Back in the late nineties (remember them?), John Forte was a member of the Fugees, a backup singer for Carly Simon, and a boldface name who partied with the likes of Jann Wenner. But his life as a hip-hopping socialite came to halt in 2000, when he was arrested for distributing cocaine. (Simon, who put up his $250,000 bail, told New York last week, "I love him like a child, and I completely trust his innocence.") While awaiting trial, he recorded I, John, his new, nakedly autobiographical album ("I had lots of friends / I used to love to party / But when the darkness fell, I had nobody"). We spoke to Forte -- using up all ten minutes of his daily phone time -- from a federal prison in Houston, where he's just begun serving a fourteen-year sentence.
Putting out a hip-hop record from jail seems to be a trend -- Ol' Dirty Bastard just released an album he made while on the lam.
Laughs. Call me Young Dirty Dread.
Unlike other inmates, you've got pretty high-profile friends.
I talk to Carly a lot.
What have you been reading?
I just finished Wuthering Heights, and I'm starting The World According to Garp.
Have you found any meaning in all this so far?
I've come back to a really simple outlook on life: I'd rather be with the ones I love than in a private jet.
Any chance for an appeal?
I think we have strong legs for the appeal, which we're filing in June. But you know, I wake up and I can't believe that I'm here. A robotic voice interrupts: "This is a call from a federal prison." See! You're constantly reminded of where you are.