Lil Wayne’s life revolves around a daily regime of “SportsCenter,” studio time and sweets. But on Tuesday (February 9), the Cash Money lyricist will be formally sentenced to prison after he struck a plea deal with Manhattan prosecutors stemming from a 2007 arrest in New York on gun charges. After he officially enters his plea, the rapper is expected to then turn himself in immediately to begin a one-year jail sentence.
Not since Tupac has such an accomplished and relevant MC faced an impending prison term. But will the lithe New Orleans rapper survive the daunting conditions at the notorious Rikers Island facility?
“Lil Wayne is gonna be OK,” retired NYPD detective and noted “hip-hop cop” Derrick Parker told MTV News. “While he’s in jail, it’s a matter of fact they may not put him with the general population because of who he is and his popularity. They might lock him down and let him come out with a supervisor and stuff like that [when he’s] in the main area — but he’s definitely going to be treated differently.”
According to Parker, the way Wayne will be handled will depend on safety concerns for the rapper as well as an effort to maintain as much normalcy at the facility as possible — it won’t resemble pampered treatment by any means. Parker said despite Wayne’s small physical stature and his propensity to signal a particular gang affiliation in his rhymes, the rapper won’t have much to fear in terms of extortion, bullying or worse.
Parker compared Wayne to former New York Giants football player Plaxico Burress, another celebrity who was convicted on gun charges in New York. However, Wayne could be better prepared for life behind bars — Burress hired a jail coach to assist him with acclimating to prison, something Wayne wouldn’t even consider.
“Wayne is from the streets, from the Magnolia Houses in New Orleans, so I’m sure those guys have been in jail or locked up at some point,” Parker said. “So being in prison is no big deal to them. Plaxico isn’t built for that — he’s the type of guy that’s never been locked up like that before. He’s gonna need a coach or someone to tell him what to expect, since he’s not used to that.”
But what exactly can Wayne expect? Fortunately, he won’t have to cut his trademark tresses.
“The days of doing that are over,” retired corrections officer Charles Reid told MTV News. “They can’t make inmates do that anymore — it’s within their rights to maintain any kind of hairstyle.”
Wayne will have a few comforts of home while he’s away. He will be able to watch network television — not cable, however. And he’ll be able to watch DVD movies. He told Rolling Stone recently he plans to take an iPod in with him to assist with writing music, but a source close to the prison facility told MTV News that would not be allowed.
Reid, who worked at Rikers Island for 21 years as an officer and an investigator, said Wayne’s days would continue to be regimented, but in a much different way. He suggested the rapper may have to succumb to some work conditions, whether in sanitation or the mess hall, for example. Reid also noted that different wings of the prison carry different types of criminals, but guessed that Wayne would be housed in a dormitory area and not even be confined to a cell.
“Like a hospital, where there’s maybe 20 to 25 beds in an open ward, or it maybe bunk beds,” Reid said of Wayne’s possible lodgings. “Where he has a nightstand to keep his personal belongings.”
Due to the short nature of Wayne’s sentence — one year, which could mean 10 months, including the possibly of early release after serving 80 percent of good time, possibly putting him back onstage in a little as eight months — the rapper could very well spend his entire term at Rikers Island.
It won’t be known for sure if Wayne will be transferred upstate until he enters the New York corrections system and is processed. (A representative for the Corrections Department did not return several inquiries made by MTV as of press time.)
“I think he’s gonna go in there and do his time and do it quietly,” Parker said. “If he does it with good behavior, that will be a plus for him — then he’ll be out and putting out a new album.”