Weezy Freed After Eight Months; Banton Weighing Bail Options

After serving eight months of a one-year gun charge, Lil Wayne was released from Rikers Island this morning, and will soon be on his way to Miami for a massive welcome home party. “FREE AT LAST!!!” tweeted his manager Cortez Bryant at roughly 10am as fans around the world—including President Bill Clinton—celebrated. “I was never scared, worried nor bothered by the situation,” Lil Wayne said Tuesday through his official fan site Weezythanxyou.com

As exciting as it is to see the Young Money CEO reunited with friends and family, at times like these we can’t help but think of all the other brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers who remain incarcerated in the Land of the Free.

Just this Monday, T.I. reported to an Arkansas prison to begin doing time for a recent probation violation—a mere seven months after the successful rapper and actor finished serving a one-year sentence on Federal weapons charges. In a recent letter to Billboard magazine, Wayne declined to comment on T.I.’s plight, but the troubling parallels between them are impossible to ignore.

Whether on their way in or on their way out, at least Tip and Weezy have both seen their days in court, and know where they stand. But there’s another young black star behind bars right now whose case has yet to be resolved—in fact, he’s been locked up for almost a year without even being convicted. Reggae artist Buju Banton was taken into custody at his Florida home last December 10 on drug conspiracy charges. His two alleged accomplices—who were arrested at a separate location, while attempting to buy several kilos of cocaine—eventually pled guilty. After five postponements, Buju’s case was declared a mistrial on September 27 when the jury failed to reach a unanimous verdict on charges that carried a potential penalty of 20-years-to-life.

Buju’s new trial will not begin until February 2011, at which point he would have been locked up for a full fourteen months and counting. Despite protests from the prosecutor, United States District Judge James Moody offered the artist $250,000 bail, under strict house-arrest rules including round-the-clock guards and electronic monitoring at the defendant’s expense. So far the price has been too steep. Last week, the DJ’s friend and colleague Stephen Marley offered to put up his own Florida home as collateral so that Buju might be able to spend time with his family as he prepares for a second court battle. But as of this writing, Banton has yet to post bond. Perhaps if he had a bit more Cash Money…

Just as his first trial came to a close, Buju released a new album on own his Gargamel Music imprint called Before The Dawn—ten blistering tracks of roots rock reggae that were recorded before his incarceration but which speak to the darkness of his plight with eerie specificity, particularly tracks like “Bondage” and “Innocent.” Lil Wayne also released an album during his bid, entitled  I Am Not A Human Being, while T.I.’s latest single, “Get Back Up” featuring Chris Brown, addresses his current predicament directly. He plans to call his forthcoming album No Mercy. One good thing about music—there ain’t no place it can’t go.

So welcome home Weezy. Please try to do like Slick Rick said and “stay out of trouble when it comes in sight.” And to all those still awaiting their day of redemption, be strong. Mercy or not, human or not, all we can really hope to do is summed up in this bittersweet selection from Buju Banton’s Before The Dawn—”Do Good.” Let it go…

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Love that? Then help Buju with that bail—buy a copy of Before The Dawn.