Jelly Roll is gifting a juvenile detention center a recording studio with the hope that he can help some troubled youths find their passions and leave a life of crime.
The country rap artist, who also goes by Jason DeFord, is teaming up with a nonprofit named Impact Youth Outreach to outfit the Davidson County Juvenile Detention in Nashville, TN, with the studio.
DeFord spent a portion of his own teenage years living in the same center. And it was the place where he discovered his dreams of becoming a recording artist. He was able to turn his life around with music. And ever since, he’s vowed to help other kids do the same.
“I was in and out of there for about three, three and a half years,” the 37-year-old shared on PEOPLE Every Day podcast with host Janine Rubenstein.
“I spent a lot of time there, and eventually got charged as an adult for a crime I committed as a juvenile,” he continued. “And 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.”
Jelly Roll explained that he explored music while serving time in the detention center. And it was the place where he wrote some of his “first raps” and had his first “big rap battle.” So he knew that when he had the means and platform to follow through with his promise to give back, he was going “make it really personal.”
Jelly Roll Wants to ‘Bring Hope’ to Troubled Kids
Since becoming a star, DeFord has been devoting his free time to mentoring incarcerated teens. And he wants to continue bringing “hope” to more kids in the coming years.
The singer shared that giving back to kids is one of the most important things a person can do.
“Man, our youth are so impressionable and the old quote goes, ‘None of them asked to be here,'” he added.
As Jelly Roll continued, he explained how so many young people are born into terrible situations, and they often don’t realize that there are opportunities to better themselves and stop the generational cycle of crime. And his gift may help kids “see past that situation or that neighborhood or that environment.”
“I just hope to bring hope to that and kind of be a beacon and a light for those kids,” he said.