Inspired by Nicki Minaj’s own “Stan”-esque note of devotion, I’ve crafted my own letter to Lil Wayne on a 1,200-year-old cut of papyrus, written with the feather of a Lord Howe Swamp Hen and from ink made of the finest Tieguanyin tea.
Whenever my fiancée and I are driving, I’ll inevitably point out that whatever Top 40 hit she’s singing her heart out to that week is awful. She’ll respond, with a wit and dryness that stole my heart, “But, honey, you love Lil Wayne.” And I always end our little game of conversational tag with, “Yeah, but I’m a critic; my love for Mr. Carter is totally ironical.”
The thing is, my adoration of you comes from a place of pure sincerity, a dedication more real than the respect I have for some of my actual friends and family.
You’ve called yourself the best MC in the world for years, and that’s a moniker I back with every fiber of my being. There’s a distinct charisma and presence to everything you are, an unshakable urge to pay heed to every aspect of your career and personal life. You may be terrible for society and decency in general, but man oh man if you don’t make cultural devolution so darned exciting.
As a guy who grew up with false idols in comic book superheroes and pro wrestlers, you fulfill a crucial role in my ongoing emotional development, a way to live my most ignorant and indulgent fantasies of manliness without being arrested/beaten to a pulp. I absorb every album and song with a careful ear, but you’re one of the few artists who I willingly allow myself to get caught up in. But please don’t allow my intense fandom to frighten you. You won’t ever find me rummaging through your garbage, I promise. Others may love and cherish you, but rare is the fan who is so devoted that they can offer you the one thing you most truly need and it ain’t more ego stroking.
A reality check.
While I may proudly bump the Dedication mixtapes from my car on the weekly, or can still remember the taste of Robitussin on my tongue because one time I wanted to see how you saw the world, my admiration does not blind me from the fact that your actions and career as of late have been totally unbecoming of Best in the World. You’re a shell of the musical mastermind that first stole ears with the blazing interlude from “Back That Ass Up”. I don’t see the man who forged careers for the likes of Nicki Minaj and Drake and even out-reigned the King himself. In short, you make me question ever buying my Weezy tee.
What fiendish machinations have caused you to fall so far in my eyes, to go from a milli to closer to a zero? If there’s a genesis, I’d place bets on it being during your imprisonment on gun charges. Prison isn’t something to laugh at, but I went ahead and made jokes anyways because the whole thing seemed like a giant publicity stunt where you ate Jell-O and talked to guards instead of figuring out how you went from the biggest, most prolific rapper in the world to inmate #02616544L. I can’t speak on the horrors you might have seen, but the idea that you came out living the same way you went in taught me a painful lesson about heroes: they’re not perfect.
So often we pin our hopes and aspirations on people, that they’ll follow this great narrative we’ve dreamed up and learn this wonder life lessons that we can then glean personal meaning from. But the fact of the matter is that you’re just a man, and you’re flawed and damaged and broken like the rest of us. The only difference is that you make your mistakes in $5 million homes and the whole world responds with fevered tweets when you slip up.
If there was anything that was going to save my image of you as an entertainment icon, it was that maybe the music would somehow reflect your true jailhouse suffering, if such a thing existed. But what we’ve gotten in that time is the weakest entry in Tha Carter series, the somewhat promising I Am Not A Human Being, and the disappointing Dedication 4. I’d be lying if there weren’t a few gems within those releases (“Right Above It”, ”6 Foot 7 Foot”, “So Dedicated”), but there’s something amiss with these songs. Now I hear the sound of your voice and the attention to your rhymes, and I can tell the man behind the mic just doesn’t care anymore.
