Today, Lil Wayne was released from Rikers Island, having completed an eight-month sentence for weapons charges stemming from his arrest in July 2007.
The sentence — a year, with time reduced for good behavior — was relatively severe, due to New York's tough gun laws. But it did give him some time to recharge: The MC said he's been writing lots of lyrics in jail and plans to hit the studio as soon as possible after he's released.
Wayne had been beset by legal problems even before his prison term began — including drug-possession charges in Atlanta and Arizona, and a related arrest in Idaho. With that in mind, here's a look back at Weezy's meandering trip through the criminal justice system.
July 22, 2007: Lil Wayne is arrested after his first headlining concert in New York and charged with one count of criminal weapons possession and one charge of criminal possession of a loaded weapon. Police search his tour bus after allegedly smelling marijuana smoke; prosecutors claim he tried to conceal a .40-caliber gun that was found on the bus. Wayne's lawyers repeatedly claim the gun did not belong to him and that police had no legal cause to be on the bus. Wayne complains about the robust police presence from the stage and is himself searched upon entering the venue.
October 22, 2009: After several court hearings that produce DNA evidence reportedly attaching the gun in question to Wayne, the rapper pleads guilty to felony gun possession and is expected to be sentenced to a year in prison as part of his plea deal. Barraged with questions after the hearing, Wayne only says "What's up?," according to MTV News.
December 15, 2009: Wayne appears in a New York courtroom, where his sentencing is set for February 9, 2010. He is expected to begin his sentence the same day.
January 2010: Wayne records furiously as his sentencing date approaches, laying down dozens of songs and videos, some in front of a green screen. His long-delayed "rock" album, Rebirth, is finally released at the end of the month.
January 31, 2010: Wayne performs "Forever" at the Grammy Awards with Eminem and Drake, accompanied by Travis Barker on drums. Two days later, he appears on the Quincy Jones-helmed remake of "We Are the World," along with Kanye West, Usher, Pink and others.
February 2010: In an article published before his sentencing, Wayne tells Rolling Stone of his jail term: "I look at things as 'Everything is meant to be.' I know it's an experience that I need to have if God's putting me through it. So I don't look at it as wrong, I just ... I damn sure don't look at it as right, that's all."
February 9, 2010: In the hours before his sentencing, Wayne posts a video on Ustream saying good bye to his fans. "I'm out this bitch!" he says. "To all my fans, my real fans I really, really truly love you. I love you with all of me for real."
February 9, 2010: Wayne's sentencing is delayed until March 2 so he may undergo dental work. "I don't want this to get pushed back anymore," Judge Charles Solomon says, according to MTV News. "This is the last adjournment." At some point in February, Wayne undergoes a reported eight root canals in a single day. He also releases a series of videos in the days leading up to his second sentencing date.
March 2, 2010: The beginning of Wayne's jail term is postponed yet again following a basement fire at the courthouse where he was to be sentenced; the fire is later ruled accidental. That night, Wayne joins Young Jeezy onstage during his set opening for Jay-Z at Madison Square Garden.
March 8, 2010: Wayne is finally sentenced and begins his jail term. Hours before the sentencing, he sends a tweet that says: "Law is mind without reason. I'll return."
March 28, 2010: A brawl takes place among prisoners at Rikers, but Wayne is not involved.
April 2, 2010: Wayne launches a new website, WeezyThanxYou.com, to keep in touch with his fans and blog about sports. A post about Donovan McNabb joining the Washington Redskins is put up 12 days later.
May 3, 2010: Diddy visits Wayne in prison for an hour, the New York Daily News reports. Wayne later says this was the biggest surprise visit he got.
May 7, 2010: For Mother's Day, Wayne posts a long tribute called "A Mother's Worth" to his mom and the mothers of his children.
May 13, 2010: MTV News reports that Wayne was caught with headphones, a charger and an MP3 player in his cell ——all forbidden items that could complicate his sentence. He is not punished for the infraction until he is moved into solitary confinement in October. Wayne makes light of the situation in a call to DJ Scoob Doo six days later. Later that month, Wayne hosts a mixtape for Scoob from prison, and records a verse for Drake, both via phone.
June 30, 2010: Wayne is sentenced to three years' probation by an Arizona judge stemming from his 2008 arrest in the state, on drug and firearm possession charges.
August 3, 2010: Wayne calls in to Funkmaster Flex's show on New York's Hot 97, saying he didn't want to "bother" his proteges Nicki Minaj and Drake with phone calls.
August 16, 2010: A bored-sounding Wayne posts a letter on his website titled "Just Another Day," where he talks about playing Uno and working out. "Well ain't nothing going on in here but the time, which seems like it's taking forever," he writes.
Septmber 27, 20101: Lil Wayne makes a surprise call in to the premiere episode of MTV's show The Seven . When he is released, he says he's going to "hug and kiss my kids. And, uh, after that, I don't think I'm allowed to say."
October 13, 2010: Wayne posts a letter on his blog from solitary (where he was moved earlier that month) titled "I'm Back." "By now I'm guessing that you all have heard about my recent relocation to the bing, which is punitive segregation. Basically, no T.V., no radio, no snacks/junkfood, and one phone call a week/ This punishment has been handed to me for my earlier MP3 incident. I admit, I f----- up and now I must deal with the consequences. "I do miss being able to hear from my family everyday but once a week will have to suffice. To them, I apologize," he continued. "I'm still able to receive mail so reading and responding is still a huge part of my day. I'd like to thank everyone that sent me B-Day cards and wishes ... that was terrific. You all are wonderful, simply wonderful."
October 20, 2010: Wayne's I Am Not a Human Being album, recorded before he began his sentence, reaches #1 on the Billboard albums chart.
October 27, 2010: A Rikers guard is reportedly suspended for spending 45 unauthorized minutes with Wayne in solitary. A different guard had been fired previously for allegedly making an unauthorized visit to the rapper, although she denied the charge.
November 1, 2010: Bryan Williams (a.k.a. Birdman), co-founder of Lil Wayne's Cash Money label, tells Rolling Stone that they're seeking a plane with a studio so Wayne can begin recording immediately after leaving jail. "We're gonna deal with that microphone, no trip," he says. "You can't keep him out of the studio."
November 2, 2010: Wayne posts what is presumably his final letter before his release from prison, titled "The End of a Long Journey" and including a photograph of a luxurious bed beside a beach. He thanks his family, fans and friends. "I don't have to change for no one but God. I will be the same Martian I was when I left, just better."
November 4, 2010: After being told he'd have to wait one more day to get out, Lil Wayne is released from prison.