Thursday, June 12, 2008
Lil Wayne: Guardian Guide
So due to space etc, some of this piece got cut. I may be selling it elsewhere so can't put up the full thing yet, but for those interested, here's my Lil Weezy piece that just ran in the Guardian Guide last weekend...
Maverick MC Lil Wayne studies psychology but necks psychedelic cough syrup like there's no tomorrow. What gives, asks Hattie Collins
Lil Wayne shakes his sinewy dreads, leans his naked chest right back and omits another weird gurgle from the throat that has helped make him, in his own words, the greatest rapper alive. "I love you London," he declares, grabbing his guitar right about the same time that someone lobs a plastic champagne bottle squarely at his bonce. "What the...?" he mumbles as more plastic objects rain down on him. It seems people are tiring of Wayne's time-wasting and want him to get on with it. A rather annoyed "Fuck this!" can be heard as the disgruntled 25-year-old wanders offstage.
When he does eventually return the performance at east London's Stratford Rex isn't one of Wayne's best. He seems a little distracted, or maybe just high. Yet despite this, there is more than enough evidence of excellence for even the most ardent Anti-Wayne-ite to admit that Dwayne Michael Carter is the most exciting MC in rap right now. His stage presence, when he can be arsed, is truly electric. Although relatively unknown in the UK, Wayne, AKA Weezy F Baby AKA Birdman Junior AKA Lil Weezy AKA, um, The Pussy Monster is hip-hop royalty. Currently rated the world's No 1 MC by Rolling Stone, he's as equally at home on a Fall Out Boy remix as on a Britney Spears single. Indeed, with a guitar slung on his back, a reported drug habit that could out-rock the rockiest of rockiers, Lil Wayne is a rock god.
"I am rock music," he woozily agrees a few hours before the show, still distracted. He keeps one eye on the hotel door where groupies await; the other is fixated on a cup that holds his beloved sizzurp (cough syrup) and Sprite. He's not reached Guns N'Roses status yet, he declares after taking a swig. "I'll be there. I don't think about things that I have to do to get there; I just wake up every day and do something to get there. And whatever it is that I do, I look back and say that's what I done to get here." He rambles on like this for a few minutes, eventually concluding: "Only a few can walk into a test without studying and pass everything correctly. I try to be that person," he finishes, satisfied at last.
It might be the syrup, it might just be that Lil Wayne is a little crazy, but having a conversation with him is a bit difficult. "I'm off the wall," he agrees. "My thoughts bounce everywhere. I'm a Libra and you know we're the only sign who don't have no soul, so..."
It's no surprise to find Lil Wayne as eccentric in the flesh as he is on record. Few, in fact, can keep up with the stream-of-consciousness couplets that wander erratically and enigmatically from his tattooed lips. He never writes lyrics down, preferring to simply step into the booth and spit. From the ridiculous and insane to the amusing and bizarre, Weezy might decide to rap in French, play guitar or sing. His whimsical wordplay includes references to Angela Lansbury, Hurricane Katrina, Martians and sporting similes. He does the bragging thing too, but the Lil fella isn't immune to showing a little sensitivity, like on brilliant, soul-baring tracks I Feel Like Dying and Pray To The Lord. Other times he addresses police brutality, his absent father and government corruption. If you don't like one Wayne track, fret not, there are plenty to choose from; in the last four years, his output has been staggeringly prolific. "Actually, someone did count them once. They got to 1,000 and gave up," he says of the never-ending array of mixtapes, remixes and collaborations that spurt from his Miami studio on a daily basis. He's the go-to guest rapper for everyone from Enrique Iglesias to Jay-Z, leading 50 Cent to label Wayne a whore. ("Whores get paid," shrugged Wayne in response.) His delivery is equally promiscuous; rhyming in a rasp that sounds like he's alternatively about to chuckle or cry, he may sometimes interrupt himself with a question, an obscure ad-lib or a long-forgotten memory. "When I was five my favourite movie was the Gremlins/Ain't got shit to do with this, I just thought that I would mention," he declares in a crazed whine on Sky's The Limit.
All of which begs the question; how does he do it? Unfortunately, it appears Weezy would rather be tucked up with the girls and the cough syrup than be stuck in a hotel room explaining himself. "I'm just being me," he shrugs of the creative process that has included gems like "Me, me it's all about me/Play with me and it's all out beef/Beef? Yes! Chest! Feet! Tag! Bag! Blood! Sheets! Yikes! Yeeks! Great Scott Storch, can I borrow your yacht?" What the...? "It's not lyrics, so I don't have to come up with it. I am what I'm saying. I just do it. This is what I am," he sounds a bit aggrieved now. "These tattoos don't rub off. So all that crazy shit you hear, that shit don't come off," he rubs his face vigorously to prove his point. Sigh. "I'm crazy." No shit.
Born in New Orleans 25 five years ago to Jacida Carter, Wayne's upbringing involved drugs, death and no dad - an everyday reality in a city ravaged by record murder and drug statistics. "What is a normal childhood, though?" says Wayne of selling cocaine as an 11-year-old and becoming a father at 15. "I look at it like childhood wasn't meant for me. I look at people with childhoods and it's still not exciting to me." Having seen it all, he's not scared of anything, he says. "Nothing. Fear, God... That's it." In case he forgets, he has the words tattooed on each eyelid - "Fear" on the right, "God" on the left. He does have a soft side, though; in 1997 he had a child with high-school sweetheart Toya. Their daughter Reginae remains a pivotal part of Wayne's life. "She says I'm the best daddy in the world, but every kid says that," he chuckles. "She's a great kid. She's perfectly mine."
He recently knocked X-Factor powerhouse Leona Lewis off the US No 1 spot with the wonderfully lewd new single, Lollipop. And his outstanding new album Tha Carter III - which features guests as diverse as R&B legend Betty Wright, and Jay-Z who appears on the album's highlight Mr. Carter - finally solidifies his "Best Rapper Alive" proclamations. But the acclaim means little. So what, he shrugs, bored again. Rather than discuss the new album, Wayne would prefer to talk about the psychology degree that he's doing online at Phoenix University. "I don't know why I did it," he puzzles of re-entering education in his 20s. "Because I never had one I suppose." Has it taught him much about himself? "I already know who I am. I gotta lot of mirrors all around my crib, so I know what I look like and I can see through these," he says, pointing to his inked eyes. "It's more about figuring out everybody else and the way they are. You know how they act, who they are and then you're never sure. And that's the beauty of psychology, the beauty of humanity. Psychology teaches you that you could never know someone." Including himself? Arms crossed, deep frown. We've been talking for 25 minutes but we're both exhausted. Stop asking how and why, he insists. It doesn't matter how he does what he does, he just does. "Though I will tell you that I've been watching Beowulf. Every day. I like Angelina Jolie," he muses. "And I like the one that plays Grendel."
Finally, before the tourbus whisks him and the girls off to the Rex, he relents a little. "I can explain me in one word," he decides. "Unexplainable." Here we go. "No, listen," he pleads, suddenly eager to be understood. "Anybody who can be explained should be ashamed of themselves. I wasn't created, I wasn't made. I was put here and there's no word for it," he nods, gathering up his sunglasses and syrup. "I can't explain myself. You look at me and tell me what you see, you listen to me and tell me what you get. That's what it is, that's who I am." Swig, grin, sunglasses back on. "I am music, ya dig?"
· Tha Carter III is out on now