His last album soared to the top of the charts, selling more than 1 million copies in a single week. He won multiple awards at this year's Grammy ceremony, and he's become one of the most popular touring acts working today. But hip-hop artist Lil Wayne's decision Thursday to plead guilty to attempted criminal possession of a weapon in New York likely could bring a halt to the New Orleans rapper's recent professional momentum.
Lil Wayne, born Dwayne Michael Carter, is expected to receive one year in prison, according to a spokeswoman for the New York district attorney's office. His plea was related to a 2007 arrest for the criminal possession of a weapon in New York City; police said a gun was found on his tour bus in Manhattan in June 2007.
Lil Wayne was forced to surrender his passport Thursday; he will next appear in court on Dec. 15 and he'll be officially sentenced in February, the New York district attorney spokeswoman said.
Wayne's plea could have larger implications for the release of his next album and his ability to tour to promote that collection. The artist has been working on a long-awaited rock 'n' roll effort, "Rebirth," an album scheduled to be released Dec. 15.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday, October 24, 2009 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 National Desk 1 inches; 52 words Type of Material: Correction
Lil Wayne: An article in Friday's Calendar section about Lil Wayne pleading guilty to attempted criminal possession of a weapon said that the charges against him stemmed from police reporting that they had found a gun on his tour bus in Manhattan in June 2007. The gun was discovered in July 2007.
His label publicist at Universal Motown did not respond to requests for comment, and it was unclear if the legal situation would affect the release of the album.
"Rebirth," originally pegged for a spring release and pushed back several times, is tipped to remake the rap star into a rock 'n' roller. A lead single, "Prom Queen," was released in January, but it failed to generate the radio airplay and digital sales of his rap efforts.
Still, Lil Wayne remains one of contemporary music's most popular artists. His 2008 album "Tha Carter III," his seventh studio release, has sold 3.3 million copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan, and it ranked as 2008's top-selling album. Additionally, his 2008-09 tour has been hyped as one of the most successful hip-hop treks ever.
Sports & Entertainment Financial Group's Shawn Gee told Billboard that the tour had grossed about $42 million. Gary Bongiovanni, who heads industry trade Pollstar, said the artist's recent 28-city North American leg was averaging more fans per night than arena outings from such major artists as Taylor Swift and Kings of Leon at 12,844 people. The tour, according to Bongiovanni, was grossing an average of $541,235 per night.
"That's actually pretty rare for the rap and hip-hop genre," Bongiovanni said. "There aren't many hip-hop tours that are able to fill arenas."
Lil Wayne, 27, also is scheduled for trial in Arizona on felony drug possession and weapons charges, according to press reports. He has pleaded not guilty in that case, which arose from a January 2008 arrest at a U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint.
It's difficult to say how Lil Wayne's legal troubles will impact his career. Rapper T.I. is serving out a one-year sentence on federal weapons charges, but his 2008 album "Paper Trail" has sold more than 2 million copies. T.I. also brokered a deal for an MTV reality show, "T.I.'s Road to Redemption," which documented his efforts working with at-risk youth.
A spokeswoman for Lil Wayne manager Cortez Bryant declined to comment for this story.
In an interview with The Times last year after the release of "Tha Carter III," Wayne said he does not take a calculated approach to his career. "I can't speak to nobody else and what they should do, but for me, I'm doing everything I can do, which is everything I want to do."