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Lil Wayne: Return of the Hip-Hop King

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Wayne sticks his head into the hallway for a second. "Yo, Marley! Call that number I called earlier? No, the one on your phone. Them chicks? Let 'em know, you know, just wanted to see what y'all doing tonight. New pussy is always good." (Sorry, Stephanie.)

Wayne turns back to Scoob. "I hear what you're saying. But you can't take a nigga off his own song. And I'm not gonna have Chris Brown rapping on Tha Carter IV"

But it's cool, he says. "I'll just go off on another song. It ain't like I can't do it again."

As if to prove it, he asks Mike to cue up a new track they're calling "Wayne's World." It already has one verse and a hook; he's about to write verse number two.

As Mike punches buttons, Wayne talks with Scoob about his evening. "I was trying to knock shorty down over there, boy," he says, referring to Stephanie.

'What happened?" asks Scoob. "It-Ain't-Go-Down syndrome?"

Wayne shrugs. "Kissing and all that."

"Oof," says Scoob.

"But I like all that too, though," Wayne adds quickly. "I'm a romantical nigga."

The track ready, the control room clears out. Wayne leans back in his chair and closes his eyes. An array of cigars and Vitamin Waters is strewn across the mixing board in front of him. By now, it's 3:01. In the lobby, Liz brews up a pot of coffee. "This will go on for a while," she says.

A long while. For the next two hours, it's the same eight-bar loop, playing at full volume on nonstop repeat. It's like the hip-hop cell at Guantanamo.

For a long time, he just sits there, listening.

At 3:55, he comes out of the control room and goes over to one of his assistants, a cute Tulane grad named Devin. "Hey," he asks her, "Girl Scouts sell cookies, right?"

"Yep."

"And Boy Scouts don't?"

"Nope."

"Ain't that a bitch." He goes back into the booth.

At 4:09, he emerges again, pouring himself more coffee. (No cream, lots of sugar.) He's rapping now -- no words yet, just syllables, a cadence. "Da-da da-da da-da da-da da-da da-da DA da."

By 4:32, the ashtray is filling up, Styrofoam cups multiplying in front of him. He calls Scoob in, spits a couple of bars, and asks him what he thinks. He's getting closer.

At 5:10, Devin, Marley and Scoob are all asleep, but Wayne is coming alive. He's laughing to himself, nodding like he might finally have something. Suddenly, at 5:16, it's go time. He yells to Mike, who races back to the booth, battle stations on a submarine.

"A-light," Wayne says in the booth. "Lezgo."

It's thrilling to watch the thing take shape. A couple of times he flubs a line, tackles it again. The whole thing is finished in about four minutes. Wayne signals for the playback and sits, eyes closed, listening to himself ping-pong from free-associating brags ("I'm a cash cow, now watch me milk this shit like cornflakes") to parole-officer-baiting threats ("Keep that click-click pow-pow on the side like a mistress") to straight-up silliness ("I don't give a shit about shit, if it ain't my shit, that shit ain't shit, shit").

"Goddamn!" he cackles when it's over. He asks Mike to play it again, this time let the chorus ride. When the hook comes around, Wayne nods his head and sings along:

We 'bout everything and everything goes
Bitch, nigga, shit, bitch, take a picture
Tonight I'll probably fuck another nigga's girl
Party time, excellent, Wayne's World

Two days later, Wayne is back in Manhattan for the first time since his release. He's at the NBC studios at 30 Rock, doing rehearsals for Saturday Night Live, where he's the musical guest along with Eminem. Wayne is dressed backstage-casual in gray sweats and a fuzzy red beanie that says FUCK EM. (The lack of apostrophe is problematic, given his company, but if Em notices, he graciously doesn't mention it.)

As they run through their songs, several cast members come out to watch. Kristen Wiig is dancing, Jason Sudeikis is nodding his head. Kenan Thompson says he's been a Wayne fan since the late Nineties: "I love Eminem, but that's my nigga." (Andy Samberg says he would have been there too, but he wasn't sure how Eminem felt about his digital shorts: "White guys doing funny rap? I dunno, I think it's a little too close.")

After the run-through, they move over to shoot some promo spots. This week's host, Jeff Bridges, enters the studio and comes straight over to Wayne. "Hey, man!" he honks in his Bridge-ian way. They exchange an introductory hug. It's too bad Wayne doesn't smoke anymore, because if ever there were a man to share a doob with, the Dude is it.

Everyone takes their places for the promos, Bridges in the middle between the rappers and Thompson. It's quiet on the set, then five, four, three, two ...

"Hi, I'm Jeff Bridges, and I'm hosting SNL this week -- we've got Eminem and Little Wayne!"

SNL producer Marci Klein interrupts. "Um, sorry, Jeff? I ... can you, uh ... did you say the 'T'?" Her head swivels toward Wayne. "Isn't it 'Lil'?"

"I'm so sorry!" Bridges says. "Did I say Little Wayne?"

"Oh, it doesn't matter, man!" Wayne says, smiling. "It does not matter at all."

Two nights from now they'll shoot the show, with Wayne introducing his new single "6 Foot 7 Foot" to a national audience. He's doing a couple of other TV tapings while he's in town, one for BET and one for an NBC New Year's special! (No concerts, though -- Wayne has vowed never to set foot on a New York stage again. "They'd have to give me U2 money.") Then, next week, he'll go on his first post-prison vacation. He hasn't decided where yet -- he's thinking the black-sand beaches of Hawaii, or maybe the Napa Valley. Drake recommended Napa -- "Your phone doesn't work," Wayne says. "I heard it's a very relaxing place."

But he's also been wanting to get over to Greece -- to one island in particular. He says he was dreaming of it the whole time he was in prison. "For some reason, it just helped me escape. I'd literally have to blink my eyes and be like, 'Damn, I'm still in this bitch?' It felt like I was on that beach." What's the name of it again? Something with an S. He thinks for a second, then recalls it with a Mediterranean flourish: "The isle of Santorini."

It sounds beautiful. Are the beaches nice?

"I've never been," says Wayne. "A CO told me about it."

This story is from the February 3rd, 2011 issue of Rolling Stone.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

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