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Big Kev, Hampton rapper, returns from prison with new look, new attitude

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Hampton rapper Big Kev has seen some difficult days. Now, life is looking up for him. He was released from prison July 22, having spent six years behind bars for drug and firearms convictions.

On Tuesday afternoon, Big Kev -- aka Kevin Herndon -- was relaxing at the Old Hampton Seafood Kitchen on Armistead Avenue, enjoying a plate of fried scallops and thinking about reviving his career in music.

Having lost 160 pounds, he looks like a different man from the one who performed at The NorVa in Norfolk back in 2003, opening a show for Snoop Dogg. Big Kev is now a workout fiend.

He insists he's different inside, too. "I just kind of reinvented myself, man," said Herndon, who has been recording and performing at least since 1996. "There's a newer generation out here. I want to make sure they can relate to me."

Herndon acknowledges that he made bad decisions and bad choices that led to his time behind bars. He said he's now eager to reach out to young people and encourage them not to make the same mistakes that caused him to lose so many precious years.

To that end, he's working on publishing a book that he wrote while incarcerated. The tentative title is "My Life, My Pain, My Rhymes." He hopes to issue it along with a mixtape and DVD.

"I think my story will inspire a few people," Herndon said. "At one point, I said I wasn't going to rap again ... I thought my whole future was messed up."

But even in prison, Herndon found that the hip-hop world had not forgotten him. WOWI-FM DJ Jack of Spade stayed in touch. Fellow inmates said they remembered his tunes.

He started writing rhymes again. Herndon said he penned some 400 songs while locked up.

Since his release, he said he's encountered lots of warmth. "Everyone's been saying, 'Welcome home,'" Herndon said. "Everybody just embraced me. I'm humbled and thankful for all the love."

He hopes to record again soon. One tune is to be called "Stand Up," which he intends to serve as an anthem for all of Virginia.

"I almost feel like a new person. I feel like I did when I was 21. My mind is clear. I'm focused. I'm ready to give it one more run."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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