Lil Wayne

After a late night in an Atlanta recording studio, the croak in Lil Wayne's voice is especially noticeable. A little more than two weeks ago, the self-proclaimed and highly co-signed "best rapper aliv

After a late night in an Atlanta recording studio, the croak in Lil Wayne's voice is especially noticeable. A little more than two weeks ago, the self-proclaimed and highly co-signed "best rapper alive" told a frenzied crowd in Richmond, Va., that he wasn't the "most happiest man," and his monotone is testament that not much has changed since.

If you know Wayne, born Dwayne Michael Carter Jr., you'd know his disposition isn't because of the all-nighter he just pulled, during which time, among other things, he toiled with rapper Ludacris and former-cohort-turned-nemesis-turned-collaborator, Young Buck -- more on that later.

In fact, if you know anything about Wayne at all, you'd know that the New Orleans-bred rapper records nearly nonstop. He's released six albums and has made more than 40 guest appearances since 1999 -- 17 of those collaborations in the last two years -- not to mention the massive amount of mixtapes and leaked tracks that routinely appear online.

Few have been more anticipated than "Tha Carter III," which was scheduled to come out last year but was derailed by leaks. The album will now be released on June 10th via Cash Money/Universal. (Lil Wayne Cracks 1 Million With 'Tha Carter III')

What is surely on the 25-year-old artist's mind, however, is his recent arrest on felony drug and weapons charges in Yuma, Ariz. Four ounces of marijuana, slightly more than an ounce of cocaine, 41 grams of ecstasy and miscellaneous drug paraphernalia were seized during a search of Wayne's tour bus at a U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint.

Authorities also found a .40-caliber pistol registered to Wayne, who has a concealed weapons permit in Florida, although it was unclear whether he could carry the weapon outside of that state.

Wayne was released four days later, just in time to board a plane and make the aforementioned performance in Virginia, but not before a judge ordered him to return to Arizona and appear at a preliminary hearing Feb. 12.

Legal troubles aside, Wayne has other issues. During the Richmond show, in front of hundreds of his fans, he lashed out at members of his team, including his childhood friend, longtime DJ and manager, Cortez Bryant. The incident was captured on video and quickly made the rounds on the Web.

"I tried to tell them can't no drug, can't no bitch, can't no nigga, can't no record, none of them phase me. I am the ultimate high. I am my drug. I want motherfuckers that are with me to know it isn't about what I'm on, it's about what I do, and this is what the fuck I do." Wayne continued his rage by taking off his black leather jacket, balling it up and throwing it at Bryant, the whole episode apparently stemming from the Yuma arrest (for which Bryant was not present).

Wayne renders himself a larger-than-life creature -- a gangster rapper, a drug user, a womanizer, a Martian, an alien and a beast all in one, among other things. But his sense of loyalty, family and forgiveness ensured that the dispute with Bryant was quickly resolved. Although Wayne declined to comment directly on the Virginia incident or on his arrest, Bryant says there are no hard feelings.

"Wayne is a grown man and he makes his own decisions. I got my opinions about [his drug use], which is what sparked everything that happened [in Virginia], but at the end of the day I just tell him what I think," he says. "He's intelligent. He's smart and he knows his limitations. Don't let him fool you by the words he says. It's not out of control."

Which brings us to the reconstituted "Tha Carter III." The official single, the Deezle-produced "Lollipop," features Static Major and will be serviced to radio shortly. A video for it was recently shot in Las Vegas. ("Lollipop" has since topped the R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and the Billboard Hot 100.)

Other featured guests on the set include Jay-Z, T-Pain, Babyface, Robin Thicke, Bobby Valentino, D. Smith, Brisco, Busta Rhymes, Betty Wright, Juelz Santana and Fabolous. Kanye West and Swizz Beatz, among others, contributed production.

"A lot of people tell me not to jump on all these features, but I don't listen to nobody," Wayne says. "I love to make music with people and for people. If you only create it for yourself, it's selfish of you. What I create is beautiful, and I like to share the beauty. I promote myself. At the end of the day, who is the victor in that situation? Lil Wayne."

