When, seemingly out of nowhere, famed New Orleans rapper Lil Wayne, who was born Dwayne Carter, took to Twitter a week before the November election to endorse President Donald Trump, many of his fans were blindsided.
“President Carter with President Trump,” read the boastful tweet above an image of the two side by side giving the thumbs-up. The next day at an event outside the White House, Trump described Wayne as “an activist in a really positive way.”
Had Wayne pulled a Kanye and gone MAGA? Was a Weezy ’24 campaign in the offing? Nope. Behind the scenes, the 38-year-old rapper was facing a possible 10-year prison term on gun charges stemming from a December 2019 incident in Miami, and the post appears to be the first piece of a multistage effort to win the president’s favor. The end game? A presidential pardon.
Two months later, Lil Wayne is being considered for a pardon, according to a report published by Bloomberg. As well, another hit-making rapper already serving time on gun charges, Kodak Black, who praised Trump before the election, is in the running for a pardon.
How did two artists who had never before spoken positively about Trump’s politics land on American convicts’ most exclusive — and legally binding — list?
Under most recent presidents, there have been two ways to get a pardon, says Dr. Jeffrey Crouch, assistant professor of American politics at American University and author of “The Presidential Pardon Power.” The first is to apply to the Office of the Pardon Attorney in the Department of Justice. The other way is to get into the ear of the president. “President Trump has apparently worked outside the Pardon Attorney for many of the clemency grants he has made, so for him the second option is probably more likely to succeed.”
Wayne has been shockingly transparent in his efforts to get a pardon for his 2019 arrest. After an anonymous tip two days before Christmas more than a year ago, authorities searched his private jet after it landed in Miami. Among his possessions, they found a gold-plated, pearl-gripped .45-caliber Glock, ammunition and drugs including cocaine, heroin, MDMA, prescription-strength cough syrup and painkillers. As a convicted felon, Wayne is barred from possessing a firearm. He said the gun was a gift.
Aware that he could be sent to prison for having the Glock — he wasn’t charged in connection with the drugs — the rapper met with Trump on Oct. 29 regarding a Trump administration initiative called the Platinum Plan, which is aimed at enabling Black-owned businesses easier access to capital. Lil Wayne wrote afterward: “Just had a great meeting with [Donald Trump] besides what he’s done so far with criminal reform, the platinum plan is going to give the community real ownership. He listened to what we had to say today and assured he will and can get it done.”
Many of his fans were apoplectic. The rapper was an expert at speaking truth to power, at least when he wanted to. Most famously, on “Georgia Bush,” his indictment of President George W. Bush’s response to Hurricane Katrina, Wayne rapped: “I was born in the boot at the bottom of the map / New Orleans baby, now the White House hating / Trying to wash us away like we not on the map.”
On Dec. 11, Wayne pleaded guilty to one count of possessing a firearm and ammunition as a felon. Unless Trump intervenes with a pardon before Jan. 20, Wayne will be sentenced Jan. 28 and faces up to 10 years in prison.