Is prison really so bad for a musician’s career? Sure, losing their human rights is bound to be a bit of a downer, but in return they get plenty of time to write new material and some colourful experiences to liven their next work. Heck, they might even sell a few sympathy records.
On the 4th of November Lil’ Wayne completed an eight month spell in Rikers Island Correctional Facility. He seems to have handled this potential ordeal well. He delayed his sentence a week to get dental surgery (just the eight root canals, and a couple of implants). Whilst inside he got his hands on an MP3 player, was treated to private custody, and was able to read his fan mail over the internet. He even released a new album, I Am Not A Human Being, selling over 250,000 copies to date. Of course, Wayne will have missed his freedom, his money, his four children, and his superstar lifestyle, but perhaps this could be the start of something bigger and better for the young rapper. He is by no means the first musician to do a stint behind bars. Can Wayne gain hope from others’ experiences?
Recently, admittedly, prison hasn’t served the musician-come-detainee so well, although that’s probably to do with the charges associated. Phil Spector’s nineteen year sentence for 2nd degree murder is unlikely to do the former Beatles producer any favours; partly because he will almost certainly die in prison, but mainly because we’ve now seen the miserable state of his toupee-less hairline. Peter Doherty’s stretches haven’t fared him much better. They haven’t so much convinced us of his rebel-till-I-die-attitude, as to what a boringly predictable junkie the ‘libertine’ actually is. Luckily for Wayne, there’s nothing so sinister about his charges, and he hasn’t yet made getting caught a boring habit. Possession of drugs and firearms actually seems understandable, mundane even, compared to the kind of thing Gary Glitter and Michael Jackson were allegedly up to. If Wayne had, for instance, been accused of having ‘relations’ with minors, I can’t imagine his fans would have been so forgiving.
Lil’ Wayne’s ace in the hole might just be his genre. Hip-hip has been extremely kind to its incarcerated crusaders. Tupac’s Me Against the World was released with its deviser firmly locked away, yet enjoyed unprecedented success, clocking 240,000 sales in its first week. Ol’ Dirty Bastard of the Wu-Tang Clan made light of his time behind bars, contributing Wu-Tang lyrics via the prison telephone, before going on to escape his rehab facility to “record on the run.” Of course, these two men did die almost immediately after their release: a coincidence, surely?
So, not all the omens are bad. As long as he doesn’t murder an actress, become a walking parody of himself, molest any minors, or die within the next six months, I’d say Wayne may yet do very well from his time away.