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The Prison Pose, also known as the Jail Pose, is a photo fad in which participants squat or kneel in front of the camera while wearing an intimidating facial expression. Despite its roots in prison subculture, the prison pose has been since adopted by teenagers and youths on Instagram. The fad also inspired a variation known as the “rap squat,” in which the subject crouches with their hands folded in the prayer position.
According to an interview with Vice contributor Bauce Sauce, the prison pose gained popularity among rappers for album art in the late 1980s. In 1989, rappers Jay-Z and Jaz-O were photographed in crouching positions on the album art for the single “Hawaiian Sophie” (shown below).
On May 10th, 2005, rapper 50 cent released the single “Just a Lil Bit” from his second studio album The Massacre, in which he is pictured posed in a rap squat (shown below, left). On February 2nd, 2006, Flickr user Tami Jo Urban uploaded a photograph titled “Prison Pose,” featuring a man crouched in front of an automobile (shown below, right).
On October 5th, 2007, Urban Dictionary user Wizz kid submitted an entry for the term “prison pose,” defining it as a crouched pose used by members of prison gangs to “look tough.” On March 3rd, 2008, Gixxer Nation Forums member Tilly started a “prison pose thread” urging other members to share photos of themselves in the squatting position. On December 16th, 2012, rapper Action Bronson posted a photograph of himself in a rap squat over a bathtub to his Instagram feed, where it gained over 2,700 likes in the next two years (shown below).
On April 12th, 2013, Tumblr user mikejonesfl highlighted several photographs of Action Bronson posed in crouched positions. On August 14th, the pop culture blog XXL highlighted several prison pose examples in a slideshow. On April 29th, the Tumblr blog “James’ Prayer and Prison Poses” was launched. On October 27th, Twitter user @ernestbaker posted a screenshot of Bill Gates in the 2013 biographical drama film Jobs in what appears to be a rap squat.
watching Steve Jobs documentary and it appears Bill Gates pioneered rap squats pic.twitter.com/gNhRBZ33RB— ernest baker (@ernestbaker) October 28, 2013
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