Vulture’s Brief History of Albums Released by Artists Freshly Out of Prison
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Vulture’s Brief History of Albums Released by Artists Freshly Out of Prison

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“Nadine” (1964)

Artist: Chuck Berry
Crime: Violation of the Mann Act (the transportation of women for "immoral purposes" across state lines)
Period of Imprisonment: Two years
Time Between Release and Release: About a year

Berry was primarily dropping singles back then, and his batch for 1964 included “Nadine,” "No Particular Place to Go," "You Never Can Tell," and "Promised Land.” So, yeah, he kept the hits coming post-prison, which is something Wayne hopefully does as well. Later on Berry would get sued for installing hidden cameras in the women's bathroom of a restaurant he owned, which is something Wayne hopefully does not do as well.
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Teacher Don’t Teach Me No Nonsense (1987)

Artist: Fela Kuti
Crime: Kuti was a famously outspoken critic of the Nigerian government. His arrest was politically motivated.
Period of Imprisonment: Twenty months
Time Between Release and Release: Less than a year

Teacher is considered a worthy addition to Fela's revered discography. “Look and Laugh,” one of the two tracks on the album, recounts the attack waged on his compound by the soldiers arresting him. Nowadays kids are as liable to know Fela from the Broadway musical as from his music. Which leads naturally to the most pressing question: When is Lil Wayne getting a Broadway musical?
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American Dream (1988)

Artist: David Crosby (with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young)
Crime: Drug possession
Period of Imprisonment: Twenty months
Time Between Release and Release: Two years

American Dream was CSNY's first studio album in eighteen years, and that it was tepidly received probably didn't have much to do with any lingering prison-related psychological scarring for Crosby: He had songwriting credits on only two of the fourteen tracks. If Wayne eventually gets around to making another album with his crew, Young Money, it's safe to assume he'd be more involved than that.
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Love Over-Due (1991)

Artist: James Brown
Crime: Assault and battery with intent to kill
Period of Imprisonment: Three years
Time Between Release and Release: Six months

This was the twilight of the great man's career, meaning the best thing about this whole sordid tale is the story of how Brown landed in prison: Allegedly addled by medicine for a recent jaw surgery, he busted into an insurance seminar brandishing a shotgun, then led police on a high-speed car chase in a pickup truck. The police eventually shot his tires out, but Brown managed to drive on for another six miles. (The accompanying video actually is from Brown's second post-prison album, but hey, Leaders of the New School!)
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Train A-Comin’ (1995)

Artist: Steve Earle
Crime: Drug possession
Period of Imprisonment: Just under a year
Time Between Release and Release: Just over a year

Earle — who non-country fans may recognize as Bubble's NA sponsor on The Wire — was arrested in 1994 for heroin possession and ended up serving a large part of his sentence in rehab, where he successfully kicked his drug habit. Train A-Comin' was a stripped-down return to form for Earle, and the first in a string of excellent albums. One expects Lil Wayne won't consider his prison experience quite as constructive. If Weezy just copies the “play a wise minor character on a David Simon show” part from Earle, though, Vulture would consider that a win.
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All Eyez on Me (1996)

Artist: 2Pac
Crime: Sexual assault
Period of Imprisonment: Eight months
Time Between Release and Release: Four months

With his previous release, Me Against the World, 2Pac was the first artist to go to No. 1 while in prison; Lil Wayne, with I Am Not a Human Being, was the second. Pac supposedly went into the recording studio immediately after getting out; Wayne's team was reportedly trying to charter a plane with a recording booth for the flight home. The end result for Pac was All Eyez on Me, the double album opus widely considered his greatest release. (Also, his last.) Can Wayne similarly dig deep and best his own crowning achievement, Tha Carter III?
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No. 4 (1999)

Artist: Scott Weiland (with Stone Temple Pilots)
Crime: Probation violation (original charge was heroin possession)
Period of Imprisonment: Five months
Time Between Release and Release: The album was recorded before Weiland went away and dropped right about when he got out

Releasing an album right at the end of the prison sentence was actually the original plan for Lil Wayne, too: In the months before reporting to Rikers he was recording furiously for Tha Carter IV, but at some point the plans shifted, and a lot of that material ended up on I Am Not a Human Being. Comparing the two trajectories, it does make sense that STP decided to hold on to Weiland's pre-jail material while Wayne's team did not: After all, I Am Not a Human Being boasts nothing quite as good as “Sour Girl."
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Paper Trail (2008)

Artist: T.I.
Crime: Attempted purchase of weapons
Period of Imprisonment: One year of house arrest, eight months in prison
Time Between Release and Release: Under a year

So Paper Trail was released before T.I. went to actual prison, but after he completed house arrest. The quirk, of course, is that T.I. recorded the album under house arrest; its title was derived from the fact that he was taking all that free time to write down lyrics, something he hadn't done since early in his career. And guess who else just started writing down lyrics for the first time since early in his career: old friend Lil Wayne! Paper Trail was another artistic win — alternately glitzy, flirty, contrite, and hard, and always convincingly so — for T.I. in a career now progressively more muddled by personal transgressions.
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Brooklyn’s Don Diva (2008)

Artist: Foxy Brown
Crime: Probation violation. Attacked her neighbor with a cell phone after a fight over the volume of her car stereo (original charge stemmed from fight with nail salon manicurists).
Period of Imprisonment: Eight months
Time Between Release and Release: One month

Much like JB, Foxy's career was already in decline at the time of her post-prison album, so no one was expecting much. Still, the marketing and distribution for Brooklyn's Don Diva was particularly underwhelming (it was never quite clear if it was a mix tape or an official studio release), and it promptly disappeared upon release. This is one road we know Wayne will not be traveling down.
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The Appeal: Georgia’s Most Wanted (2010)

Artist: Gucci Mane
Crime: Probation violation (did not complete community service for previous sentence)
Period of Imprisonment: Six months
Time Between Release and Release: Four months

Gucci's a cult act waiting on a breakthrough album, and The Appeal wasn't it. But it was no disappointment: Never one given to T.I.-style introspection, Gucci here dials right back into his pre-prison mush-mouthed fast-life flow while incorporating a few A-list producers to expand his range beyond blunt beats. That Lil Wayne would similarly largely avoid the topic of prison on his own comeback album is a distinct possibility.

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