It seemed that perennially troubled hometown hip hop great Beanie Sigel’s career was on the rise. He had a string of shows lined up in the days before he was due to report to federal prison to serve a two-year bid for tax evasion. On Tuesday, he released “This Time,” his fifth studio album and the first to drop in seven years, to largely positive reviews. By all accounts, the former king of the Philly rap scene had cleaned up his act, prepared himself to face the music and would exit prison poised to reclaim his crown.
That all came crashing down early Wednesday morning when Sigel was arrested by state troopers during a traffic stop on I-95 in Tinicum Township. He is charged with five felonies and two misdemeanors after a search of his pockets allegedly turned up a bottle of codeine cough syrup with the label scratched off, along with pills and plastic baggies stuffed inside a cigarette pack and $4,650 in cash.
“It’s unfortunate,” said rapper Philly Chase, who has worked with Sigel in the past. “He’s a big-timer, a great guy. I wish the best for him and his family and I’m sorry there’s this dark cloud over his career. I just don’t understand it.”
A further search of the car – in which Sigel was a passenger – allegedly
revealed a .38 Smith & Wesson Special in its upper center
console. Along with drug offenses, including possession of a
controlled substance with the intent to distribute, Sigel is also facing charges of unlicensed,
unlawful possession of a firearm – as a convicted felon, he is banned by law from carrying a gun.
Attorney Fortunato Perri, Jr. said he expects to represent Sigel, but it is too soon to discuss details of the case. “We’re still reviewing the allegations and the circumstances of the arrest,” Perri said.
“Obviously we’re very disappointed,” CEO of Ruffhouse Records Chris Schwartz said in a statement. “However, Beanie has done nothing but display the utmost professionalism in all of the initiatives related to the promotion of his new release. Beanie has obviously been struggling with some personal issues, and we continue to support him now and throughout his impending incarceration.”
But Chase said Sigel gave no indication of those personal issues in the studio, at least as they related to drugs. “He was talking about his tax problems and about his debt,” Chase said. “He didn’t talk about anything else. It was basically about his tax issues and how he was trying to prepare stuff because he was looking at a couple of years, but with these charges – this is it. It doesn’t look too good right now.”
Sigel was scheduled to play six shows before his Sept. 12 imprisonment, including a Sept. 6 date on Jimmy Kimmel Live and a concert at the TLA in Philadelphia on Sept. 8. Those are now up in the air. “It’s too early to tell,” Ruffhouse Records spokesman Randy Alexander said of the planned appearances. “That’s up to the legal system at this point.”
A state trooper pulled over a tan Ford Fusion driven by Philadelphia resident Gerald Andrews shortly before 3:15 a.m. because it was tailgating a tractor trailer and erratically weaving in and out of the lane.
While speaking with Andrews, the officer noticed a man sleeping in the front passenger seat, later identified as Sigel. After Andrews couldn’t produce a valid driver’s license, insurance or registration, the trooper patted him down and found prescription bottles filled with various pills and a fraudulent ID printed with someone else’s name, police said. Andrews then allegedly admitted to the trooper that he also had a small amount of marijuana, pulled it out of the back pocket of his pants and handed it over.
The trooper then asked Sigel to step out of the car so he could explain that Andrews was being arrested for drug violations, police said, patting Sigel down as a precaution. That’s when the officer allegedly found the money, drugs and paraphernalia in Sigel’s pockets and the Broad Street Bully joined Andrews in police custody.
“He kind of fell off the radar and just started getting back out,” Chase
said. “It’s just sad. I look at his situation and he’s great
music-wise, leadership-wise – he’s done so much for so many people. I
feel like he really didn’t get a fair shake. Everybody feels like that.”
Though the timing of Sigel’s arrest and album release are highly coincidental, Chase said he believes it’s just that – coincidence. He dispelled rumors that Sigel would stage a publicity stunt to promote the record. “I think for some artists that really don’t have any cred or really have something to prove, they might try to do that, like a first timer,” he said. “But somebody like him with a rap sheet like that, he doesn’t have anything to prove. I don’t think he wants that kind of publicity. I don’t see him being in a situation where he gets caught with guns and drugs and views that as a good thing for his career.”