It’s a big week for the hip-hop world, as one of its favorite sons is about to come home. Lil Wayne is scheduled to be released from Riker’s Island this week, ending a jail sentence that saw the rapper serve a total of eight months behind bars. The guy will be emerging in awfully good shape, as he currently has an album on the Billboard chart (the number-one selling I Am Not A Human Being) and plenty of demand from his fans and friends (Drake is ready to bring him back in, and Nicki Minaj’s album will be out shortly). As long as he keeps himself clean, he’ll be in excellent shape.
Even if he stumbles a bit on his return to the real world, Weezy is on the way to having the most successful post-incarceration career of any recent rap star. Take a look at his peers for proof.
Pre-Jail Success: It isn’t easy to carry a nickname like “The Jay-Z of the South,” but T.I. managed to pull off the same sort of curious balancing act that Jigga has done over his career — specifically appealing to both hardcore hip-hop heads and mainstream audiences.
Post-Jail Success: Free from his sentence, Tip was preparing to drop his new album King Uncaged (which has since been re-titled No Mercy) when he was arrested for drug possession. He now will be headed back to prison for violating the terms of his probation.
Pre-Jail Success: New Orleans rapper Michael Tyler began as a soldier in Master P’s No Limit army and ended up being the breakout star of that unit with hits like “Shake Ya Ass” and “Danger.”
Post-Jail Success: Mystikal owes one more album to his label and is currently working on it. He dropped the single “I’ont Like You” earlier this year which features his former No Limit cohort Fiend.
Artist: Foxy Brown
Pre-Jail Success: By the time 2007 rolled around and Foxy had to serve time for a probation violation stemming from an assault charge, she was already years from her peak (1996’s Ill Na Na) and hadn’t put out anything since 2001’s Broken Silence.
Post-Jail Success: We haven’t heard any comeback music from Brown yet, though she was arrested for violating a protection order in July.
Pre-Jail Success: Shyne was supposed to be the next big star on Bad Boy records (he even sounded a lot like the Notorious B.I.G. on his early demos and invoked the never-created Biggie Smalls supergroup the Commission), but by the time his debut self-titled album came out, he was already behind bars.
Post-Jail Success: Shyne managed to release a pretty excellent album while still in the clink (2004’s Godfather Buried Alive) and is working on a pair of albums that are due early next year. He has also appeared on a handful of mixtapes since his 2009 release, all with relatively positive (though obviously commercially modest) results.
Artist: Gucci Mane
Pre-Jail Success: Gucci had achieved a ton of mixtape-related buzz before his incarceration, and truth be told, his jail time probably lent his music a little more heat.
Post-Jail Success: He just dropped The Appeal: Georgia’s Most Wanted and has a hit with “Gucci Time.”