with an eight-year sentence for drug charges. Gates did a 31-month bid starting in 2008 and is currently serving up to 30 months in Illinois on a gun charge. The trend continues with the next generation as well: NBA YoungBoy is facing murder charges for a 2016 shooting, while up-and-comer Scotty Corleone was arrested last month on a parole violation.

To be clear, this is way more about Louisiana’s Draconian legal system than anyone’s street credentials. One in six adults in the state is currently locked up, the highest rate on Earth. Drug cases yield harsh penalties for even minor offenses, numbers which snowball extremely fast for repeat offenders. It’s one of only nine states where 17-year-olds can be charged as adults. To make matters worse, the state’s public defenders are in the midst of a funding crisis. Given the Baton Rouge Police Department’s reputation—the late Alton Sterling sold Mista Cain CDs—it’s no surprise that many of the city’s MCs come with a history of legal baggage.

Still Cain actively pushes back on the idea that his incarceration slowed his career. “Man, I conquered my city. I been gone for a little while but… I’m grandfathered in on this shit,” he says. The bigger question for him is how to go from a local star to a national presence. But Boosie and Gates showed it was possible, and The Verdict is step in the right direction.

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