Last year around this time Lil Wayne was midway through his one year sentence on weapons charges, locked down in New York City's infamous Rikers Island. Inmate 02616544L was being housed at the Islands Eric M. Taylor unit doing hard time while his Young Money flagship artists Drake and Nicki Minaj were thousands of miles away on the opposite side of the map preparing for their debut on the big stage at the Video Music Awards. Nicki Minaj was billed as an opening act performing at the pre-show for the VMAs while Drake took his talents to the main stage for a memorable performance with Mary J. Blige and Swizz Beatz.
While one might assume the reality of Tunechi's absence from the awards could potentially dampen the shining moment for his young stars, Weezy himself was first to admit he was overjoyed to watch the pair make their way to the big league.
"I think it meant a whole lot more for me to see them onstage than it means for me to even be onstage this year, because I know they want this so bad and this is what they do it for," Wayne said of his artists' 2010 VMA moments versus his own involvement this year.
This year, while the Harajuku Barbie and Drizzy are scheduled to attend, it's Wayne who's planning a major moment. Not only is his "6 Foot 7 Foot" up for Best Hip-Hop Video, but Weezy will perform and then release the digital version of his long-awaited Tha Carter IV LP when the clock strikes midnight.
Still, for Tunechi, watching his Young Money team participate is rewarding enough. "They're young, they're fresh, and it's beautiful to them," Weezy said. "It's like you being a senior and you're watching the freshmen come in and enjoy the light. You remember, man, I remember being a freshman — that was amazing ... to see them do that, I felt relieved like, 'This is what it is all about, this is what it's for.' "
The 28th annual MTV Video Music Awards will air live Sunday, August 28, from the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles at 9 p.m. ET/PT, following the Selena Gomez-hosted pre-show at 8. See the list of nominees, revisit last year's highlights and vote for Best New Artist by visiting VMA.MTV.com.