From the outside, it seems like you’ve had a pretty incredible year this year. Kind of a breakthrough year. Does it feel that way to you?
Of course it was the biggest year of my life. Obviously. The VMAs were the biggest moment. That was the craziest, because I didn’t expect to do none of those things. Didn’t even contemplate once taking an award home. That was just over the mountain.
The payoff was sweet, of course, but the whole year has been mostly consumed with hard work. Everything that everyone see and notice, those things happen one day, one week, those things happen whenever. But I work every single day. I work every single hour. That’s what my year has been like. Work.
What about your album?
That was good. But there’s more to be done. People got to understand there’s no peak on record selling, there’s no limit, so you never reach your goal, you’re never satisfied.
And I expected to sell that much. Because I worked that goddamn hard. And it sounded that goddamn good. And that much better than everyone else’s.
So one of those working days, what’s it like? Your typical day.
A typical day for me? (To his road manager) Can I have a lighter? (Lights a blunt.) I get up, and if I’m not on the road or doing something like a photo shoot, I’m in the studio. I get up and eat breakfast, I have a great chef. The homies usually come over. We eat breakfast and shit.
My chef makes the same thing every day, just the full breakfast, scrambled eggs, bacon, toast, pancakes, sometimes waffles, fruit. Make sure that there’s everything you’re supposed to get.
You ever think about what happens when your record doesn’t open on top? Like where do you think you’ll be in ten years?
Nowhere. I don’t. That’s stupid. If anyone sees themselves in ten years they’re lying to themselves first, so you know they’re lying to you.
[A Lakers highlight comes on the flat-screen in the kitchen of his bus] Lakers my team. Cuz they got this creature on their team that’s unexplainably great, by name of Kobe Bryant. That’s just, just unreal. Until they don’t have him, I don’t understand why anyone else even play basketball.
[Then a LeBron highlight comes on the television] LeBron’s great, he gonna be better, because he’s younger, of course. That’s not even talent with LeBron, that’s magic. He may as well go on and tell everyone that he 35 years old, get it over with. He plays like a total man. He ain’t from Akron, he from Jupiter somewhere. Playing like that.
Speaking of Jupiter, you say on your records that you’re a Martian. What’s that mean?
Just out there, you know. Don’t like to think like everybody else, don’t like to try to think like everybody else, don’t like to do nothing everybody else think I’m gone do, don’t like to say nothing everybody else think I’m gone say.
I’m a Martian. I like to be different. And what’s more different than a Martian.
Seems at some point artists have to make the decision about whether they should be different or popular.
Not at all. It’s easy to be me.
That’s your first tattoo, right there, right?
My first tattoo is this tattoo right here, in memory of rabbit, it’s up to me. That’s my dad. He passed when I was 14, so I got it when I was 14.
How’d he die?
He got shot.
What were the circumstances of shooting?
Circumstances? Oh, right. None of nobody else’s business.
How did that affect you, you think?
I’m human. Affected me like it would affect anybody else I would imagine.
You close with your mom?
Where she living now?
None of your business.
Like what city?
None of your business. [laughing]
Okay. I guess we won’t talk about your family. What have you been up to this week?
I just came from L.A. I was doing a few things in L.A., closing a few deals out there. Did the commercial with LeBron. Other than that, I really been relaxing. I got a big tour coming up, so I’m trying to fall back until then. Come up with ideas for how that should go.
How do you keep track of ideas?
The good thing about that is that, thank God, I’m actually infatuated and in love with what I do, therefore I am what I do. So I never have to forget because I never have to remember, I just am. I don’t need to write stuff down.
What about your songs. You never write them down?
I just say it. Say it when it gets in my head, the beat. Whatever comes in my mind at that moment.
So it’s always spontaneous?
Of course. I believe anything other than that—then why go buy it? Then you could do it, she could do it.
I couldn’t do it even if I wrote it down.
