RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – A Richmond rapper’s career is taking off from behind bars. Deonte Gaines, also known as FNF Chop, is producing, directing and even appearing in music videos from inside the Richmond City Justice Center.
Chop’s breakout single “Walk Down” was released in 2019 but it wasn’t until recently that the fast- tempo track exploded on TikTok and prompted a dance challenge, all while the rapper sits in jail.
The ‘FNF’ part of his name stands for Family Never Folds.
In a video visit from the Richmond Jail, Chop said, “It kind of just went viral on its own. Labels started calling, Columbia reached out, Alamo Records, Republic Records, Warner Records.”
Chop, who is doing time for a parole violation, says he recently released a fan video. The dancers can be seen wearing shirts that read #FreeFNFChop.
The shirts are a display of solidarity after he says he caught COVID-19 twice at the jail.
While the 22-year-old couldn’t make it out for the video production, he was calling the shots from his cell. He said, “It was a two- to three-day shoot and it just took off.”
Chop even makes a virtual appearance in the music video with his mom. The hit has amassed more than 4 million streams on Spotify.
Chop is not the first inmate to appear in a video from the Richmond jail. Chop says inmates are given tablets to use and there are multiple videos or photos posted to social media showing other offenders posing or dancing inside the jail.
When asked if the deputies were OK with that, Chop said, “We not fighting, you know we not arguing, we not cursing, we not destroying anything.”
Chop says with the pandemic, inmates are not permitted to play sports or do much else. Sheriff Antoinette Irving gave a similar response when asked about it last month.
“They are not breaking a rule because they’re in a group taking a picture,” she said.
Irving also said in a statement:
“Tablets have become crucial to the welfare and daily life of the inmates in the Richmond City Justice Center during the pandemic so they can maintain contact with their families and attorneys and so they can continue participating in education and other programming that will help them meet their goal of returning to the community as contributing citizens. A family member of an inmate recorded a brief portion of a tablet visit, which was later edited outside the facility into a longer music video. This occurrence presented no threat to the health and safety of the residents or staff of the Richmond City Justice Center.”
The jail faces a severe staffing shortage. The Richmond Sheriff’s office is down 110 deputies.
“They just need a little help,” said Chop. “It’s over-populated.”
The rapper warns others to not be fooled by those jail videos on social media. He says a cell is no place to be. Once out, he wants to focus on his career and investing for his family.