6 Foot 7 Foot by Lil Wayne
A Milli by Lil Wayne
Lollipop by Lil Wayne
First, a few facts: Born Dwayne Michael Carter Jr., the 28-year-old rapper now known as Lil Wayne-or sometimes Weezy-grew up a straight-A student in a neighborhood called
Hollygrove in New Orleans's 17th Ward, which was among the hardest hit areas of the city during the flooding in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Young Dwayne, soon to be Wayne, began his career as a near-novelty act, parlaying his love of late-'80s and early-'90s hip-hop and rap-tinged R&B into a career as a kiddie gangsta rapper, signing with the cult-legendary local hip-hop label Cash Money Records as one half of a duo known as The B.G.'z (the other half was a kid named B.G.) when he was 12-the same age he accidentally shot himself in the chest with a handgun, reportedly missing his heart by just a centimeter. But even that didn't slow him down. He soon joined another Cash Money act, The Hot Boys-which featured Juvenile, a local rapper who was already making a name for himself as a solo artist-and enjoyed his first taste of pop stardom when the quartet's 1999 album, Guerrilla Warfare, debuted at number five on the Billboard charts.
Having flooded the market with an almost nonstop flow of releases-some official, some on mixtapes, some as a guest rapper on other people's tracks (he now commands a reported $150,000 an appearance)-Wayne finally established himself as a solo megaforce in 2004 with the release of the Tha Carter, which unveiled to the world the Wayne we all know today: a spastically flowed force of hip-hop nature whose subject matter ranges from the blingtastic to the bizarrely psychedelic, and whose asymmetrical rhymes, delivered in a raspy, Auto-Tuned croak, have since appeared on dozens of hit singles and earned him four Grammy Awards and millions of dollars. Wayne's 2008 album, Tha Carter III, sold more than a million copies in its first week, and while he hasn't replicated that level of success since, he hasn't stopped trying. His own label, Young Money Entertainment, prodigiously counts new heavies such as Drake and Nicki Minaj among its recent discoveries, and, this spring, the label will release Wayne's highly anticipated ninth album, Tha Carter IV.
Though Wayne stands just five-foot-six in sneakers, he is a towering force in pop music right now-and, like Sinatra, he likes to do things his way. While he has often called himself "the best rapper alive," a claim many might dispute on purely technical grounds, Wayne is without a doubt one of the most prolific, weirdest, and hardest-working rappers in the game right now. A father of four, he managed to have two children in 2009 by two different women (singer Nivea Hamilton and actress Lauren London) within a 12-week period. He says he has given up the Styrofoam cup of cough syrup he could be seen constantly sipping from in the 2009 documentary Tha Carter. In any event, it would seem he had no choice but to give up such pastimes cold turkey, at least temporarily, when last year he served an eight-month prison term at Rikers Island in New York for attempted criminal possession of a weapon. (If anyone ever doubted his relentless creative restlessness, just before heading to jail he released Rebirth, a rock album.)
By outward appearances, Lil Wayne might not seem to embody the life of a typical religious person, but he is, in many ways, a walking miracle. He has the word fear tattooed on one eyelid and god on the other, but if you blink, you might miss that, since he doesn't seem to close his eyes often, much less sleep. Keeping it real? That's so last year. Wayne's doing something better by keeping the world of pop music unpredictable with his intergalactic alien oddness, and, if nothing else, he has made it a far more interesting and strange place.
Appropriately, when it came time to interview Wayne, we turned to another iconoclast of sorts, Paris Hilton-who, like Wayne, loves music and clubs and has done hard time (in 2007, for violating her probation in connection with an earlier no-contest plea on a reckless driving charge)-to do the honors. Hilton took a break from filming her new reality show, The World According to Paris, in Los Angeles to connect over the phone with Wayne, who was at home in Miami, with a little help from Interview contributing music editor Dimitri Ehrlich.
DIMITRI EHRLICH: How are you guys doing? This is Dimitri. You can just let the interview roll if you want, Paris, but I have one question for both of you to start. Paris, you first: When did you first meet Wayne or what was your first thought about him?
PARIS HILTON: I actually met him when he had a Grammy party in L.A. They called me to host it, and I met him there. But I always thought he was such an incredible artist and so talented. He really has this charisma. When he walks into a room, he just has this power that's exciting to be around.
EHRLICH: And what about you, Wayne? What was your first memory of meeting Paris?