But you could read what’s on the paper, right? So basically anybody that could read could recite it. That takes something away from it. But if I walk up to a guy and say “Rap for me,” he’s going to say something. His characteristics or whatever. I’m going to get what I love about him, just from his presence. That’s why you never saw me rap no TV shows. Other rappers be having to rap after an interview. So can you spit something for us? They never ask me to do that because the interview is so compelling that they actually got Lil Wayne.
I always tell somebody that’s why I am good, that’s why I’m okay, because I’m being me, I’m doing me. Now the day I gotta write stuff down—no one can believe what’s written down. Perfect example: If I was a bum and I told you I had a mansion around the corner and three Bentleys and twenty-eight bitches in my house butt naked waiting for me, you wouldn’t believe me. I’d say you stink, say Get out my face, give him $100, and say Get the fuck.
But if there was a book that said, there was this bum with a mansion with twenty bitches in it, you’ll try to use it and put it toward real life. That’s why I don’t write nothing down. That’s why I don’t believe the Bible, nothing that’s written, because nothing that’s written is to be believed.
So you don’t believe in books? Seems like you do a little bit of reading. Your raps have references to all sorts of stuff.
Well. There is one I read and get information from. The damn dictionary. Yeah, when we be in the studio fussing over a word—no, it don’t mean that it mean this! Go to the Internet, Google that shit. That’s like a normal thing to do around here. Dictionary comes up as one of those little things on my computer.
Other than that, I was smart, so I went to a good school. So that shit stick with me. And we actually joke around here all day. And we joke very intelligent. I tell my dudes all the time, niggas don’t understand, we joke, but our jokes are intelligent. But I owe a lot to my education system. They helped a whole lot, made sure I knew what I was doing. Shout out to Lafayette Elementary in Holly Grove, New Orleans. McMain Middle. Abramson was the high school. I can’t shout out Abramson, because y’all know you ain’t teach me a goddamn thing over there. Lord have mercy. When I tell you it was a dumb school, whew, Lord have mercy. I went to that school two weeks out the year, ask me what I made. Flying As.
It’s shut down now, because when the hurricane came—you probably have to check with the president or something, because they didn’t never put it on CNN or nothing—but my school was supposed to be shelter? And everybody died.
How many people died?
I don’t know. Close to 200 something people. They don’t say that, so I don’t know if I’m supposed to say that.
Hey, I know you just did a movie about post-Katrina New Orleans with Forest Whitaker. How was he?
Intense. And serious. And if I ever thought I was slipping on what I’m doing around here? I would remember those experiences of being around him. He looks at you once, speaks to you once, he’s not ever going to make eye contact with you again.
Did he direct the movie?
Nah. I don’t remember what his name is, but his first name is Tim [Story].
You ever thought about writing a movie?
I have. And I always think I’m be trippin’. Like, you think you’re too good. Shut your stupid ass up, you can’t write no movie. I always sit down and be like, I’m gonna write me a movie. Then about five minutes later I be like: You really think you’re a little genius, don’t you. Like, slow the fuck down. Slow all the way down. Continue making songs, brother.
But I got this scary idea I been thinking about lately. I love scary movies. So I’m like, Shit, why not. Just the most scariest normalest shit. I think that’s the most scariest. That it’s so normal that it could actually happen.
What’s your favorite horror movie?
The Sixth Sense. I went to school for psychology so I like all that crazy shit. Make you think. Make you pissed off. First time I saw it I was so pissed off. Like, Why the fuck I ain’t know this the whole time! I’m that type of dude. How you not know that! That’s why it’s my favorite movie. That and the one with the little girl. Hide and Seek. With Robert De Niro. And what’s that little girl name? Darcy? Dakota? Dakota Fanning.
I can’t watch Dakota Fanning. Something about her that bugs me.