The spark I fell in love with that is all but absent from your recent batch of songs/collaborations. It’s an X-factor that no other MC generated, the kind of energy that makes one aware of the stupidity of “I always thought I was fly, like I had a pigeon on my back” and still holler when it drops. Without that oomph, your music leans toward the uninspired. Same thing happens when you appear on a random track from another rapper. Jay-Z or 2 Chainz will be fine if you’re sub-par, but part of your energy paved the way for Minaj and Drake. If you go half-hearted, you not only ruin yourself, you crumble the entire Cash Money dynasty. You’re a talented lyricist, but the power of Weezy is the near-mystical quality to your music, a force that connects us under the banner of your life and trials.
Whether breaking ground or whining about Tammy, at least you were always around. For years, you’ve inundated the world with the best and worst of your raps, sharing your unedited brain-vomit 24/7/365. But with a less prolific schedule, you’re showing signs of caution, and that devil-may-care attitude is what makes you worthwhile: if a song sucks, it’s OK; you are a rapper perpetuating an epic story of weed and girls, with the utter ecstasy spun over years and volumes like some hip-hip Lord of the Rings.
This creative meltdown has to stem from the prison issues you’re finally working through. I can’t speak for what’s in your head and heart, but the man I see, the man I’ve watched for years, seems frightened of the world he’s worked so hard to build. You may keep up the façade that all is well, but there is one thing in your life that indicates to me that your love of rap is waning: your recent obsession with skateboarding.
You rightfully need/deserve a break from rap entirely. Don’t look at it like you’re faltering musically (even though you are), but as a chance to take a breather from what’s been your life for the last 15-plus years and to take an academic-like sabbatical, only with more ollies and drinking. It’s a chance to get out while the rest of the world still sees you as The Best. The less rapping you do, the more you should see how off course you’ve become. As a plus, maybe skateboarding will truly be cool again.
I was ready to end this thing by accusing you of selling out your true gangster-dom, getting nice and pious about all your recent shortcomings, like hating on New York and threatening the life of a prosecutor. And then, my fiancee and several co-workers reminded me you’ll never read this because, and I’m quoting my beloved here, you “don’t give a teensy fuck about anyone or anything.” So, I opted not to put you on blast, cause they’re probably right and they’re trying to protect me, and for that I love them.
But I’d like to think they’re only half right, that you would read this with great attention and carefulness. Except you’d finish, wad it up, and hook shot it into a nearby garbage, continuing to do whatever the fuck you want by using my discontent as emotional rocket fuel. I can appreciate that, even if it prevents my long-term plan of us becoming BFFs, because maybe what I need now aren’t good songs and some inappropriate idol.
What I do need is a reminder that there’s a difference between Batman and Cactus Jack and you, an actual man. You’re flawed and imperfect, dealing with the same issues of family and emotional health as the rest of us. Mega Man never disappointed me because he saved the world with optimism and blaster cannons. There’s no magic armor or utility belt in your arsenal; you wake up with the thoughts in your head and do your best to stay above the currents of an especially-cutthroat industry. I don’t want to paint you as a tragic hero guiding us towards right with your wrongs. You’re just a dude who raps good.
Pinning your hopes on fictional characters means the world is always going to be a safe place — pinning them on rappers and rock stars and other paragons of pop culture means you’re going to learn that no one cares about your dreams. You do what you do because you like it, not to try to make the world a better place. If you do, then that’s a totally accidental victory that happens occasionally. It’s not your job to help guide me or make me feel better or worse about my own existence. It’s your job to make music, and if that changes in ways I don’t like, then I’d best deal with like a man. Thanks, I think.
But if you can do what you want, then so can I, and I still think it’s important to have a dialogue with your idols. It’s the way I fight this negative dynamic and maintain some of my boyish beliefs in decency and goodness, even as they become more antiquated with each passing day. It’s not for the rest of the world, but for me, to keep some semblance alive that heroes, be they mutant turtles or a punk kid from New Orleans, can somehow come through.
But no matter what, I’ll always try to be your fan. I may not be excited about it right now, but to cut and run when things look bleak is to discredit what you’ve done for me and your worth as a cultural entity. I won’t be wearing my Weezy tee for the near future. Just know it’ll always be in my closet on standby.