It’s been 17 months since Lil Wayne tweeted to the world that he’s a prisoner of Cash Money. The moment still feels surreal. After years of success together you would think Weezy would be given immunity to any underhanded label tactics. If anyone deserves the freedom to do as they please, it would be the Hot Boy that stayed when everyone jumped ship. While it appeared that Cash Money was a happy home, the dirty laundry revealed how Baby and Cash Money was holding the Carter V hostage. The album is lost in a lawsuit with no end in sight.
A lesser artist would have truly been trapped behind the bars of their contractual agreement, suffering monetary losses, watching their fame disappear and taking desperate measures to balance out the desperate times. Instead, Wayne has somehow found ways of turning his prison into a bridge of other opportunities.
In August of 2015, Wayne hosted Lil Weezyana Fest, a huge event just a month after the release of Free Weezy Album. While FWA wasn’t anything extraordinary, the Lil Weezyana was something special for fans and his home state of New Orleans. The night was full of moments - Wayne being on stage with his Hot Boys brethren and Mannie Fresh (minus BG), Drake appearing and subsequently shutting down the TIDAL stream, Master P being brought out to perform "Make 'Em Say Uhh," and other N.O. notables like Ms. Tee, Curren$y, Big Freedia, DJ Jubilee, the list goes on. Everyone was there but Birdman. It was a great night, one that took the pain for his recent situation and turned it into a postivie.
Releasing an album is a means of getting back on tour. Letting the new music touch your fans. Even without the Carter V, Wayne embarked on the 19-date Dedication tour that featured Rae Sremmurd as his special guest. It wasn’t a tour across the world but that’s to be expected when your only new material is from mixtapes that didn’t produce any big singles. He also benefited largely from the Collegrove album. Despite Def Jam stressing that it’s a 2 Chainz album that features Lil Wayne, Collegrove once again opened up doors for both positive press, concerts and touring. Not being able to put out his own album gave him ample time to team up with Chainz and both artists are reaping the benefits.
The best possible move that Wayne has made is transitioning into commercials. Wayne’s popularity isn’t where it once was, we're no longer in the days of "Lollipop," but he’s still very much a household name. Recently he's turned his celebrity into a placement in a Super Bowl commercial, a very impressive accomplishment. The list of rappers to make it into an ad on the most expensive day of the year is no minor feat. And not only did Apartments.com have him on millions of televisions, so does Samsung. By now we’ve all watched Lil Wayne pour champagne on the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge. Wayne used to boast about pouring champagne on models, now he’s getting checks to pop bottles over cellphones.
Rumors are that Wayne’s next venture is reality television. The thought partially makes my stomach turn - reality television has a way of turning declining celebrities into caricatures for the public’s amusement. Wayne isn’t on the deathbed of his career, signing his life over to VH1 isn’t necessary, but it could prove to be another lucrative move if done correctly. The news comes from Stephanie Acevedo, a Young Money artist that I didn’t know existed, who claims the series will be based on Wayne being a mentor for other artists. I’m envisioning Making The Band meets Survivor.
Wayne may be in the biggest fight of his career behind the scenes, but outwardly you wouldn’t be able to tell this is a man who once described himself as a prisoner. He has toured, created a festival, released an abundance of music, been featured on albums and in commercials, all with reality television stardom on the horizon. When it’s time to wage war with your label, especially a label like Cash Money who is used to fighting long battles in the courtroom, the outcome is very rarely one full of payouts and victories. Having an album shelved can be disastrous, is disastrous for most, but Wayne's making it look like a breezy Sunday instead of a tornado. He hasn’t ranted on social media, he has kept the jabs toward his label at a minimum, he’s even been spotted with Birdman a time or two. He hasn’t been easily defeated and has hidden any wounds or deep disdain for his situation masterfully. Who knows if we'll ever get the Carter V, with every month that ticks by it's less likely, butregardless, I believe that Lil Wayne will be alright.
He's started to build a new kingdom in the same cage they tried to lock him in.