RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A Richmond rapper’s career is taking off from behind bars. Deonte Gaines, also known as FNF Chop, is producing, directing even appearing in music videos from inside the Richmond City Justice Center.
Chop’s break out single “Walk Down” was released in 2019 but it wasn’t until recently that the fast- tempo track exploded on Tik Tok prompting a dance challenge, while the rapper sits in jail.
8News spoke to Chop in a video visit from the Richmond Jail. He 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, tells us he recently released a fan video. The dancers can be seen wearing shirts with 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 on the streets of RVA, 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 tells us inmates are given tablets to use and 8News has seen multiple videos or photos posted to social media showing other offenders posing or dancing inside the jail.
We asked the rapper if the deputies were ok with that and he said, “We not fighting, you know we not arguing, we not cursing, we not destroying anything.”
Chop says with the pandemic they’re not permitted to play sports or do much else. Sheriff Antoinette Irving gave us a similar response when we asked her about it last month.
She said, “They are in a bunch and they are happy. They are not breaking a rule because they’re in a group taking a picture.”
Irving also told 8News 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.”
8News recently exposed a severe staffing shortage at the jail. “They just need a little help,” said Chop. He told us he has noticed the shortage of staff. He said, “It’s over-populated.”
The Richmond Sheriff’s office is down 110 Sheriff’s Deputies.
Chop believes to deal with the lack of staff, they’ve crammed inmates into just a few areas. “Certain pods that would be open to separate a lot of us, is not open,” said Chop.
The rapper warns others to not be fooled by those jail videos on social media. He says a cell is no place to be.
After concerns about conditions inside and his claim of getting the coronavirus twice, he is awaiting early release which promised by the Governor for inmates like Chop. Once out, he wants to focus on his career and investing for his family.
If you’re curious about the acronym FNF in FNF Chop, we are told it stands for Family Never Folds.