During Mark Binelli’s time hanging out in Lil Wayne’s museum-style Atlanta pad for Rolling Stone‘s current cover story, he picked up more than the aroma of the rapper’s ever-present blunts — he nabbed information about Weezy’s future plans for total cultural domination. “He’s talking about acting,” Binelli says. “Right now he’s got people developing a semi-autobiographical vehicle for him to star in, along the lines of Purple Rain or Eight Mile.“
Before they bounced from the clubs to all-night studio sessions, Binelli got a good look at Wayne’s apartment, a spot on the 23rd floor of a luxury Atlanta skyscraper that’s populated with “predictably massive” bodyguards, televisions broadcasting college basketball and lots of weed. “As anyone who’s seen Cribs knows, musicians don’t always have the most tasteful aesthetic sensibility when it comes to living spaces. Wayne’s place was incredibly nice, though,” Binelli says. “One of the few celebrity homes I’ve visited that I’d actually want to live in and that wouldn’t require bringing in a team of decorators to undo the damage.”
Next stop was the studio, where Lil Wayne was working on tracks for his upcoming rock crossover disc Rebirth. Even though the rapper released an album, several mixtapes and made 110 guest appearances in 2008, Binelli was still amazed by Weezy’s work ethic. “The obsessive amount of time Wayne spends in the studio got me thinking about that great Smog song, ‘Prince Alone in the Studio’ [off 1995’s Wild Love]. In the song, Prince is laboring over a new track, as the hour gets later and later. The lyrics are like: ‘It’s two a.m. and all the girls are gone, The girls thought they were going to be able to have sex with him, They wore their special underwear…,’ ” Binelli says. “I asked Wayne if he ever heard the song; he didn’t but seemed pleased by the concept. So hopefully he’ll check Smog out.”
After hearing Wayne’s progress on Rebirth, he’s a bit apprehensive about the MC’s turn toward rock. “He really needs better rock influences than Fall Out Boy and Korn,” Binelli says, adding that after recommending Smog to the rapper, “If his next rock record sounds like Pavement, I’m taking partial credit.” Binelli isn’t the only one leery about Wayne possible misstep, but the rapper hasn’t heard any of the criticism. “He seems completely unaware of it. All he talked about was how much positive feedback he’s received. I guess it’s like the President surrounding himself with yes-men and being the last person to learn he lost the war,” Binelli said.
So is Wayne really the “Best Rapper Alive,” as he’s proclaimed so many times? “I can’t think of anyone else who comes close in terms of productivity, consistency and willingness to experiment. I’m not a fan of the rock stuff, but at least he’s always trying something new,” Binelli says. For our full Lil Wayne profile, check out the new issue of Rolling Stone, on stands now.