On a frigid November morning, Lil Wayne walked out of New York's Rikers Island last year a free man. And though there would be lavish homecoming parties to attend, a tour-finale concert in Las Vegas, reunions with family and even a marathon recording session in the offing, the New Orleans MC can still remember what struck him most in those first few moments.
"Honestly, the first thing that I appreciated when I got out was not having to wear handcuffs," Wayne told MTV News when we visited the Miami set of his "6 Foot 7 Foot" video.
On the expansive jail facility where Wayne served out an eight-month sentence on an attempted gun possession charge, the Young Money boss discovered that while getting "special" treatment may seem to imply privileges, in fact, his celebrity status created some downsides. Having his wrists shackled as he moved through the prison's various buildings became a weight, both physical and mental.
"That was my first time walking out of there [without handcuffs], 'cause you know I always had to be transferred to one building from another to another just to do certain things, and they had so many special procedures with me," explained Weezy, who was clad in a gray YMCMB sweatshirt and Chicago Bulls cap when MTV News' Sway sat with him. "Things they had to do for protocol, so I always had to move here and move there, but everywhere I went I had to be handcuffed because it was this special protocol.
"Other inmates didn't have to be handcuffed when they [were guilty of] the same things," he added, a look of melancholy flashing across his tattooed eyelids. "But it was this special protocol for me that they had to handcuff me."
Months into his sentence, Wayne called Hot 97's Funkmaster Flex and said apart from busying himself with the daily routine of incarceration — pawing through piles of mail, listening to sports radio — he was doing serious soul-searching. "Everybody says that you're here for a reason, and I promise you, Flex, I try to find out that reason every day. I search for it. But I think when I get out, that'll be the only time I'll really know the answer."
On the dizzying "6 Foot," the lead single from his eagerly awaited Tha Carter IV, Wayne cleverly boasts, "I got through that sentence like a subject and a predicate." But he took a measured tone as he relived the pre-dawn hours of November 4.
"To walk out of there that day with no handcuffs on, that was the first thing that caught my attention," he said. "I was like wow, yeah, I'm gone."