That shit is amazing, though, man. You gotta watch it. They got this scene in Hide and Seek that we argue about to this day. Dakota Fanning has a twin, and don’t nobody ever notice that part. I’m like, dude, she has a twin, in the movie! A sick twin. That’s why the neighbors are so crazy about her! Because they are the parents of the sick twin! And she died! She was an orphan! I get goose bumps even thinking about it. Whoever thought of that is crazy.
Little girls are always creepy in a scary movie.
You ever see The Shining?
I never saw that. Wait is that the one with Jack Nicholson? Yeah, I saw that. You know what other movie is good that I just saw? The Eye. Jessica Alba! Man. I had Cortez call her people and say I would be very interested in taking her out. That shit works sometimes!
I saw another good movie, a documentary about a drug dealer named Rayful Edmond. He was just like me. Intelligent, but hood. Smart, knew his shit to every penny. His drive. That’s what got him to where he’s at. He always said if he earned a million dollars he’d quit. He earned a million dollars in a second but he couldn’t quit. His drive kept him going. Totally unlike your average dealer. Hood but smart as a motherfucker.
Seems like you spend lots of time watching movies.
Love it. Loved The Butterfly Effect. Usually Ashton is an asshole, so when he get scared it’s real scary. I watched Quarantine. And the person I was watching it with complained about it being a bootleg. But she can go out tomorrow and watch it in a theater. I can’t. I’m me, can’t go in no theater. So until that DVD get released, I love watching a bootleg.
I met Chucky, the little 12-year-old you signed to your label. Do you feel like since you’ve been through that—being a kid on the road, recording—you know how to lead him through that?
I feel it helps out a lot. But I made a lot of mistakes coming up.
That’s the thing about mistakes, you don’t dwell on them.
It is interesting to know—
Yeah, for me. It’s interesting for me. So I can capitalize on my mistakes and make the best next move. It’s not interesting for the world unless you’re writing a book or something. And you know how I feel about books.
Have you always been so prolific?
If you ask my boss, Baby, he would tell you I’ve always been prolific, always tried to do too much with my words, and they always would tell me, bring it down. Because that didn’t fit their formula.
What you mean trying to do too much?
Trying to rap too much, trying to show my talents. Instead of walking to the store, running to the store full speed. Yeah, you know, running track and jumping hurdles when there were no hurdles on the track, showing them I could run backwards when I shouldn’t.
So you had to learn to pace it.
No I learned that on my own. It just had to be their way. Basically, it was like, to me, back then, it was just like a basketball player, he plays within the team when he plays professionally, but you may see him on the court in the park doing some shit that you’ll never ever see in a game. That how it was with me. When it was time to sing with the guys, I knew exactly what to say and do. But when it was time for someone to hear me rap, then you was going to get something different. It helped me differentiate one style from another from a young age. And at the age of 11, that’s creative.
I had a theory about you. You’ve created a set of conditions that let you operate at your creative height. So that all your creative doors are open. And you need to maintain all of it so you’re in your zone.
You’re right. You’re right. I have a term for it. Outwork the bullshit. Outwork the bullshit. That means nothing can rattle you when your conditions are set.
And the way you set those conditions is by working this damn hard. Outwork the bullshit means someone could tell me, hey, the world just ended on the left side of the Pacific Ocean. [laughs] Okay, well, I’m out-working the bullshit. A better example, things that people say about me in magazines, things that people say about me, other artists, things that people can’t figure out why the hell haven’t you responded or why don’t you get mad? Why aren’t you mad that people picking on you ’bout what you drink or what you smoke or what you going to court for, who you with, why doesn’t that bother you? Because he’s out working and becoming better while we’re worrying about that shit.
What conditions do you work best under? Time of day? Who’s around you? Where are you?
