Musicians Who Are Currently Behind Bars

The following references sexual assault and child abuse.

For better or for worse, our culture is fascinated by celebrities who turn criminal. How can someone so talented, so rich, and so famous throw it all away with awful or even evil choices that land them in prison for years?  Sure, one could adopt the skeptical, cynical attitude that celebrities seem to think that they're above the law because so many arrested stars never serve time, but the truth is, plenty of famous folks do get convicted for their terrible deeds.

Take reality Bravo star Teresa Giudice, for example. In 2014, "The Real Housewives of New Jersey" veteran was sentenced to 15 months in prison after she and then husband Joe Giudice pleaded guilty to 41 counts of fraud. Years later, she would tell BravoCon attendees that she believes being a celebrity actually did her more harm than good when she was on trial. "I got used as an example," she said, per People. "[B]ecause I was on TV — if I was just a regular housewife, I probably wouldn't have went to jail."

From YNW Melly to Gary Glitter, here are some musicians from all levels of celebrity who are currently behind bars ... and could be for a very, very long time.

Bobby Beausoleil

It's well-known that the recently not-so-dearly departed cult leader and mass murderer Charles Manson was also a musician. According to Rolling Stone, Manson even wrote a song that The Beach Boys' Dennis Wilson allegedly stole and turned into "Never Learn Not to Love." "The song theft enraged Manson, who threatened Wilson and at one point left a bullet on the drummer's bed," the magazine reported. But we digress.

Manson had some other musicians in "The Family" too, including Bobby Beausoleil, a member of a '60s band called the Grass Roots, which later changed its name to Love. Love recorded Forever Changes, one of the most critically-acclaimed and influential albums of all time, but Beausoleil moved on to bands with poorly-spelled, psychedelic-sounding names such as the Orkustra and the Magick Powerhouse of OZ. 

Then he gave it all up for Manson and murder. According to Rolling Stone, Beausoleil was working as a recruiter for Manson in 1969, when he reportedly acted on an order to fatally stab a Gary Hinman — the music teacher who reportedly introduced Manson to Wilson. It was the first murder connected to the Manson Family, and Beausoleil was sentenced to death. After California abolished the death penalty in 1972, Beausoleil's punishment was changed to life in prison. According to the Los Angeles Times, California Gov. Gavin "reversed a parole recommendation to free" Beausoleil in 2019.


For a hot minute in the late '90s and early 2000s, the rap world was dominated by the No Limit label. Founded by Master P (Percy Miller), the label generated big hits for Master P and for his brothers Silkk the Shocker (Vishonn Miller) and C-Murder (Corey Miller). According to The Times-Picayune, C-Murder attended a rap battle at the Platinum Club in Harvey, La. in 2002. Also at the club: a 16-year-old No Limit fan named Steve Thomas, who used a fake ID to get in. At some point, a brawl broke out. According to MTV News, a jury determined "that Miller shot Thomas once in the chest as the teen lay on his back while being beaten by the rapper's friends." He was sentenced to life behind bars.

This isn't the first time Miller reportedly pulled a gun at a nightclub. In 2001, he allegedly pulled a gun on the bouncer at a club in Baton Rouge, and then allegedly tried to shoot the club's owner, only to have the gun jam, reported MTV News. He was sentenced to 10 years in connection with that case and denied a retrial in 2019. 

Vybz Kartel

Vybz Kartel helped popularize the amped-up form of reggae known as dancehall. The self-proclaimed "Worl' Boss" (real name: Adidja Palmer) collaborated with Rihanna, Jay-Z, Busta Rhymes, Missy Elliott, Pitbull, and Major Lazer. His hit "Rampling Shop" was a hit on U.S. radio, even though it was banned from the airwaves in his native Jamaica for obscene lyrics. That's far from the most controversial moment in Kartel's life, because since 2014, he's been serving a life sentence for murder. 

In 2011, police alleged Kartel murdered and mutilated a member of his inner circle, Clive "Lizard" Williams, because he believed Lizard stole a couple of guns from him and other members of his crew, reported The Guardian. After a 65-day trial, reportedly the longest in Jamaican history, Kartel was sentenced to life behind bars, with his first parole eligibility hearing in 2049. Three members of Kartel's crew were also sentenced. 