LIL WAYNE: That was the first time-at that same party. I remember meeting her, and then I think it was, like, 10 minutes later, I looked up and she was deejaying. She was at the dance, she had the mic. It was really nice. She has fun, and I like that. I like people that enjoy life, 'cause I do the same.
HILTON: So what do you like to be called, Wayne or Lil Wayne?
WAYNE: Actually, Wayne is better.
HILTON: I know that you grew up in New Orleans. Did you always know you were going to be a rapper?
WAYNE: I starting rapping when I was 8 years old, so I think when you're into something at such a young age like that . . . I mean, nobody in the world could have told me I wasn't gonna be a rapper. So, yeah, I always knew I was gonna be one.
EHRLICH: Who did you look up to when you were 8 years old? Who inspired you to want to be a rapper?
WAYNE: The guys I'm with right now, Cash Money Records. They were pretty big locally in New Orleans and so I always just looked up to them. I mean, they were Cash Money Records way before everybody knew their name, and what I mean by that is that the power they have now, they had then, but just locally in the city. So they were always big. I listened to all their music. That's probably why I wanted to be with them.
HILTON: And now you're being called the new king of hip-hop. What do you think of that? Is it something that's hard to live up to? Or is it exciting to have people say that?
WAYNE: It's very exciting. I love pressure, so I guess if that brings forth pressure, then I'm up for it. But, you know, titles are titles, and names are names. As long as people remember me forever, that will be enough for me.
HILTON: Do you ever read your own press, or google yourself?
WAYNE: Um, never. I don't think I've ever googled myself. [laughs] But I do read some things that . . . I mean, if I know that I was with an interviewer and I kind of figure that he or she got something bad or something good from the interview, then I'll read the piece when it comes out. But other than that, I'd have to have a reason to read it-and, usually, I don't have a reason. So, no, I don't really read too much, because I know you know that they word things the way they want to word them when they put it on paper.
HILTON: What's the most bizarre thing that you've ever read about yourself?
WAYNE: The most bizarre thing I've ever read about myself is that I was dead. That was kind of weird to read that I'm dead-mostly because I was reading it. [both laugh]
HILTON: I read that about myself once, too. It's pretty bizarre. So what about paparazzi? Have they ever tried to get aggressive with you? Has there ever been an incident where one of them just set you off?
WAYNE: Because I don't live in L.A., there's not a lot of that. But when I've gone to L.A. and been in the hotel or wherever, I've seen how serious the paparazzi is out there-like, they park across the street from the hotel and as soon as you walk out the front door, they jump out and start snapping. I live in Miami, so I really don't have to deal with that on the same level. The only time I ever really witnessed some crazy paparazzi was during my court experiences. Every time I rode up to court, as soon as I jumped out of the truck, they were there to snap, and all in our way to where we couldn't walk. It's nowhere near like that around here. But maybe I'm just not that caliber of person that they want to take pictures of me like that. [laughs]
EHRLICH: So you're saying that you don't get that hassled by paparazzi in Miami?
WAYNE: Well, obviously sometimes, because I go out. There's this thing out here that publishes pictures of people out and about. So when I go out, I do see pictures of myself. I don't know where those pictures come from-I mean, I don't see the cameras. But I guess I'm just not looking for them.
HILTON: What's your favorite club in Miami?
WAYNE: My favorite club in Miami is a club called LIV. It's in the Fontainebleau Hotel.
HILTON: Oh, I love that club.
itles are titles, and names are names. As long as people remember me forever, that will be enough for me.—Lil Wayne
HILTON: What else do you like to do for fun?
WAYNE: My main thing is to chill with my kids. My daughter loves to work, as well-she loves to record and stuff-so I like to work with her.
HILTON: How old is she?
WAYNE: My oldest daughter is 12.
HILTON: Oh, fun! How many kids do you have?
WAYNE: Four beautiful kids. Three boys and one beautiful angel.
EHRLICH: Do they live in Miami with you?
WAYNE: Nah. They live with their moms, but they're always with me.
HILTON: So you said you've been rapping since you were 8 or 9. Do you remember your earliest rhyme?
WAYNE: I honestly don't. I remember some parts of it. I remember the content of what I was rapping about, but I definitely don't remember the first rap. But I remember where my head was at and what I was thinking about and things like that. I just wanted to be like Cash Money. That's all it was. At the time, though, I think I was more fixated on groups like Another Bad Creation and Kris Kross and stuff like that.
HILTON: I know that you helped discover Drake, and now he has become one of hip-hop's biggest names. What potential did you see in him and what have you been able to impart to him from your own experiences?
