The Khalil Amani Reader

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Inside The Inmate: Best-Selling Author Rio.

Inside The Inmate: Best-Selling Author Rio.

Words by Khalil Amani & Rio

As someone who writes primarily for the streets—for the prison population and for the downtrodden, I’m most happy when I see and hear about a brotha behind the wall trying to better himself and redeem himself from his circumstances. Such is the case with this young man, Mario “Rio” Bardlett—an inmate serving a 35-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter in 2007.


(Best selling Urban-Literature author Rio Terrell)


He has become a best-selling urban-lit author and he’s doing it all while being incarcerated! As an author of six books myself, I’ve never written a best-seller anything and I’m (physically) free-er than-a-mug! Don’t you find this fascinating?


So who is this young man?


As a child, Rio grew up on the mean streets of Chicago (15th & Trumbull Ave.) where he spent his days as a young ghetto-star and “head-bussa” (a bully of sorts) to becoming a gang member and running with the “Travelling Vice Lords” and then graduating to full-blown dope-boy status with a clique’ called “Dub Life Goons.”


Along the way, Rio found himself at odds with the “authorities” (as my dad used to say. I always thought that word coming from black men was the most boot-shuffling, spineless, coonism evaaar! Ugh!). This cat Rio was a bad mutha… I’m just talking about Mario! And I’m not trying to glamorize his life.


Rio was young, black and just didn’t give a fuck about authority. Rio hopped from school to school, being a bad-ass who got kicked out of schools on the regular. With a mother who worked full-time to keep food on the table and a drug-addicted father, Rio was forced to let the streets educate him. Indeed, the streets gave Rio the street credibility that many of these fake-ass rappers aspire to have. But fucking with these streets has a price! Rio landed in “juve” (Jail/Juvenile Hall for minors) for Assault & Battery, petty thefts and a hodge-podge of offences. Alas! The system handed Rio a 2-year jail sentence after rouge Michigan City cops planted several grams of crack on him during a routine traffic stop (what they usually do to black men who have landed on their radar as a “Menace II Society”).


But his real date with the system was nearing, and in time he would get caught up in the biggest mistake of his life, which landed him a 35-year prison stint.


In June of 2005, a fight broke out where his friend had been jumped and Rio had been shot. This precipitated the wrath of Rio, where allegedly, his “Llama” (AK-47 or any one of those high-powered weapons) went ape-shit crazy on an apartment complex, a crack-house and later, the dude, which had jumped his friend—allegedly!



Three months later Rio was in LaPorte County Jail, charged with murder, battery and threatening, while being investigated for several other shootings. On January 17, 2007 Rio pled guilty to voluntary manslaughter and received a 35-year sentence to the Indiana Department of Corrections.


Upon his arrival to prison, Rio's knack for violence never waned. Fights and stabbings became regular until, in early 2008, he was charged with assaulting a prison guard. Rio was then moved to the "SHU", a "secure housing unit" for the Indiana Department of Correction's most notorious inmates. Surrounded by the screams of madmen, Rio found peace in reading, and after perusing a vast collection of urban novels, he began to write, weaving tales of the Chicago gang culture in with everything else he'd learned to create some of his first novels, a few of which have yet to be published.


Now, just six years later, Rio is a national best-selling author, one of the top-selling black authors on Kindle, and he's only just begun. His first published novel, "The Cocaine Princess", became a #1 African American bestseller shortly after its release, and each of his following novels have also been bestsellers. His ebooks, The Cocaine Princess 1-5; Sweet Licks 1 & 2, and A Gangsta's Son 1 & 2, can all be found on (Kindle), and The Cocaine Princess series (books 1 through 5) are combined into three paperbacks, all available from Amazon. Readers can write Rio at: Mario Bardlett #120178 Indiana State Prison 1 Park Row Michigan City, In 46360.




Mario “Rio” Bardlett’s life is a tale of overcoming odds and triumph! Rio has proven that although he may be incarcerated, his mind is freer than many of us on the outside complaining about our mundane existence. Indeed, Rio is FREE! You never know what’s truly “inside the inmate!” Check for him!

Khalil Amani is a blogger for AllHipHop. He also writes for DJ Kay Slay’s Originators Magazine & Straight Stuntin Magazine. He is the author of six books, including the ground-breaking book, “Hip-Hop Homophobes…” 07). Amani is gay hip-hop’s self-proclaimed straight advocate. Visit The Coonerific One at Follow on Facebook/Twitter @khalilamani. Instagram @khalil_amani, Youtube @ yahweh 12

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