What's especially horrible, and what helped seal Kartel's fate: Text messages where he reportedly admitted to disposing of Williams' body, which was never located. Among those messages from Kartel to his crew (via The Guardian): "Tween me an u a chop we chop the boy Lizard fine fine. Yeah man a mince meat dat ... As long as u live dem can never find him."

Big Lurch

Lurch, the towering butler in various iterations of "The Addams Family," appeared frightening but was actually quite sensitive and gentle. It's the reverse for the 6'7" rapper whose name was inspired by the horror-comedy character. Big Lurch (real name: Antron Singleton) was an aspiring rapper in the '90s and early 2000s with a career on the rise thanks to his work with titans of the genre like E-40, Too $hort, and Mystikal. Along with rappers Doonie Baby and Rick Rock, Big Lurch was a member of Cosmic Slop Shop, which released one album, "Da Family," in 1998. 

As a solo act, Big Lurch similarly only ever released one album, 2004's "It's All Bad." That hit stores after he was sentenced to life in prison for crimes so horrific, they're almost unbelievable. According to the Los Angeles Times, a court found the rapper guilty of murdering his roommate in 2002. During the act, he reportedly cut open the woman's chest, and removed and ate her lung. Police discovered him walking down a Los Angeles street, naked and covered in blood. Big Lurch's lawyer, Milton Grimes, admitted that his client did commit the murder, but had done so in the midst of a five-day PCP bender. The outlet also reported that Grimes claimed Big Lurch "has a history of mental health problems stemming from drug abuse."

Big Lurch is serving two consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole in New Folsom State Prison in California.

YNW Melly

Rapper YNW Melly (born Jamell Demons) survived life in a tough Florida neighborhood. His lyrics, which included themes like crime, violence, and teenage street life, reflected it. In 2015, he was charged with assault with a deadly weapon after firing a gun at three students near his high school. While incarcerated, he told Billboard, he was inspired to write "Murder on My Mind," a top 20, triple-platinum hit that originated as a SoundCloud upload in 2017. 

Once out of jail, Melly released lots of music, including a high-profile collaboration with Kanye West. He was on an upward trajectory, and not even 20 years old yet, when he found himself in trouble with the law again in February 2019. The previous October, two of the rapper's friends and fellow YNW crew members, Christopher "Juvy" Thomas Jr. and Anthony "Sakchaser" Williams, were pronounced dead at a hospital in Miramar, Florida, having been dropped off there after being shot to death, per TCPalm. Miramar police later arrested Melly, and another YNW associate, Cortlen "Bortlen" Henry, alleging that they perpetrated the murders — Melly, allegedly the trigger man, and Bortlen, allegedly the driver — then staged a drive-by shooting that they blamed for Thomas and Williams' death. 

Both men pleaded not guilty to two counts of first-degree murder. Bortlen was released on bond in May 2020, but a few trips to strip clubs not only violated his release but landed him back in hot water. In April 2023, Melly's trial began


Tay-K's story is the rare one in which a musician's career took off because of an imprisonment, not stymied because of one. According to a Dallas NBC affiliate, in 2016, 16-year-old Taymor McIntyre (that's the real name of Tay-K, or Tay-K 47) allegedly participated in a robbery and home invasion in Mansfield, Texas, which left 21-year-old Ethan Walker dead. McIntyre was placed under house arrest in Tarrant County, Texas, but he cut off his ankle monitor and fled. He was on the run for months, during which time he reportedly got involved with a 2017 murder in San Antonio. According to a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the mother of victim Mark Anthony Saldivar, McIntyre stole the man's camera equipment, pushed him out of a car, and tried to get away. Saldivar tried to stop McIntyre and two associates by getting onto the hood of the car, at which point McIntyre allegedly shot him with a handgun and fled the scene. Authorities captured him in New Jersey a few months later, but during his time on the lam, McIntyre kicked off his rap career. His debut single, "The Race," hit No. 2 on the Billboard rap chart.

U.S. Marshals returned the fledgling rapper to Texas, where he was found guilty of murder in July 2019 for the death of Walker and sentenced to 55 years in prison. While behind bars, McIntyre was indicted on a charge of capital murder over Saldivar — which means the death penalty is a possible sentencing option.

R. Kelly

In 1998, according to MTV News, R. Kelly proclaimed himself to be "The King of R&B." And at the time, he wasn't really exaggerating. Kelly's records were phenomenally successful on the radio and at music stores, whether they were smooth ballads like "I Believe I Can Fly," slickly produced uptempo numbers like "Ignition (Remix)," or particularly lascivious slow jams like "You Body's Callin'," "Bump N' Grind," or "Sex Me."

