As a teenager, I was never exposed to much hip hop. I found Radiohead at 14, Joy Division at 15, and from thereon in I was all about meandering, melancholy tunes describing a disassociation with societal norms, and I developed a penchant for whiteboys who play guitars (one I admittedly hold to this day). On the verge of emo, whilst adamantly denying it, I wallowed in middle class, teenage angst until well after I left home. I ignored my 12-year-old self’s love of a Wu Tang album I can’t remember the name of, and poo-pooed the hip hop fascinations of any friends who would try to encourage me to open my mind a little (I’m sorry Casey). Throughout this time, I idolised such tragic figures as Kurt Cobain, Ian Curtis and Elliott Smith (“Ohhh they were just too beautiful to live” etc), and remained stubbornly within the confines of my indie mentality. So stubborn was I that I ignored all the tragic, melancholy disassociation with societal norms that lies within classic hip hop tracks, which, I have discovered, is often much more brutal, and somehow inspiring, than the obviously depressing “whining” I was used to listening to at the time (see: Radiohead- “No Surprises”).
Since then, I have learnt to appreciate hip hop, very slowly, and while my knowledge of the genre is still fairly limited, I can confidently say that my preference lies in minimalism when it comes to beats. Minimalism in the overall track for that matter. Which is how I came to be familiar with a rapper by the name of Lil’ Wayne.
At one time, fairly recently, he was the biggest thing in hip hop in the whole world. Born in 1984, he has been touring since he was about 9 years old, and has four children already, to at least 3 different women.
Has anyone seen “The Carter”? It is an unofficial documentary made about Lil’ Wayne in 2009- unofficial because, despite initial support, the rap star pulled out at the last minute. The film follows him on part of a tour, and includes interviews with him and the people closest to him.
As someone who has only reviewed films while drunk at parties to people as drunk as I am, I cannot give myself any license to attempt a review here. What I can say is that it is, for lack of a better grouping of words, raw as fuck.As a result of watching this film, I’ve realised that if I were a teenager again, prone to the desperate callings of a tortured soul, and had some sort of comprehensive hip hop/rap background, I would TOTALLY have idolised Lil’ Wayne, in all his child-prodigy-turned-codeine-addict glory. Seriously. This guy is in some PAIN, I am willing to admit that it’s a little bit sexy.
Yes, you can see it coming, I’m about to make this comparison… like every messed up addict singer/songwriter that came before him (Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Nick Cave, Kurt Cobain, Elliot Smith etc) he channels his darkness and misguided passion into lyrics that help him to make sense of his place in world. Pay no mind to his silly pseudonym- which is a reference to an absent father- he’s actually a really good rapper. His words are deeply personal, full of loathing and of references to the cough syrup he guzzles all the time, drinking it like an infant at his mamma’s breast. He barely knows what a life off the road is like, he’s always fucked up, and he’s one of the most prolific artists of his (and my) generation.
It makes sense then that his baby mammas chose to keep his babies (ignoring my inclination that religion and a fear of god might have something to do with it). I can see how the rich, talented and famous aspects of Lil’ Wayne as a daddy far outweigh the predilection for substance abuse and facial tattoos in some minds. Hell, if it came down to it, I’d probably keep it too, despite the knowledge that my various mental health issues combined with his would create one of the most depressive teenagers ever known to man. But at least that kid would have musical influences from both sides, and could even change the course of musical history if he was so inclined, potentially combining the lyrical flow of Black Thought with the compositional sensibilities of Thom Yorke, with a little bit of brutal Varg Vikernes mixolydian guitar riffage thrown in for good measure. Wow. That’s a good child to have.
So in conclusion, I would totally give birth to Lil’ Waynes baby. 14-year-old self would probably have spat at present day self if I knew then that I would be writing that sentence. 16-year-old self might have been more accepting, because by that point codeine was my drug of choice too. Oh, the things we learn as we grow older. The way things change! Do yourself a favour and watch “The Carter”. Lil’ Wayne is a fucking dick, but it’s a beautiful, honest portrayal of it.