WAYNE: When I first heard Drake, I already knew that he had potential beyond my imagination, because the kid was singing and rapping-and he was rapping real well. So that's kind of an odd mixture-like, you don't get somebody very often who is real good at this and real good at that. So that's when I already knew that he was gonna blow up, right there. He would've done it-with me or not-I just wanted to make sure it was with me. And the main thing I've told him, or taught him, for lack of better words, is just to stay humble and remember who you are throughout it all, because there's gonna be moments in every single day when you'll have to go back to that person and reflect on that person. You have to self-reflect. If you forget who you actually are, then what's the use of even looking in the mirror.
HILTON: When you're writing lyrics, do you ever worry about being offensive, or that you'll kind of have to, like, edit them?
WAYNE: No. That's one thing about me, and I think that's what most of my fans enjoy about me, that I don't hold nothing back. I do exactly what I want to do, and say exactly what I want to say. Sometimes I consider the fact that I have a daughter, but I also think about the realities of the world, and just let her know that this is the reality and this world is crazy and there are people out there that are a certain kind of way. I mean, once I get through that hump, then, like I said, I just say what's on my mind.
EHRLICH: What are some of the things that you do to bring yourself back to Earth and remember who you are? I'm assuming that your kids are part of that.
WAYNE: It's my family and my friends, plain and simple. My family and my friends-they keep me grounded. Especially my mom, because she would kick my ass if I was to change. So, flat out, that's what it is.
HILTON: I think it's good when your family keeps you humble. I've seen so many people gain a certain level of celebrity and just turn into different people.
WAYNE: Yeah, I have as well.
HILTON: It was kind of a controversial move when you released the album Rebirth last year, because it was sort of a rock album. How did you feel about the response to the album?
WAYNE: Oh, I was actually overwhelmed by it because I was surprised that record sold so well. It still went gold. So I was actually overwhelmed that people even got it because, if you'd asked me before, I thought it wasn't gonna do shit. I thought it was gonna sell about 200,000 copies at the most. I really didn't get to promote it well because I had to take my little eight-month vacation, but other than that, I think if I would have had more time to promote it, then it would have done better than it did.
HILTON: Well, I bought it and I loved it.
WAYNE: Thank you.
HILTON: So you're branching out into different genres of music. Are you trying to integrate your audiences more?
WAYNE: Exactly. That's exactly what it is, because when you go to my shows, there are a variety of people out there in the audience at my shows, and I like to please everybody.
HILTON: Who do you make music for?
WAYNE: I make it for my fans, honestly. I make it for my fans.
HILTON: One thing I've noticed is that a lot of rappers, if you say to them, "Why are your lyrics about money, sex, and violence?" they'll say, "Well, we're telling it like it is. We're being realistic." But if you want to do something different and fresh, how do you do that?
WAYNE: You have to be an overall different type of person. Music is a reflection of who you are, and if those things that you mentioned are what your music is all about, then I guess that's who you are. I mean, I think it's just that simple. You have to be someone who is able to speak about different things. I speak about what I speak about, and I guess that's because I'm a crazy-ass nigga. [Hilton laughs] Kanye [West] speaks about a lot of different things, but that's because of who he is. You have Jay-Z, and he speaks about more corporate things, and I'm quite sure he's a pretty corporate guy. But I guess it's all who you are.
EHRLICH: Who do you like to listen to?
WAYNE: Honestly, I don't listen to nobody else's music but my own. It's kind of like sports to me. You don't see Kobe Bryant at a LeBron James game-he just works on his own game. And that's what I do. I only listen to me, so I can criticize and analyze and all those things.
HILTON: While you were in prison you released another album, called I Am Not A Human Being. What does that title mean?
WAYNE: It's just saying that I'm not the same as other people. I don't think the same. I don't do the same things. I just feel out of this world sometimes.
EHRLICH: I was reading that during your last month in prison, they put you in solitary confinement for having an iPod or something like that. I've heard that being in solitary is the most torturous thing in the world. What was that like for you?
WAYNE: For me it was okay, because it just meant that I was alone with my thoughts. There were times when it was pretty tough to be by yourself, and to have no television, no sort of nothing. That was kind of tough. But I didn't have to be in there long. It was just a month. I was okay. I did fine.
EHRLICH: So literally a month without talking to any human beings except the guards. You're totally isolated?
WAYNE: Nah. There were guys next to me and things like that. You could speak through the walls and stuff. It wasn't totally silent like you would think it is.