But since the early 1990s, Kelly has faced accusations of sexual abuse against underage women. According to the BBC, he married 15-year-old singer Aaliyah with the aid of a fraudulent wedding certificate, and settled a lawsuit in 1998 after he allegedly put undue emotional distress on a teenager with whom he'd been in a sexual relationship. Between 2002 and 2004, Kelly faced as many as 33 counts of producing sexual content involving children. He beat the rap then, but after a BuzzFeed story and documentary brought up more allegations of various forms of abuse and assault, Kelly faced criminal cases at the state and federal level. In 2022, a judge sentenced R. Kelly to 30 years in prison on racketeering and sex trafficking charges, and a few months later, a federal judge handed down a 20-year prison term for crimes against children, per The New York Times.

If you or someone you know may be the victim of child abuse, please contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453) or contact their live chat services.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Gary Glitter

Gary Glitter combined the flamboyant looks and rhythmic stomp of early '70s glam rock with a pop sensibility. He'd score 15 top 40 hits in his native U.K. in the 1970s, but he's best known for "Rock and Roll (Part 2)," played at arenas and stadiums to pump up sports fans. It faded from use after Glitter's legal issues surfaced, according to Billboard.

Since the late 1990s, according to The Guardian, Glitter has been in and out of prisons in Europe and Asia for convictions on charges of crimes of sexual abuse perpetuated against children. Computer repair technicians in the U.K. found images of child abuse on his computer, which led to a four month prison stint in 1999. Glitter left the U.K. and moved to Vietnam, where in March 2006, a court sentenced him to three years behind bars for inappropriate conduct towards girls aged 10 and 11. After serving his term, authorities deported Glitter back to the U.K., where in 2015 he was sentenced to 16 years in prison for abusing and assaulting three female minors in the 1970s and 1980s. Glitter served eight years of that term before being paroled in February 2023. 

But according to The Daily Mail, 38 days later the musician was re-arrested and re-imprisoned when he was caught in a halfway house using his smartphone. Evidently, he was trying to access the dark web, a corner of the internet where illegal sexual content is everywhere. That's a violation of Glitter's parole.

If you or someone you know may be the victim of child abuse, please contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453) or contact their live chat services.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).


In the 1980s and 1990s, dancehall emerged as one of the most popular and globally appealing types of music to ever originate in Jamaica. A faster, more energetic, dance-oriented, hip-hop-influenced offshoot of reggae, Desmond Ballentine, under the name Ninjaman, became one of the genre's biggest Jamaican stars. His records — including "Murder Dem," "Permit to Buy," "My Weapon," and "Above the Law" — earned as much popularity as they did controversy, concerned as they were with violence, crime, and guns.

In 2017, according to the Jamaica Gleaner, a court in Kingston sentenced Ballentine to life in prison on charges of murder and shooting with harmful intent. Eligible for parole after 25 years in a labor camp, Justice Martin Gayle held the entertainer most accountable for the 2009 murder of Ricardo Johnson. After getting into a skirmish with Johnson, Ninjaman — along with his son, and a friend, each sentenced to a minimum of 15 years in prison — ran down Johnson, and when he was backed into a fence, shot him. He later died from his wounds.

Austin Jones

Austin Jones did quite well for himself as a self-made Internet personality. In 2007, according to People, he started uploading to YouTube videos of himself singing covers of popular songs in the a cappella style, or accompanied by an acoustic guitar. A self-styled "emo-acapella" singer, he'd eventually start writing his own material, would release a couple of albums, and go on tour. He'd eventually amass more than half a million subscribers and garner view videos in the multi-millions. Jones' musical career abruptly ended in June 2017, upon his arrest for allegations that dated back two years.

According to TheWrap, in 2019 a judge in a Chicago federal court sentenced Jones to 10 years in prison. Two years earlier, the entertainer agreed to a plea bargain following an arrest in which he fessed up to using his Facebook account to persuade underage female fans, some as young as 14 years old, to send him nude photos or explicit videos.

If you or someone you know may be the victim of child abuse, please contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453) or contact their live chat services.