In his first interview since the arrest, Wayne chatted with Billboard about leaks, his progress on "Tha Carter III" (Lil Wayne Crushes The Competition To Debut At No. 1) and why his frequent guest appearances are promotional gold.

Do you think your arrest will affect promotion and touring around the new album?

I don't think about that. I've got nothing to say about that.

Well, how's "Tha Carter III" coming along?

This album is going to be completely left field. It's going to be a great album. It's one of those albums people are really waiting on, so I made it so that whatever is on it will stick with you forever. I'm taking my time with it. And I'm giving artists I respect and people I want to do songs with -- not songs the label fixed -- an opportunity to collaborate. I think this album is going to be one of my best albums. I'm a true perfectionist. I got one of them Beyoncé albums -- everything's hot on there. I might have to work out a deal with Universal to shoot a video to for all these songs, that's how crazy they all are. Every one of them is a movie.

The first single is "Lollipop." Any idea what the follow-up might be?

I don't know what the follow-up is yet. I'm leaving it up to them. But, I know one thing. I recorded a song last night with this guy D. Smith, called "Shoot Me Down," that might just be the biggest song of my career. It's where I'm at right now -- emotionally, financially, mentally. It's like looking in the mirror and seeing exactly what's in there.

Rumors have it that Mannie Fresh produced some stuff for you recently. Is this true?

No, that's just a rumor.

Many of your songs in the past few years have made their way online. Do you ever leak your own music?

Hell, no. I'm not with file-sharing and downloading. The reason I haven't put an album out in four years is because for the past three my music's been leaked. If you think about it, "Tha Carter III" is really technically like "Tha Carter VI." That's how busy I've been. That's why I put so many mixtapes out. If you hear any of them from this month or last month or the month before that, and it's a song that doesn't contain a beat from someone else, then that's a leaked song.

So then how did the idea to release "The Leak" come about?

[Universal Motown president] Sylvia Rhone, she was just as hurt as I was that great music I made was leaked. So, she decided we were going to put our own shit out and eat off of it too. So the label released five or six songs that leaked.

And now "The Leak" is No. 10 on our Top Digital Albums chart. Congratulations.

I'm the type of nigga that feels everything happens for a reason. Shit, that's a true blessing.

How about your extracurricular activities? Your schooling? Your guitar playing? The rock group Bad Ass Grasshopper?

I'm still at the University of Phoenix online, but I have a tutor. Bad Ass Grasshopper, that's just going to be the name I call everyone signed to [my label] Young Money. We're going to go by B.A.G., or Party in the B.A.G., or Boys and Girls or Big Ass Group. Those are all of our monikers. And I still play guitar. A lot of people don't know that's me on the [Shop Boyz'] "Party Like a Rockstar" remix.

How did you learn how to play?

It's due to working every day like I do. I might want to hear a certain sound like Prince, but I can't pay him to play it. So, I picked up a guitar and learned how to play it. Goes to show you the only thing that can't be done is what you don't want to do.

What's your relationship with Young Buck? Is he really re-signing with Cash Money?

No. He was just onstage with us. He's still with G-Unit, but, we've been talking and working together. I just did a song for him last night. He walked in on me playing guitar on it and literally started massaging me, no homo, like, "This shit is crazy."

Any other ventures you'd consider delving into?

Movie scoring. I don't think I can do too much acting, even though I have the charisma to allow me to play the part if it's right. But movie scoring -- I can get into that.

You've been in such high demand lately. Why do you continue to guest-feature on so many songs?

I've found out that I love doing music for others. You're making history when you're making music with somebody else, for somebody else. Plus, I find that when I do that, it doesn't get leaked. And when it does, it doesn't do what it does when it's one of my songs. I get a real joy. And it's another reason why I was able to wait so long to put another album out -- because these features keep me eating and making money.

A lot of people told me not to jump on all these features, people like Pimp C, R.I.P. and my big brother Nelly. But I don't listen to anybody. I'm different, and you'll understand that by the time I'm finished. I breathe nothing else, I smell nothing else, I care about nothing else but music, my family and God. It's like my child.