Latin Grammys 2018

Lil Wayne's 'Nightline' Fail Shows Why Asking Celebrities For More Than What They Sell Leads To Disappointment

Thaddaeus McAdams/FilmMagic
Lil Wayne performs at Tidal X ColleGrove at The Tabernacle on March 30, 2016 in Atlanta.

Who is Lil Wayne to most? It’s an important question to ask when even trying to put his words and actions in context. He’s a marvelous, prolific rap artist known for witty, spastic wordplay—often dipping from lines about feeling like an alien-like outcast to outlandish quips about sexual exploits. "So misunderstood, but what’s a world without enigma?” he wonders on his 2010 classic “6 Foot 7 Foot.” That’s immediately followed by “Two bitches at the same time, [like] synchronized swimmers.” Raps like that and many more about grinding to achieve goals, then celebrating those wins have made the Grammy-winning rhymer one of the best ever in his genre. 

On Wednesday (Nov. 2), Lil Wayne (real name Dwyane Carter) landed in hot water after ABC News' Nightline aired an interview with the rapper. Attached to promotion of his Gone Till November book, a jail memoir about his months spent in New York’s Rikers Island on gun possession charges, the interview took a turn when reporter Linsey Davis asked him about his, at times, misogynistic lyrics: "Would you have a problem with [your daughter] being called a b-tch or a ho?"

Already causing a stir with his controversial September interview with FS1’s sports talk show Skip and Shannon: Undisputed where Wayne claimed "that there was no such thing as racism no more" -- given the white audiences his concerts attract -- Davis then asked him about his thoughts on the Black Lives Matter movement. Wayne, to her apparent surprise, asked that she explain it to him. Then, perhaps feeling attacked, he became defensive. 

"I am a young Black rich motherf--ker," Wayne began. “If that doesn’t let you know that America understands Black n---as matter these days, I don’t know what it is. Don’t come at me with that dumb shit, ma’am. My life matters, especially to my b-tches. I don't feel connected to a damn thing that ain't got nothin' to do with me. If you do, you're crazy as shit.” He proceeded to tell Davis what he is connected to by whipping out a red bandana from his back pocket, seemingly to show his affiliation to the Bloods, a Los Angeles gang with branches all over the country. Interview over. 

First, let’s address the massive levels of isolation and ignorance it takes to not know what “Black Lives Matter” is about in 2016. It’s beyond difficult to believe that an artist who’s as connected to the outside world as Lil Wayne doesn't know what’s going on in it. By virtue of being a massive sports fan alone, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s stance against the National Anthem is an unavoidable entry point to the issues of Black America for Wayne.

Aside from his alleged Bloods affiliation, Wayne’s connected to something that hits closer to home: his family. In the aforementioned Undisputed interview, Wayne thoughtfully explained that his children are his only true concern. “My politics, my flag, my country, my nation, my world are [my children] Reginae, Cameron, Neal and his brother [Dwayne]. That’s all that matters." Fair enough. But there is an obvious connection to be made with a 34-year-old Black father raising three Black sons and one Black daughter, and wanting them (and the world they grow up in) to be safe from potentially racist, gun-happy cops. Yes, fame can, and often does, gift those with it a freedom from traditional prejudices but it’s hard to accept that Wayne’s that far gone. Certainly not when he has songs in his catalog that speak directly to social injustice and racism. 

Months removed from 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, which annihilated Wayne’s native New Orleans, the rapper released what arguably is his most politically heated song to date "Georgia… Bush." It’s a cut that attacks then President George Bush, the U.S. government for their negligence in dispersing FEMA aid to the mostly African American refugees in Louisiana, and the media reporting on it. "Boy them cops is killas in my home," he spits on the ’06 track. "N---a shot dead in the middle of the street/I ain't no thief, I'm just trying to eat/Man, f--k the police and President (Georgia) Bush.” 



