Lil Wayne, perhaps the most commercially successful and critically-lauded rapper of the past few years, was recently granted a reprieve from his date with destiny. Due to be sentenced on February 9th after pleading guilty to gun possession, the proceedings have been delayed until March 2nd so he can undergo dental surgery. So Mr. Carter has a few more weeks of freedom before what appears to be a yearlong prison sentence. Presumably, he'll be laid up after having his cracked tooth repaired. It's a good thing he's already shot nine (!) videos to promote his latest album, Rebirth, and the forthcoming Tha Carter IV, as well contributing a verse to the Haiti earthquake charity remake, "We Are The World."
Wayne's looming prison sentence is comic, tragic, ridiculous, and deserved all at the same time. He was, after all, carrying drugs and a .40 caliber pistol when he was arrested. And this isn't the first legal trouble for the rapper, whose propensity for cough syrup, weed, and ecstasy has lead to several other arrests.
The unfortunate fact is that Wayne is yet another successful young black entertainer, an icon and idol, who will have to put his life and art on hold. The question now remains the effects incarceration will have on Wayne's career. Given the fickle tastes of hip-hop fans, by the time he's a free man, the pop music tide may have completely shifted. On the other hand, he may use his jail time as inspiration to foment an exuberant new phase in his career.
Perhaps Wayne could learn a thing or two from past examples of rappers in their prime (or in the general vicinity of it, anyway) who had the misfortune to get locked up.
DMX served more than 90 days in prison last spring for drugs, fraud, and animal cruelty charges, including providing false ID to get out of paying a hospital bill. Though the last decade began with DMX's distinctive bark dominating the airwaves, by its end, if he was heard from at all, it was only in regard to his mounting legal troubles. His term was extended when he allegedly assaulted a corrections officer, but he also claims to have found Jesus inside and plans to release a gospel-hip-hop album this year.
2) Slick Rick
In 1990, 1980s rap phenom Slick Rick pleaded guilty to attempted murder charges and served five years behind bars. He actually released two albums during this time, one recorded quickly before he was locked up and the other while on a work furlough. Upon his release, he issued a successful post-prison album with an all-star lineup of guests. The native Briton ran into some immigration problems before being pardoned by New York Governor David Patterson in 2008.