Lil Wayne was finally released on Thursday from Rikers Island after an eight month sentence for weapons possession, but it wasn't until Sunday night that he arrived in his adopted hometown of Miami to properly celebrate his freedom, one day after a triumphant return to the stage with Drake in Las Vegas. (See photos of the pair performing.)
About 500 friends and family members gathered for the exclusive affair at Miami's Dupont Building, which, fitting for Wayne's label Cash Money, is housed in a former bank - even the vault was turned into a private, banquette-lined lounge. (Wayne hosted a more public party a few hours later at the King of Diamonds strip club.)
If Weezy himself seemed a little subdued, skipping across the red carpet and hiding behind sunglasses and under a sweatshirt hood, it was likely due to travel fatigue. "We went from New York to Arizona to Vegas and back," Cash Money co-founder Bryan "Birdman" Williams explained of Wayne's hectic travel itinerary, while sipping from a gold-plated champagne bottle.
So, yes, Wayne's presence at his own to-do was relatively modest, but the event itself was totally over-the-top. The former bank's atrium - a venue already heavy on gold-plated décor - was transformed into something resembling a royal court. Dainty votive tea lights illuminated a space decorated with mirrored tables, red velvet couches, and Philippe Starck acrylic barstools. Reedy females decked out in Louis XIV-era costumery (tight-fitting bodices and heavily-powdered wigs) lingered near the VIP area where Wayne presided.
Wayne surrounded himself with the entire Cash Money/Young Money stable, including Jay Sean, Jae Millz, Nicki Minaj and Darke. Minaj and Drake earned the title for most outlandish attire: she chose a blue wig and pink nylon get-up, while he opted for a bold, blue sharkskin suit.
Elsewhere, hip-hop stars hobnobbed over champagne, Grey Goose, and a seemingly endless supply of mini sliders and tuna tartare. Busta Rhymes ambled through the fringes in a velour tracksuit, while Fat Joe pushed through a crowd of ample female posteriors to get by Rick Ross, who grinned and posed tirelessly for fans' cell phone cameras.
Kevin Rudolf escorted an Amazonian blonde to the bar, while songwriter and label head Rico Love showed off his latest signee, Young Chris. Meanwhile, Miami's ubiquitous hype man DJ Khaled worked the whole room, alternately greeting his pals and screaming "We the best!" over his own songs blaring on the sound system.
Despite the hip-hop star power, everyone was angled towards Wayne's table, which had an image of a crown projected above it. A king's ransom of champagne flowed towards this vortex and the DJ blasted an all-Weezy soundtrack throughout. It may have been sensory overload: by 2 A.M., Wayne had called a sudden retreat and headed off to continue the bash at the King of Diamonds strip club.
Even with his packed party schedule, Wayne has recording on his mind. Birdman says Wayne was due back in the booth later that night, where he'll start work on Tha Carter IV. "While he was in there, he was writing, just staying sharp," Birdman says, "so now we're starting all over."