Several big rap stars got their start in the New Orleans scene, and on Cash Money Records, in the 1990s, including Lil Wayne, Birdman, and Christopher Dorsey, known professionally as B.G. After some early appearances on some Cash Money releases, B.G. hit it big in 1999 with the smash hit "Bling Bling," which actually put that phrase into the American vernacular. He'd continue to record for Cash Money, both as a solo artist and as a member of the Hot Boys, before leaving in 2002 to form his own label, Chopper City Records.

According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, a court sentenced Dorsey to 14 years in prison in 2012 on federal-level charges of unlawful gun possession and witness tampering. That all stemmed from a 2009 incident in which Dorsey, already a convicted felon, was found by New Orleans police during a traffic stop to possess a firearm. That's illegal, and after pleading guilty to that charge, tried to evade punishment by attempting to get a friend to claim to be the true owner of the firearm.

Young QC

According to The Washington Post, Chicago beauty shop owner Yolanda Holmes was shot and stabbed to death in her apartment in September 2012. She was 45 years old. Eugene Spencer was arrested for the murder, but investigators traced the crime to Qaw'mane Wilson, Holmes' son. He was a rising star on the Chicago rap scene, recording and independently releasing material under the stage name Young Q.C.

Spencer attested that Wilson offered him $3,500 for the hit (of which he only ever received $70). Prosecutors alleged that Wilson ordered the murder so that he could inherit money from Holmes. In the months after his mother's death, Wilson spent $70,000 of her money on sneakers, guns, dogs, the production of a Young Q.C. music video, and a Ford Mustang, and documented a lot of his shopping trips on social media. Wilson and Spencer were both convicted of first degree murder, and in January 2020 earned what are essentially life sentences — 99 years for Wilson and 100 for Spencer.


SPM is an abbreviation for South Park Mexican. The rapper is of Mexican-American descent, and he hails from the South Park neighborhood of Houston, where he helped develop a thriving indie hip-hop scene in the 1990s. After creating influential local label Dope House Records, SPM released his first three albums; "The Third Wish to Rock the World" sold 100,000 in 1999, huge numbers for a locally-oriented album. SPM's albums and songs proved so popular in Houston that they made the lower rungs of Billboard's national charts around the turn of the millennium, particularly "You Know My Name" and "High So High."

In 2002, according to the Houston Chronicle, SPM, under his birth name of Carlos Coy, entered a not-guilty plea to charges that he sexually assaulted the daughter of a friend who slept over at his house for a sleepover with the rapper's six-year-old daughter. Coy was convicted and sentenced to 45 years in prison, with eligibility for parole coming at 22.5 years.

If you or someone you know may be the victim of child abuse, please contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453) or contact their live chat services.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Roy Estrada

Back in the 1960s and 1970s, bass guitarist Roy Estrada was an integral part of two highly influential classic rock bands, according to NME. From 1964 to 1975, Estrada periodically served in the Mothers of Invention, the backing band of avant garde rock deconstructionist Frank Zappa. While still a member of the Mothers, Estrada teamed up with Lowell George in 1969 to form the swamp rock group Little Feat. His bass playing can be heard on the band's initial two records.

According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (via Rolling Stone), Estrada once served time in California on a felony charge of committing a lewd act with a minor. Upon his release from prison, he moved to Tarrant County, Texas, and according to prosecutors, repeatedly abused a female family member who was under the age of 14. Those relatives were unaware that Estrada had been previously convicted of a sex crime, and after he was arrested and charged, the musician agreed to a plea bargain. In 2012, he received a sentence of 25 years in prison without parole eligibility.

If you or someone you know may be the victim of child abuse, please contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453) or contact their live chat services.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Pete McNeal

According to the Los Angeles Times, drummer Pete McNeal joined the quirky Sacramento based alternative rock hitmakers Cake in 2001, a replacement for the exiting Todd Roper. McNeal provided the rhythm for the band at concerts and on the occasional recorded track in the early 2000s, while also serving as a sideman for jazz-pop icon Norah Jones and singer-songwriter Brett Dennen, per Billboard.

McNeal left Cake in 2004, and 10 years later he'd be sentenced to a lengthy prison term for events that transpired on Thanksgiving Day 2009. A Los Angeles jury found McNeal guilty on a count of sexually abusing a child under the age of 10, which occurred at a holiday party in the Laurel Canyon neighborhood. Ordered to join California's sex offender registry for the remainder of his life for his crime against a 3-year-old child, McNeal received a state prison sentence of 15 years to life.

If you or someone you know may be the victim of child abuse, please contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453) or contact their live chat services.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).