Just this year, Wayne was a featured guest on Solange Knowles critically acclaimed A Seat At The Table -- arguably the Blackest album of 2016 in terms of addressing social issues of today from track one to completion -- for the song "Mad." Here, Solange sings to fellow Blacks about how it’s okay to be frustrated about how the system treats African Americans. Wayne jumps in to let loose about feeling stressed, including a few bars on what it’s like to be an affluent man that looks like he does when visiting his financial institution.

"Then I walk up in the bank, pants sagging down,” he raps. "And I laugh at frowns, what they mad about? 'Cause here come this motherfucker with this mass account that didn't wear cap and gown/Are you mad 'cause the judge ain't give me more time?" As far as imagery goes it’s not a stretch to assume that at least some of those with prejudices against him -- a young Black man -- are white people in that scenario. Lil Wayne knows what racism is -- and it’s evident he’s aware of it in 2016. So why not speak about it? 

As Wayne ripped the Nightline microphone pack from his chest and strolled off, he’s heard saying, "I ain’t no f--king politician." That is true -- Lil Wayne is Lil Wayne and that’s not what he’s known for selling. 

There lies the plight faced by anyone hoping for Wayne, or anyone else of his stature, to be someone they are not. The risk of being disappointed is huge because simply put, artists, athletes and entertainers overall don’t owe the world anything outside of what they became famous for. 

Here's Lil Wayne, a man who clearly doesn’t want to speak about political issues, being asked to be as outspoken as some of his peers like Jay Z, Kendrick Lamar, T.I. and Common, who have spoken on BLM-related issues this year within their music, performances and social media. 

In an age where Black people feel like lesser beings (for obvious reasons, including umpteen senseless killings and the hands of policemen), it would help to have a figure as big as Lil Wayne join the fray as an outspoken representative. How impactful would it be to see all those Caucasian faces at a Lil Wayne show yelling “Black Lives Matter” or rallying behind the cause in a significant way? Very. 

It hurts the cause and the culture to see Wayne throw up a Blood flag before tossing his snapback cap into the BLM ring. Later on Wednesday, Wayne issued an apology of sorts for his ill-conceived remarks, which also followed him being questioned about his misogyny. 

"When the reporter began asking me questions about my daughter being labeled a bitch and a hoe, I got agitated,” Wayne told TMZ. “From there, there was no thought put into her questions and my responses. Apologies to anyone who was offended.”

Still, what’s done is done. Many fans, followers, media outlets and social media users have already shown their disapproval of Wayne’s negligence. He was even dubbed "Donkey of the Day" by Power 105. 1 radio jock Charlemagne The God just hours after the interview segment was released. According to TMZWayne also fired his publicists after the Nightline episode aired. 

That old adage made famous by Marvel Comics superhero Spider-Man continues to reign supreme: "With great power comes great responsibility.” Each time Wayne turns down an opportunity to speak up for his race or peters off from the conversations with easy outs like “I’m not even into it enough to give an opinion,” he seems to carelessly swagger away from a hefty job that critics want him to want. Maybe he’s afraid that being outspoken will hurt his bottom line and business dealings. Or maybe he just doesn’t want to be bothered. 

This isn’t a plea for his fans to cut Wayne some slack. For those angry at the rapper for his uncanny aloofness, it might be best to redirect your energy. As disappointed as you are that Lil Wayne chooses not to express sociopolitical views that encourage activism and justice for Black America, try doing everything in your power to propel and uplift the voices that do -- like a Common, who is actually releasing a hard-hitting, BLM-addressing album called Black America Again today (Nov. 4).   

That’s a guy who, like many others, recognizes his power and is ready to fully utilize it. Lil Wayne isn’t -- yet. But to be clear, he doesn’t owe it to anyone to be like Muhammad Ali, whose words against injustice packed punches that rivaled those he threw as a boxer or Maya Angelou, who used her poetry to help others rise. Continue to expect street-savvy, colorful raps that top the charts and, sure, hope for more. Anything else from him would be a welcome bonus. Some people, for whatever their reasons may be, don’t want to wear that cape. Though it would be nice if Lil Wayne did.