On Thursday morning (October 22), Lil Wayne pleaded guilty on a felony gun-possession charge and is expected to be sentenced to a year in prison (although a shorter term of eight-to-10 months on good behavior appears likely). Several hip-hop artists MTV News spoke with in the hours after the news broke were extremely saddened by the development.
"Lil Wayne is a great friend of mine," said DJ Khaled, who had just heard the news. "He's a brother and he's helped so many people. He's helped so many people, the public, [his] city. Musically, he's helped other artists. He's just a great person on the whole.
"He's gonna be good no matter [what], 'cause Lil Wayne's so blessed, but the news has got me disturbed. When you do so much good for the world, make music to inspire young kids and give back to the community, to put a man away like that for eight months to a year ..." Khaled trailed off before continuing. "Lil Wayne is great person. It's just wack that people have to go through these trials and tribulations."
"It hurt us," [artist id="2000082"]Rick Ross[/artist] said. The Bawse had just gotten off a plane to Los Angeles on Thursday morning when he heard about Wayne's plea. "We strategize and work towards this for so long, [and] when something like that, a major inconvenience such as that, nine people out of 10, that stint could hurt them. But I think Wayne has a unique situation with his Cash Money family and now his Young Money roster, I know they got a lot of things poppin'. Wayne's got enough music. He's one of the few artists I feel could eat those 10 months up, or that year, and then come home to rap royalty. If anybody is gonna be able to do it, it's gonna be Wayne."
While Ross was optimistic, [artist id="1237281"]Juelz Santana[/artist] was irate.
"I'm pissed off," Santana said on Thursday morning. Coincidentally, he was in Wayne's hometown of New Orleans filming his first movie, "Video Girl," with Meagan Good. "They totally violated my man. I been trying to call my man all morning. I'm offended! I'm offended, for one, that it happened in New York City. That was some bullsh--. I don't know the situation as far as what happened on the bus, but at the end of the day, Weezy shouldn't be going to jail for nothing right now."
Santana said he feels that Wayne was unfairly targeted by police, like many of his peers.
"Even as rappers, we out here on defense," he added. "We ain't out here hurting nobody. We go to shows picking up 50, 60, probably hundreds of thousands of dollars. Cash money! At the end of the day, you on the bus with however many people was there, how do the officers assume that it's Lil Wayne's gun?
[artist id="1829009"]DJ Drama[/artist], who made the classic Dedication series of mixtapes with Wayne, also feels that rappers like Weezy are targeted unfairly.
"I was shocked," Drama said of the news about his collaborator. "It was ironic because when I got the e-mail, I was taking a break from shooting a CNN special [about] black men in America since President Obama's [election]. Then here we are halfway through [shooting] that, and I get a e-mail about Lil Wayne possibly facing jail time. One of the world's most popular music stars? It's crazy. Not to take anything from the actual charge or the conflicts of guns, [but] we all can bear witness to the racist tactics of the hip-hop police, specifically in New York. I remember numerous occasions, doing my promo [during] my album's run. They were outside the venues just clearly looking for situations. I can imagine on that night or any given night with the most heralded stars — the 50 Cents, the Lil Waynes — the aggressive nature, they came down on those guys. The system is not even fair to that extent.
"People can say 'Don't do the crime, do the time' or 'Don't carry weapons,' yadda, yadda, yadda," he continued. "These cops are coming so strategically at these artists to make these headlines, to make these statements ... it's plain and simple wrong. So much time and effort is put into putting our music stars behind bars, they still ain't find out who killed Tupac and Biggie."
Even with Wayne having to go away, these artists — like many fans — feel that the time outside of music will have little ill effect on his career.
"Wayne is gonna be all right because God is with him," Khaled insisted. "Us as hip-hop fans, we gotta support him when times are hard, too. I tell everybody you can't turn your back on somebody. I'm gonna ride with Wayne forever. I'm gonna play his music whether it's in the club, the radio or in my car. [It's] gonna be like he's got an album coming out every week."
"It most definitely could have been a lot worse," Ross added. "But Lil Wayne and his camp, his music is gonna remain visible and relevant. He's gonna handle his business and come home like a boss. Believe that.
"This is finnin' to take him to a whole 'nother creative point," Ross continued. "To have time to sit down ... I can imagine how many records and choruses he's gonna write. Knowing Wayne, he's gonna release a mixtape from behind bars. He'll be right back with a new energy and he'll have the streets excited. People are going to want to hear what he has to say and speak his experience and speak to the youth."