Lil Wayne Released From Prison and Ready to Party
By Jason Newman Posted Nov 4th 2010 09:00AM
When 'I Am Not A Human Being,' the eighth LP from rapper Lil Wayne, was released last month, no tour was planned, no promotional radio appearances booked and no media interviews granted.
Far from an undisciplined work ethic, the rapper was languishing in a Rikers Island cell, serving out a year-long sentence -- reduced to eight months for good behavior -- for attempted criminal possession of a weapon.
The rapper was discharged at 8:35AM on Thursday morning and Mack Maine, president of Young Money and Wayne's childhood friend, confirmed that a major bash in his honor will go down this Sunday in Miami.
Released initially as a digital download, 'Human' debuted at number two on the Billboard 200 chart and hit number one in its third week, following the album's physical release.
Not since 2Pac's 'Me Against the World' in 1995 has a rapper topped the charts while serving a sentence, yet according to many industry experts, because Wayne has dominated hip-hop online, it's hard to notice he was even gone. "With the Internet, people really don't have a chance to even sense an artist is gone if they have the proper setup," says Chuck Creekmur, co-founder of Allhiphop.com. "Clearly, Wayne has a large volume of work and he had enough lead time to do everything from mix tapes to guest appearances on songs to music videos. So his hardcore fans may miss him, but others may never get the true sense that he was ever away."
Like 2Pac before him, Weezy steadily recorded at a beyond-prolific rate before his prison term, living in the studio and recording multiple songs per night. The rapper even recorded a verse from prison over the jailhouse phone for Drake's 'Light Up' remix, rhyming: "I'm feelin' like Elvis -- jailhouse rock / I'm not Tupac / I'm the new 'Pac / Behind bars, but the bars don't stop recordin' over the phone / I hope the call don't drop."
While physically gone, music journalist Alvin Blanco, a frequent contributor to XXL and Vibe, notes that no one, in jail or out, has kept their profile up like Wayne. "Weezy has mastered the online game," says Blanco. "Rappers have gone to prison with game plans of keeping their names out there, e.g. Beanie Sigel or T.I., but none were able to stay in the hip-hop consciousness like Wayne. The prison term was just a momentary speed bump on his brand."
For Zach Baron, editor at The Village Voice, the timing of Wayne's sentence may have as much to do with the rapper's overall brand awareness as the sentence itself. "Prison stints are awful and should be avoided," says Baron. "But that said, if you were a critic with no heart, no empathy and no feelings, you might say it's been beneficial: not just for the legend of Wayne, but because a) his music seemed to be suffering a bit before he went away, and nothing breaks up a cold streak/syrup daze like the twin hardships of prison and sobriety, and b) it was Drake and Nicki [Minaj]'s turn anyway, so [Wayne's record label] Young Money probably benefited from having their most visible artist away from the spotlight for the last eight months so those two could prosper, which in turn only helps Wayne's brand."
Over the past eight months, it became difficult to remember the rapper was sitting in a cell and not hustling as usual. "The challenge was to make sure you feel like he never left," Cash Money Records co-founder and Wayne mentor Bryan "Birdman" Williams recently told Associated Press. MTV.com listed the "10 Things Lil Wayne Accomplished Behind Bars." The #FreeWeezy hashtag became a regular reminder of Wayne's situation on Twitter, while Young Money, upon his incarceration, immediately set up Weezy Thanx You, a website featuring personal letters from Wayne to his fans that allowed the rapper to stay connected to his fanbase -- at times thanking fans by name -- while remaining removed from the everyday world. In his latest letter, entitled "The End of a Long Journey," the rapper thanked his fans for their unwavering support:
As with many high-profile inmates, stories immediately began circulating about Wayne's status and condition in jail. In April, one month into the rapper's sentence, a former guard at Rikers was fired over claims that she spied on the rapper (a claim she disputes and is contesting in a federal lawsuit). In May, prison officials revealed that guards confiscated a MP3 player and headphones from the imprisoned rapper.I think back to when I first arrived and I had no clue of what I'd be experiencing. I was never scared, worried, nor bothered by the situation. For that, I thank God, my family, and you, my amazing fans. I prayed for you all every night, as I'm aware that I was in your prayers as well.
Of course, none of that will matter to Wayne upon his release. Most likely, after reconnecting with friends and family, he'll go straight to the studio to start recording again. Whether Wayne will continue to reflect on his experience in jail or move on is still a mystery, but don't expect the feverish pace of recording to stop anytime soon. "I get the sense from his camp that Wayne missed music while he was in jail and missed the fans in ways we cannot imagine," says Creekmur. "I expect him to come out highly motivated to reestablish himself as a better person and a better musician."
Wayne's post-jail behavior will be a crucial period for both his career and life. "What happens now will tell the tale," says Baron. "If he walks out of his cell and into the booth and makes a classic, then the whole Rikers experience becomes part of his legend. If he comes out of jail like Ol' Dirty Bastard [whose jail stints exacerbated his already damaged mental and physical state], well, then he'll be dead in two years. Pray for the former."
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