Jelly Roll on Why He’s Giving Back to the Youth Detention Center Where He Was Once Incarcerated
When it comes to giving back, there's no cause closer to Jelly Roll's heart than the youth incarcerated at the Davidson County Juvenile Detention Center, a facility where he spent time as a teen.
"I was in and out of there for about three, three and a half years," the singer — whose legal name is Jason DeFord — explains in a new interview on the People Every Day podcast. "I spent a lot of time there and eventually got charged as an adult for a crime I committed as a juvenile."
Now, looking back, he realizes what a formative place the detention center was for him, both as a person and as an artist.
"I just realized that was the most impactful thing that ever happened in my life, and the darkest moments of my life still were being that 15-year-old scared kid spending Thanksgiving away from his family," he explains.
"I knew that I wanted to give back whenever I was in a situation to, and I always knew I wanted to make it really personal," the singer adds. "So, I went back to the same juvenile that I started doing music at. I wrote some of my first raps there, had my first big rap battle there."
In October, DeFord saw the realization of that desire to give back to a place close to his heart. He announced plans to partner with a non-profit called Impact Youth Outreach, donating $250,000 towards the construction of a recording studio at the Davidson County Juvenile Detention Center.
"It's important, man," the singer stresses. "I think it's important that we give back, especially to our kids. Man, our youth are so impressionable, and the old quote goes, 'None of them asked to be here.'"
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