Just before Lil Wayne entered Rikers Island to serve a one-year sentence on gun charges, the multiplatinum MC spent a February weekend in Miami banking footage of himself to ensure he’d never be far from fans’ minds during his time behind bars. This weekend, MTV unleashed four of those clips, for a quartet of songs from Weezy’s rap-rock Rebirth: “Da Da Da,” “Get a Life,” “Runnin'” with Shanell and “Knockout” with Nicki Minaj.
Both “Da Da Da” and “Get a Life” stress the rock side of Rebirth as Lil Wayne, backed by the band Mayday!, stages a rooftop concert — like the Beatles and U2 before him — to perform the two tracks. On “Knockout,” thanks to the power of the green screen, Weezy rocks out in the locker room and at the middle of a boxing ring in a sold-out arena as he and Young Money cohort Minaj play up the song’s sparring theme. The most polished of the videos, “Runnin’ ” with Young Money singer Shanell, is also the most artistically ambitious. Whereas Weezy comes off jocular and carefree in the other three videos, in “Runnin’ ” he seems more like a man just days away from a year in prison, sprinting from a reality he can’t escape.
In addition to the Rebirth videos, Weezy also filmed green-screen clips for pretty much every guest verse he’ll appear on the next few months, from Minaj’s “Roger That” to Lil Twist and Lil Chuckee’s “Girl I Got You.” Director David Rousseau told Rolling Stone the pressure to capture Wayne on film over Super Bowl weekend was intense: “Songs are coming in barely mixed. Just in case there’s something with Wayne on it they can use. You wake up one day and look at your e-mail inbox and there’s another MP3 and the message, ‘We want to shoot this tomorrow.’ “