Tempo could have become reggaetón's biggest star. Now he's in prison.

Born David Sánchez Badillo in Ponce, Puerto Rico, Tempo was a kid from the projects who got hooked on music at an early age. When he was four years old, Tempo's parents divorced, and he spent the next decade traveling between New York and Puerto Rico. During his time in la Isla, he studied at his town's public school of music. In New York, he fell in love with hip hop. By his 18th birthday, Tempo was kicking off his rap career from Orlando, Florida, combining the gritty hip hop he'd heard playing on the streets of NYC with Puerto Rican reggaetón.

In the '90s, the green-eyed rapper hooked up with DJ Playero, one of the producers credited with pulling reggaetón out from the underground. Their work led to Tempo's first two albums of street-wise gangsta rap, Game Over and New Game, both of which went gold in Puerto Rico. By 2000, he was battling with Daddy Yankee for the top spot in the game. But his rise would soon come to an abrupt halt.

In 2002, Tempo and his producer, Buda, were arrested for alleged possession of 30 kilos (66 lbs) of heroin and charged with the intent to sell. The husky MC maintained his innocence, blaming law enforcement officials for being unable to capture "real drug dealers." No drugs were seized at the time of the arrest. The prosecution then used lyrics from his songs, including Narco Hampon, as evidence against him:

Soy un Narcohampon tengo el control del area azul
traficante de kilates pero cantante tu?

Three years later, Tempo was convicted and sentenced to 24 years in prison. Buda, who passed away in 2007, was acquitted. While Tempo's lawyers appealed the conviction, he found support in the unlikeliest of allies: Daddy Yankee. Once his biggest rival, El Cangri joined forces with fellow reggaetón stars Tego Calderón and Hector "El Father" to promote the Free Tempo campaign. Some accuse Daddy Yankee of supporting the jailed rapper for publicity, but Tempo disagrees: "What does Daddy Yankee gain [out of this] if he has everything? Fame, fortune, money… he's at the peak of his career."

Last month, Tempo dropped Free Tempo, a new album featuring a who's who of reggaetón: Daddy Yankee, Wisin y Yandel, Jowell y Randy, Arcángel, Tego Calderón, Zion, Fat Joe, Hector "El Father" and Yomo.