From Lanez to Shyne: Rap Music, Immigration, and Crime

Eden Esemuede

Daystar Peterson is a Canadian Rapper under the stage name Tory Lanez. He was recently convicted of assault with a semiautomatic firearm and sentenced to serve a 10-years in prison after shooting rapper Megan Thee Stallion in 2020.[1] While this would be the end of most discussion on a criminal front, Lanez has the added complication of facing potential deportation proceedings because he is a Canadian citizen.[2] The deportation may have consequences for fans of both artists (Umbrellas and Hotties, respectively), who wonder whether this would end Lanez’s music career.

Under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) an immigrant holding a visa can be subject to deportation under three circumstances:

  1. Committing a crime of moral turpitude within five years of admission into the United States, 
  2. having multiple criminal convictions, or 
  3. being convicted of an aggravated felony.[3] 

Typical immigration law procedure has convicted immigrants serve their sentences in the United States, then enter into removal proceedings. An immigration judge then determines whether they will face deportation. 

In Lanez’s case, if immigration authorities were to make him deportable, they could do so under Section ii based on his previous (nonfelony) marijuana possession conviction in 2017.[4] More likely, however, is a deportation decision under Section iii, conviction of an aggravated felony. The INA defines an aggravated felony as an offense where one may face imprisonment for over one year after committing a crime of violence.[5] A crime of violence includes the use of physical force against another person.[6]

Because Lanez shot Megan Thee Stallion and received a 10-year prison sentence, he is eligible for deportation from the United States. 

However, this doesn’t necessarily spell an end for Lanez’s music career. Before the 2000s, “Son of Sam” laws froze the assets of artists making “expressive material” that involved storytelling about their crime.[7] However, California repealed those laws in 2002. Since the decision, artists have been able to continue making content in prison, depending on their access to equipment.   

Some prison facilities have recording rooms and musical instruments available for purchase.[8] Even without access to formal recording equipment, rappers such as Mac Dre, Lifer’s Group, and Max B have all continued their careers by releasing whole albums or features from behind bars.[9] Lanez’s recent prison phone audio announcement of the deluxe version of an album might be an attempt to do the same.[10]

Furthermore, aggravated felony convictions don’t completely prohibit individuals from entering the US. Uncommon exceptions to deportation, such as governor’s pardons and special visas, are seemingly more attainable for notable figures than average deportees. 

For example, the artist Slick Rick avoided deportation upon receiving a governor’s pardon.[11] The governor granted his pardon in acknowledgment of Rick’s good behavior during and after his initial sentence.[12] While a governor’s pardon technically isn’t enough to stop removal on its own, it goes a long way in convincing a judge to grant discretionary relief. Lanez might take a similar approach to avoid deportation.

Similarly, rapper Moses Barrow (Shyne) served a ten-year sentence for a shooting that ultimately resulted in his deportation to Belize in 2009.[13] In August of 2021, Shyne visited the United States on a visa. Admittedly, Shyne primarily worked as a member of Belize's House of Representatives rather than performing while in the United States. Still, situations like Shyne’s set a precedent that Umbrellas and Hotties may still see Lanez in the U.S. again.

While conviction and deportation temporarily impede an artist’s ability to perform, they do not necessarily stop artists from making music forever. For better or worse, Lanez followers and Stallion defenders who believe that the conviction will inevitably end Lanez’s music career are mistaken. 


[1] Andrew Dalton, Tory Lanez Gets 10 Years in Prison for Shooting Megan Thee Stalion, PBS (Aug 8, 2023),,-Arts%20Aug%208&text=LOS%20ANGELES%20(AP)%20%E2%80%94%20A,hop%20superstar%20Megan%20Thee%20Stallion. [] [].

[2] Je’kayla Crawford, Will Tory Lanez be Deported? Everything You Should Know About His Sentencing & Case, Bleu Mag. (Aug. 9, 2023), [] [].

[3] 8 USC § 1227.

[4] Crawford, supra note 2.

[5] 8 USC § 1101(a)(43).

[6] Id.

[7] Keenan v. Super. Ct. of LA. Cnty., 27 Cal. 4th 413 (2002).

 [8]Jordan Henrie, What No One Tells You About Recording Music in Prison, Ennui Mag. (Sept. 9, 2020), []  [].

[9] Id.

[10] Carl Lamarre, Tory Lanez Shares a Voice Message from Prison: ‘I’m in Great Spirits’, Billboard (Sept. 25, 2023), [] [].

[11] Sewell Chan, Governor Pardons Hip-Hop Pioneer, N.Y. Times (May 23, 2009), [] [].

[12] Id.

[13] Preezy Brown, Shyne Granted U.S. Visa with Help from Diddy, Vibe (Aug. 18, 2021),  [] [].