Singer/songwriter and producer John Forte has chosen to commemorate the anniversary of his July 2000 arrest with the release of his first collection of new music to be released in nearly eight years.
Fortes StyleFREE the EP will be available for purchase and streaming exclusively on JohnForte.com on July 14, exactly nine years after he was arrested on drug possession and conspiracy charges.
A physical and wide digital release of the project is set to follow in late August. The Grammy-nominated artist first emerged on the entertainment scene as a member of the Refugees Crew, producing, co-writing and appearing on The Fugees multi-platinum sophomore album The Score.
Following the albums success, Forte landed a solo deal at Columbia Records, releasing his debut PolySci in 1998.
Unfortunately, due to lackluster promotional efforts, the album, which was critically well received, sold a meager 79,000 copies, leading Columbia to drop Forte from their roster.
According to an August 2002 Rolling Stone article, the artist had apparently developed a lavish lifestyle which he became unable to sustain, leading to his surprising foray into the drug trade.
While performing at a weekly DJ gig in Manhattan in 2000, Forte met 35-year-old drug dealer Chris Thompson, who he allegedly assisted by recruiting and overseeing drug couriers.
On July 12, Drug Enforcement Administration Agents arrested two young women in Harlingen, TX after discovering $1.4 million worth of liquid cocaine in their suitcases.
Two days later, DEA agents arrested Forte in New York after he took possession of the suitcases.
He has maintained that he was under the impression that he was helping Thompson transport money and not drugs.
While on a supervised release between his 2000 arrest and the beginning of his fourteen year sentence in 2002, Forte recorded I, John, which featured appearances by Herbie Hancock, Esthero, Tricky and Carly Simon, a close friend of Fortes who even put up $250,000 of his $650,000 bond.
It was in part because of lobbying efforts by Simon and her son Ben Taylor that John Forte obtained a pardon from former President Bush in late 2008.
Since his release, John Forte has taken no time to jump back into the Hip-Hop scene, quickly adapting to the technological advances he missed while incarcerated to make his music available to new and old fans alike.
Almost immediately after coming home, he released three singles online, including the Talib Kweli-assisted Homecoming. Fortes also embarked on a life of activism and teaching, joining the Harlem-based In Arms Reach initiative, which supports children of incarcerated parents.
StyleFREE the EP captures all of the varied experiences Forte has undergone in the last few years.
The title track is a throwback to Fortes Brownsville, Brooklyn upbringing; while ballads like More Beautiful Now and There We are are more introspective.
The EPs first single Play My Cards For Me is currently available at JohnForte.com for free download.
John Forte is also currently working on his memoirs, which will be published by Simon & Schuster upon completion.