Before leaving office, former President Donald Trump went on a pardoning spree and some of the recipients were from the world of hip-hop.
Presidential pardons were issued to Trump adviser Steve Bannon, former Republican National Committee chairman Elliott Broidy, former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and Ken Kurson.
Here are four hip-hop figures who were pardoned by Trump on his way out of office.
Desiree Perez was arrested in 1994 for drug possession and in 1998 for grand larceny and possession of a firearm. She later turned government informer and helped the Drug Enforcement Administration break up major drug deals in Puerto Rico and Colombia.
In 2019, she was named CEO of Roc Nation, which was founded by artist-turned-mogul Jay-Z. Roc Nation is home to such artists as Rihanna, Shakira, Alicia Keys, Megan Thee Stallion, Meek Mill, and DJ Khaled.
“Ms. Perez was involved in a conspiracy to distribute narcotics,” according to a White House statement referencing her arrest for intent to distribute 35 kilos cocaine. “Since her conviction, Ms. Perez has taken full accountability for her actions and has turned her life around. She has been gainfully employed and has been an advocate for criminal justice reform in her community.”
In a statement following her pardon, Perez said, “I’m grateful to have received a pardon and to have formally closed that chapter of my life in the eyes of the law. I have taken full accountability for my mistakes from 25 years ago, but I also take tremendous pride in my personal growth, perseverance, and accomplishments since then. This pardon reinforces my lifelong commitment to advocate for criminal justice reform and social justice initiatives.”
Soon after Lil Wayne pleaded guilty in federal district court in December for illegally possessing a loaded, gold-plated handgun while traveling to Florida on a private plane in 2019, there was buzz that the hip-hop star would be getting a pardon from Trump.
Wayne was facing up to 10 years on a federal gun charge but he seemed to have a friend in a high place: Trump.
“In a flagrant, if a questionable bid for Black votes, Trump posed for a photo op with Wayne during the closing days of the presidential campaign,” Variety reported. Not long after that, the Trump administration prepared to pardon Wayne, Bloomberg reported on Monday.
Howard Srebnick, a lawyer who represented Lil Wayne in his criminal case, released a statement saying, “A pardon for Mr. Carter is consistent with the views of many jurists — including Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett — that prosecuting a nonviolent citizen for merely possessing a firearm violates the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”
Lil Wayne’s application for a pardon was supported in letters by NFL Hall of Famer Deion Sanders and Brett Berish, the CEO of a sparkling wine brand, according to the White House, which also spoke of Wayne’s charitable giving, The New York Times reported.
Florida hip-hop artist Kodak Black, who in 2019 was sentenced to 46 months in prison on federal weapons charges. was also on Trump’s pardon list. Black admitted to lying on background-check forms while buying multiple firearms. Black served time for this offense. Two of the weapons were later discovered by police at crime scenes, including one with Black’s fingerprints and a live round in the chamber of a weapon that had been used to shoot at a “rival rap artist,” according to the New York Times.
The prospect of a pardon made Kodak Black tweet that he would donate $1 million to charity if the president freed him. The artist later deleted the tweet.
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Death Row Records co-founder Michael “Harry O” Harris was one of the first to be pardoned by Trump before Trump left the White House. Harris, 60, had been in prison for nearly 30 years on attempted murder, drug trafficking, and kidnapping charges. Harris helped to fund and found Death Row Records with Suge Knight despite being in prison since 1988.
Knight himself is currently in prison after pleading guilty to a voluntary manslaughter charge stemming from a 2015 incident in which he ran over a man with his car, Variety reported.
Snoop Dogg, a former Death Row recording artist, lobbied for Harris’ release, according to the New York Post.