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Born Again

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On November 24, 2008, Forté was sitting on his bunk, catching up on some reading, when a friend mentioned hearing about pardons and commutations on CNN. Forté’s lawyer confirmed that his name was on the list. To this day, Forté won’t speculate about why Bush chose him. “I’m grateful and humbled. Wholly appreciative,” he says. “But I don’t question it.”

The day after his release, Forté was in the studio with Kweli. They cranked out “Homecoming,” a no-frills hip-hop track based on the Kanye West song, which they made available for free online. Forté no longer craves mainstream stardom—which is probably out of reach at this point anyway. “Kids who are tastemakers don’t know who he is,” says Reggie Hawkins, who programs Sirius XM Radio’s Hip-Hop Nation. “He’s like a brand-new artist. In the current Drake, Lil Wayne environment, that’s a very tough sell.” So Forté’s branching out, writing a memoir for Simon & Schuster (coincidentally, Simon’s father’s publishing house), getting involved with In Arms Reach, a charity for kids whose parents are incarcerated. But music is still the focus. Forté has recorded over 60 songs since prison, and some will appear on a full-length album he’s planning to call Water, Light, Sound. “The title is a metaphor for birth,” he says. “Which is what I feel like I go through every day.”


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