EHRLICH: Can you still work out when you're in solitary? Do you get time in the yard?
WAYNE: Yeah, yeah. I got an hour in the yard every day, so I was able to do all those things.
HILTON: I had to do 24 nights in solitary. [Hilton was held in a separate cell as a safety precaution.]
WAYNE: Oh, so you know how it is.
HILTON: Yeah, I know how it is.
EHRLICH: Wayne, did anybody try to fight with you at all in prison? Or did everyone just kind of respect you?
WAYNE: You know, we are men and we argue about things. That's the aggression in us. So, yeah, I got into arguments. But there wasn't ever anything too bad.
HILTON: How happy are you to have your freedom now?
WAYNE: Words cannot explain.
HILTON: Yeah, I know how you feel. [laughs] It's the best feeling in the world when you come out.
EHRLICH: Does it make you feel almost like you appreciate every little thing in a different way now-like you have a new lease on life?
WAYNE: Exactly. You're definitely more in tune to what you're doing. You're definitely more humble. I think that most people who come out of that situation just want to make the most of life afterwards. Honestly it was just one big humbling experience.
'm not the same as other people. I don't think the same. I don't do the same things. I just feel out of this world sometimes.—Lil Wayne
HILTON: I agree. So you've been all around the world. What is your favorite place in the world to go?
WAYNE: I've been to the Dominican Republic a few times and I like that. But Amsterdam would be my favorite place.
HILTON: I love Amsterdam! It's so dope there. You can just ride a bike around. Do you ever dream? What are your dreams about?
WAYNE: I don't dream a lot. But whenever I dream, I just dream about the day I just had or something like that. Mostly that's what I dream about. I dream about that current day. Other than that, I don't dream a lot.
EHRLICH: Do you think that your ambitions have changed at all now because you've achieved so much? Or do you still feel hungry in the same way that you did when you were a kid?
WAYNE: Honestly, it makes me want more because I'm nowhere near satisfied and I'm always hungry for more. I'm a very creative person, and the best part about creation is creating. So I always love to come up with new things, new ideas, new thoughts. I cherish things like that. So I'm always wanting more.
HILTON: What sign are you, Wayne?
WAYNE: I'm a Libra.
HILTON: Do you believe in horoscopes?
WAYNE: I've read horoscopes before and what they say about Libras. But I would actually love to not be what somebody writes down-I don't want to be described. I don't want you to be able to read something and say, "This is how Wayne is." I'd rather you meet me and decide. I'd rather be different, basically. So, yes, I've read the horoscopes, and I see what they say. But I'd rather be something else.
HILTON: Do you have any pets?
WAYNE: I like animals, but I only have a few pets. I have a bunch of fish, and I have two sharks. Those are my dudes.
HILTON: Wow. Sharks? Nice.
EHRLICH: How big are the sharks?
WAYNE: One is a little baby, so he's about a foot or two, or something like that. Then the other one is a good two, two and a half feet, or almost three feet.
EHRLICH: So do you have a huge pool for them? Or do they stay in a tank?
WAYNE: They live in a crib. I have this little water thing. It's like a little pond under the stairwell in my house. So they swim under there.
HILTON: That's dope . . . Do you go on Twitter?
WAYNE: I just shut my Twitter account down because it got hacked. Once it got hacked I had Twitter fix it. They changed it. And then it got hacked again so I just shut it down. As of right now, I'm on Twitter strike.
EHRLICH: Here's a question for both of you: Do either of you have any goals that you'd like to accomplish in the near future? What would you like to have done by the end of this year?
WAYNE: Ladies first.
HILTON: Me? I'd really love to finish my album, because I've been working on it for so long, but I've had so many other projects that it's hard to focus on one thing. I'd also love to just continue doing my businesses, and be more confrontational with people, because I let a lot of people get away with stuff because I don't say anything. So, personally, I wish that I would be stronger with people.
EHRLICH: Wayne, what about you?
WAYNE: I want to bank a cool $50 million at least. At the end of this year, I want to be able to say that I banked $50 million. Not generated $50 million, but actually banked $50 million.
EHRLICH: After taxes you mean?
WAYNE: [laughs] Exactly.
HILTON: That's a good goal to have.
This is an excerpt of the cover story. To read the full Lil Wayne interview pick up a copy of the April issue of Interview.
Paris Hilton is a Los Angeles–based entrepreneur, actress, and singer who can be seen in her upcoming tv show The World According to Paris.