The thing about arranging an interview with Lil Wayne is that when you finally do get The Call--after much negotiating and multiple reschedulings--his publicist puts you on hold and the music you hear, by a country singer (according to Google) named Billy Currington, goes, "She had Hollywood written on her license plate; she was lost and looking for the interstate, needing directions and I was the man for the job; I told her, 'wait up yonder --'..." And then Lil Wayne's publicist comes back on the line with the tattooed wonder, only you're still marveling at how odd it is to be listening to abysmal country music while holding for the hottest MC alive.
But before long you'll be marveling at something else. Namely that this laconic dude really is the hottest MC alive. He freestyles some of the weirdest couplets known to man (from his forthcoming album: "I could get your brains for a bargain, like I bought it from Target / Hip-hop is my supermarket, shopping cart full of fake hip-hop artists") and his syrup-soaked nasal burp appeared on more cameos last year than Hillary Clinton has campaign debt.
Now he's taken his success to the next level: "Lollipop," the raunchy first single off his new album, "The Carter III," has held the top spot on Billboard's singles chart for four weeks running (just in time for prom!)—beating out new American Idol David Cook and current iPod posterboys Coldplay. NEWSWEEK's Brian Braiker caught up with Lil Wayne—ne Dwayne Michael Carter Jr., but also known as Weezy F. Baby, and Birdman Junior, and, um, P---- Monster—on Saturday, the weekend before the long-awaited third installment in the Carter opus was officially released (and days after it had already leaked online). Excerpts:
NEWSWEEK: Congratulations on "Lollipop." It's huge. Do you feel like you're crossing over into a new level of stardom?
Lil Wayne: That's what it did and that's what it does. My aim is just to make good music every single time.
You're sort of famous for your productivity and your cameos and your mixtape output. Why do you think it took so long for an official release of "The Carter III" to come out?
I don't know. I guess perfect timing. It was nothing like they didn't want to put it out. I wasn't worried about it. They wasn't worrying me about it.
Are you happy with the way it turned out?
Oh man, elated.
The record leaked a couple of days ago. This DJ, Chuck T, is claiming that he leaked it. This album was delayed a year because of another leak. What goes through your mind after all this, that the week before the official release there's this leak?
Nothing goes through my mind. It harms me in no way because, first of all, I am good music. Bootlegged or not, what you just heard, or what you will hear, is great. And that's the point I'm trying to get across at the end of the day and the beginning of the morning: that I'm great. Things I say have value and I would love for you to value them, however you get it. I don't really care about the leak or the DJs that's leaking it. I'm glad that people even care enough about it to make this situation a topic.
It wouldn't bother you if people decided to download it instead of going out and buying it?
This is my 15th year. This is what I do and I'm very, very straight. I don't need anything. With my fanbase, I know—whether it's downloaded, leaked or not—I know when I step on stage, I'm going to get the same reaction that I always get. That's what matters to me.
The guy who claimed to leak it said the reason he did it was because of some of the things you said about mixtape DJs. Do you want to talk about what you feel about mixtape DJs?
No because I don't feel nothin' about nobody but myself or my family. I'm cool with the majority of them but just a few of them that, you know, I'd rather not put no more light on their heads.
You mentioned your family. You had your daughter young and you've rapped about her. How has fatherhood changed you?
My daughter's 9 now. So it changed me then. Right now I'm going through a different state of change. Now she's older, she's no longer a baby. She's a kid. It's a difference that I can't explain. I think the best explanation is that it's showing improvement.
Your improvement or her improvement?
Me, myself and her. Most importantly her though.
You've been candid on the record with other people, though, about smoking weed and drinking [cough] syrup. Can we talk about syrup?
Well, what was your reaction to Pimp C's death earlier this year [of possible complications from drinking prescription-strength syrup]? Did that scare you at all?
Nothing scares me but God.
One of the rumors that went around last week was that you checked into rehab.
Yeah, I heard about that.
What does that make you think?
Getting back to your cameos, then. Who's your favorite cameo that you've done?
I wouldn't say I have a favorite. All of them, of course.
Is there anyone you've never worked with that you'd like to?
Is that a real question?
He's great, man. His lyrical skills. That boy can spit.
You say you're the greatest rapper alive. Kanye West claims to be the biggest star in the universe. Who's bigger?
Did you learn anything working with him?
I just peeped. I didn't learn so much. We were just trying collab, combine, create. You know what I mean?
Any hope of a reunion with your Cash Money label mates?
I don't know. My future's based on Lil Wayne, homey.
Well to judge by the "Lollipop" video Lil Wayne has been working on his guitar skills. Who's your favorite guitarist?
Really? Would you work with him?
Lakers or Celtics?
Of course I'm a Lakers fan.
Have you been back to New Orleans recently?
I was in New Orleans, shooting a movie actually.
What do you think when you're down there?
I don't think nothing. I just do my work.
You don't have anything to say about Katrina?
Why would I have anything to say about it? That was three years ago.
Well, you're from there. It's still going on for the people who are down there.
I can't speak for the people, that's why I can't answer it. Other people might not feel my answer.
Are you following the election?
I know that Obama won the Democratic race, that's all I know.
Who should his running mate be?
Of course I'd say Hillary so he could get those other votes, but I know that won't happen. I really don't know. It's a hard question to answer, because who would have thought we'd have a black guy running for president anyway?
Anything else? What do you want people to take away from this album? What do you want them to hear?
I want them to like it or love it. That's it. I can't say what I want them to take away from it, that's getting too personal.
Where are you right now?
Connecticut. I got a show tonight.
Who are you playing with?
I don't know. I got a show tonight.