Friday, January 21, 2011

Why I Like This Lil Guy

I've always been fascinated with the multitaskers and OCD-driven workaholics of the music world, human octopi who drop product faster than their public can absorb it: Billy Corgan, Ryan Adams, Prince Rogers Nelson, Conor Oberst, James Brown, John Coltrane, Elvis Costello, Frank ZappaMadlib, Charles Mingus, Fela Kuti, Jim O'Rourke, Paul Weller and -- if you stretch it a bit -- Roy Scheider's character in All That Jazz. It's the classic "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead" philosophy and I don't think anyone currently embodies this better than Dwayne Michael Carter, Jr.. Literally, the very first line of his memorable pre-jail interview with Rolling Stone is: "I don't like to stop, I believe you stop when you die."

A tale of two covers

I can honestly say I can't name one song this guy does, but sometime it takes another scribe to pique my interest in a subject I've been neglecting in my introverted excavations. Case in point: Peter Schjeldahl's superlative analysis of the California photorealist Robert Bechtle in The New Yorker led me to a respect for a type of art I never even looked twice at. Ditto for Chris Norris' February 2010 RS piece on Lil Wayne. At first, the article soaks in the type of wealthy-lifestyle porn one usually encounters in Martha Stewart magazines: "Tonight, the rapper wears his long dreads tied back, along with bookish, black-framed glasses and Polo pajama pants. A small diamond cross hangs on a thin chain around his neck...On a glass table before him are his iPhone, T-Mobile Sidekick, a box of Swisher Sweets cigars, a bag of Sour Patch candies, a bottle of iced tea and a roll of about three grand worth of hundreds —"just in case I need to send someone to the store."

A tale of two Carters

Um, wow. Although I fond myself unconsciously drooling over all of this conspicuous consumption (which is nothing compared to the wealth writer Josh Eells notices in his recent RS cover story on Wayne's release), what capitvated me was the circuslike atmosphere around the rapper that seemed like one permanent workday:

He will be up for the next 11 hours — monitoring four football games, smoking blunts,
six or seven of them, sending 40-odd texts (including condolences to his mom for today's
loss by the New Orleans Saints), making calls and auditioning 600-odd bars of potential
beats over six hours in a recording studio....He's never far from a recording studio or
a portable recording setup (even if it's just a professional mike and a laptop with
GarageBand)...."It ain't no party," says E.I., Wayne's road manager, who lives with a
T-Mobile dedicated to one caller. "You don't get no sleep. There ain't no such thing as 'off.'"

It goes on and on like this. I was amazing at the lil guy's work ethic -- how does the guy smoke so much weed an still be so motivated? -- even though it starts to seem as pathological as his endless parroting of the "N" word. (My favorite Wayne quote from the recent RS article: "Them niggas never speak to a nigga.")

Granted, much of the activity that Norris captured was partially related to Wayne's upcoming Riker's Island stint and the attempt to get as much "product" out of Wayne as possible (Norris memorably likens it to frozen sperm) before the lockdown in order to keep him on the public's radar. "You can't deny that in this industry, if you sit out six months you'll kill your career," Lil Wayne's manager opines. Say whatever you want to say about rappers, but their very replacability precludes a strong work ethic. They have no choice but to do The Waterdance if they to keep afloat. Quoth the just-released Wayne to a group of Miami schoolkids: "I'm here to talk to y'all about what's important in life -- and that is that you live it to the fullest, lil n----s." Kidding on that last one.

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