G.Q. Magazine's current slogan is "Look Sharp - Live Smart." So whose bright idea was it to run a feature article on the über-successful rapper Lil' Wayne in this month's issue? I mean, a man doesn't look sharp just because he's wearing a thousand dollar pair of jeans. Not if they're hanging off his ass. And yeah, he's a multi-millionaire, but does G.Q. mean to imply that anything Wayne does is "living smart"? C'mon, that's a lil' bit of a stretch.
Regardless of the whole sharp/smart argument, the profile's author, Devin Friedman, certainly paints an interesting picture of the multi-platinum selling artist. Not that he has an especially challenging task in doing so, because Wayne is nothing if not interesting.
And despite his relatively young age (26), he's certainly no stranger to success in the music industry. Back in the late 90's when a southern rap style known as "Bling" was popular, Wayne was already turning out hit tracks even I listened to. "Pop X and drink Crys', my life is the shit" he spat in one of his songs. Yes, indeed, Wayne, your life is the shit.
Since the millennium he's kept his record label, Cash Money, but ditched his style. Or at least tweaked it. And whatever he did to tweak it, he did it just right: his last album, released in June, "Tha Carter III", went platinum in a week and triple-platinum not long afterwards.
Lil' Wayne sure has the life: a massive entourage; "girl delivery service;" personal recording studios in his tour buses, apartments and mansions; at least a million dollars worth of diamonds, gold and platinum around his neck; two Bentleys and a Maybach. Even though he hasn't driven in 4 years.
Friedman describes the world around Wayne as a system. A delicate balance which needs to be meticulously maintained. The man has a chubby Mexican personal assistant whose primary responsibilities include replenishing his stash of pre-rolled blunts and refilling his cup of liquid codeine. But the only time the assistant does so is when Wayne isn't paying attention, perhaps to keep up a fantasy that the supply of drugs replenishes itself by nothing less than an act of God, sorta like Jesus feeding the 4,000.
Apparently Wayne goes through engineers like dirty underwear. He's just begun making his own beats, even playing the electric guitar and producing his own music videos. Of course his skills with these practices are nowhere equal to that of his rapping abilities. It's only understandable that he would take his shortcomings out on his technician flunkies. A couple of these spats are detailed in the profile. They're certainly nothing everyone who's had a crappy boss hasn't had to deal with. Just a little more whiney. And of course there is no real argument. The engineer of the hour only calmly licks his lips and does what he thinks his employer wants. "The system is not set up for discourse."
One can easily imagine how Wayne's days pass by in a semi-conscious and wholly-inebriated daze. In addition to the dozen or so blunts he reportedly smokes a day, the promethazine cough syrup he drinks like water is some really potent shit. It was prescribed to me after some dental work I had done and even the recommended dose was enough to get me stoned at a level describable only as That State. Combine this with the excessive consumption of hard liquor and Ecstasy he bragged about in his late-90's songs, and there's little doubt that Wayne's mind is the egg after the frying pan treatment in those "This is your brain on drugs" commercials.
And what kind of celebrity would he be without a completely self-centered concept of time and scheduling!? If Wayne shows up for performances or interviews at all, who can complain if he's one, two, ten hours late? A fellow rapper put it best in one of his songs: "You should be honored by my lateness / That I would even show up for this lame shit."
Devin certainly does a convincing job of portraying Wayne's life as a dreamy cloud on which he sits in his throne hazily surveying his kingdom and subjects. What happens when a song is played that he doesn't like? "What the fuck is THIS!? Get this off! Get this fucking OFF! Whose computer is this!? This is the stupidest computer I've ever heard of!"
Quite the drama queen, it's anybody's guess what exactly molded Wayne into who he is today. Certainly he wasn't playing the prima donna at age 11 during his first recording session. His descent/ascent into this delirium was a gradual and steady process of concerning himself with the only concerns he absolutely had to concern himself with and dealing with only the issues no one else could be paid to deal with. Wayne certainly isn't the first man whose goal is to go through life being carried on a palanquin like some modern-day Hindu potentate. But, as Devin points out, "the world tends to resist."
After reading the profile, I felt it important to be objective about what I had read. Take into consideration any biases the author may have had against his subject, possibly created as he was being pushed around, bossed around and rescheduled numerous times during a month period. This sort of treatment could understandably color the picture that was painted.
Having taken all that into consideration, I am still 100% convinced that Lil' Wayne is a narcissistic madman. His perception of reality is like a deregulated market going through a bubble which is eventually and inevitably going to burst. And when it does, I doubt it will be pretty. Not that the time until it bursts will be pretty either. Wrapped in his cloak of drugs, fame and megalomania, his tolerance for interaction with lesser mortals and the irritation they cause will undoubtedly continue. Probably until he goes bat-shit crazy.
Lil' Wayne doesn't concern me. He can tie his own ropes. What does concern me is why this is even newsworthy reporting. G.Q. isn't exactly the N.Y. Times, but it's still a respectable publication. What purpose does the profile serve? Does it teach us anything? No. Does it shock, disgust or surprise us? It didn't me. Is it inspirational? God help us if so. Is it a story anyone over the age of 16 hasn't already heard before? Not unless they're Amish.
The fact that this well-written yet completely shallow profile was made public kinda disturbed me. It is a reflection of our society. Wayne is American pop culture's championed anti-hero, a projection of our youth's capitalist fantasy land. The fact that his envied lifestyle is self-destructive and doomed for failure is irrelevant. Wayne's still living the dream.
And not only does it reflect America's slothful greed, Wayne's world-wide popularity says less about his talent than it does about how Americans are perceived in the international community. Do we really want the world to think of us as nothing more than uncultured, self-centered Greedheads? Well, we've got a hell of a poster boy.
Lil' Wayne's music video producer says: "It's Wayne's universe and we are all little stars constellated around him." Although that is true, Wayne is still our creation. Americans expected such behavior of him, even demanded it. So party on, Wayne. And we'll all party vicariously through you.