His Young Money/ Cash Money family carried on in his absence until Lil Wayne finally left Rikers Island on Thursday, but the crew tells MTV News they missed the MC quite a bit during his eight months of incarceration.
"He's my son, so you are always going to miss a loved one," [artist id="1233850"]Birdman[/artist] told us in October. "At the same time, we're doing what we love to do. Work hard, keep the music poppin' and we all excited that he's about to come home any minute. He's happy. He wants to get out of that place."
Birdman admitted that the MC's prison stay put a cramp in the camp's plans.
"Everybody just working hard, energized about him about to come home," the Cash Money head said. "We worked, but him being gone — that was just a left turn in life. We wasn't expecting anything like that but we had to deal with it."
While Lil Wayne was away, his label's brand continued to grow, bolstered by the rise of Drake and Nicki Minaj as the leaders of Young Money's roster. The movement proved to have legs, Baby said.
"The 'Free Weezy' campaign [has] been real natural," he explained. "The way Nicki and Drake's been able to grow, but at the same time they make sure that even as their stars are getting brighter — even [in concert] they said, 'When I say this, You say, 'Free Weezy.' As a businessman, you get to see two of your people grow."
The Cash Money exec said that Weezy believed in his Young Money crew so much that Birdman and his label partner, Slim, had no choice but to expect greatness.
"It's genuine from the heart; I really appreciate what he did for them [by] blessing their lives. We wasn't expecting nothing else, but to see it happening," Birdman continued, reflecting on Drake and Nicki's success. "To see how Drake going hot, Nicki growing hot ... Tyga, Twist, all of them ... Wayne didn't get to see this. All this popped off within the couple of months he was gone."
With Drake's Thank Me Later and Nicki's numerous guest features alongside artists like Ludacris and Trey Songz, Young Money/ Cash Money ruled Billboard's R&B/Hip-Hop chart in 2010. Now that Lil Wayne is free, he can finally fulfill the dreams of the man who calls him "son."
"I want him to see everybody working, everybody is putting in hard work," Baby concluded. "We goin' in. I'd like to see them go and exercise their vision. So there are things that they want to do and be the artist that they want to be. I'm proud of them working hard and when he gets back home, he's going to jump back in and do what he do."
Stick with MTV News throughout the weekend for up-to-the-minute reports on Lil Wayne's prison release as we follow him from Rikers Island to his celebrations at home and beyond. Follow us on Twitter @MTVNews for instant updates and bookmark weezywatch.mtv.com for complete, round-the-clock coverage.