After pleading guilty to felony gun possession on Thursday (October 22), Lil Wayne is expected to be sentenced to one year in prison. How will this legal development affect his career as a recording artist and producer? Will fans stand by Weezy or stop buying his records? To get some insight into these questions, MTV News hit the streets of Times Square, where we ended up chatting with fans and local hip-hop artists selling their music.
Many maintained that the plea deal, stemming from a July 2007 arrest for criminal possession of a weapon, would not negatively impact the rapper's career. Though he may be spending time behind bars, they argued he's recorded enough tracks to continue releasing music while out of the spotlight.
"It'll be the same," Andre Jackson said. "He'll come back. Lil Wayne makes a lot of music. His fort can hold it down till he comes back."
Antoine Tucker is one of those fans who will continue to stand behind the rapper. "I'm gonna support him," he said. "Free Lil Wayne!"
Some suggested that jail time might even enhance Wayne's profile in the hip-hop community. "The way the industry, the way people are today, it might boost his street credibility," George Porter said. "They might want to buy even more albums. They forgive anybody for the things they do."
While that may turn out to be the case, Sam Smith called criminal behavior a big problem in the industry. "During the current state of hip-hop, a lot of artists are going to jail," he said. "Lil Boosie has to do some time; T.I.'s currently in jail. So, I think it's just part of the industry, an epidemic."
It may be a trend, but that's not exactly a good thing, Porter said. "It makes the hip-hop community look bad, like we're encouraging violence," he said. Porter was also one of several folks we talked to who believe Wayne won't end up serving a full year in prison.
Jackson summarized the feelings of many when he said that artists have to set a better example for their fans. "When you're a superstar, you have to leave that stuff in the 'hood," he said. "You came from that. You got to overcome that 'cause you're not living that lifestyle anymore. It's just entertainment."
Yet Smith pointed out that leaving such things behind is not always easy. "We're all coming from impoverished environments," he explained. "This is what we go through on a daily basis. Sometimes it's hard to shake that even with money."