I work at any time of day because I when I wake up I have a studio at home. So what I do is I may prerecord me, then I go into the real studio later on, at midnight. The session start at nine, but I usually don’t get in there until about midnight. But when I do get in there, it’s on. I’m going be in there until, if I don’t have any engagements to get into the next day or that night, which I never have, then I’m going be in there until the next day. I don’t mean five in the morning, I mean elevenish, 12 p.m. Get home about 1 or 2 p.m., breakfast be ready, that’s when I eat breakfast at that time. Go to sleep about 5 p.m. Wake up at about 10 p.m. Dinner be ready. Eat dinner and I’m at the studio at about twelve.
I’ve heard you never fly unless you have to.
I hate flying.
I like the bus. I like to smoke, which you can’t do all the time on a plane.
Not if you fly commercial.
I don’t fly commercial. And I actually smoke on every flight I’ve ever been on but I don’t want them to fuck with me. [speaking for the imaginary people listening] YOU. KNOW. HOW. YOU. CAN’T. SMOKE. ON THE PLANE! Plus I just like the bus. It’s more comfortable. It’s like my home. I grew up on this motherfucker. I live it. I am this.
You say work is the most important thing. Is that our first priority?
My first priority is my family. I am human. But my whole family knows what my priority is. Family is always first. But this is under nothing else, except God.
Are you religious?
Yeah, to a certain extent.
I pray every night and day. That’s about it.
Who do you pray to?
So it’s nondenominational?
I don’t put no title on it. Cuz bling-bling is in the dictionary. And that word you just named is in the dictionary, too. So I don’t like to put titles on things. Bootylicious is in the dictionary, too.
Yeah. We made it the same year, bling-bling and bootylicious.
What’s the definition of bootylicious?
I really don’t know. Oh, I do! Very curvaceous body.
When did you start rapping?
When I was 8. Eight years of age. Why, I do not know. But I got a deal at 11, so I must have been okay. Must have been meant to be done.
When I was 8, we used to play Apollo, in the hood, with the hottest chick. Her name was Kiki Shepherd. And whoever win get to be with her. She really liked me, the whole time. So I really don’t know if I was good, or if she just wanted to be with me. Sometimes when other niggas’ cousins come and play football—fast niggas from the country? She be feeling them. So certain holidays I ain’t win. It was all good, though.
So you were good?
At 8 years old, I really liked to write raps. When it was time to go inside and write raps, that was a real fetish for me at that time. I would contemplate that as I was playing outside. I can’t fucking wait to go inside and write a rap. I had ideas in my head.
That’s when I knew I was crazy, but it’s cool.
So it wasn’t about being successful and then forcing yourself to write raps?
No. This shit, I had to force it to leave me the fuck alone. I don’t know why.
If you stopped feeling that way, would you be okay not doing it?
Yeah, I’d be very okay, in fact.
What would you do?
Spend my money. I’d need a whole nother life for that.
How much money you got?
I just checked my bank account it said I have like $100 left. I just need a dollar to pay a toll, so that’s ninety-nine. But I’m a put that dollar back.
Have you ever told the full story of the shooting when you were younger? When you shot yourself in the chest?
Is that something you feel comfortable talking about?
No. I don’t talk about the past.
How are people to know what your story is if there’s no past in it?
I told you, I don’t dwell on mistakes. I did say that, so let’s move to something else.
What are you going to do for your birthday coming up?
I got a show in the Bahamas. So we might just chill out there for a couple of days and see what that’s like. I been there plenty of times, but they got a new hotel.
Are you a vacation guy?
No, I’m not a big vacationer. Not a big vacation guy.
Because I work so damn hard. I did take a few vacations recently and I loved them. So I might become one.
What do you like to do on vacation?
Chill. Go to a villa or some shit. Cool out. Smoke. Catch the view. That’s all.
You bring people with you when you go on vacation?
My dudes, yeah. My homies.
Who’s in the core group?
I usually be with a couple of my artists at all times, so they can just take it in.
What are you teaching them by doing that?
Just to enjoy what we do. Our job isn’t to work in a bank or be a lawyer, our job is to be rappers and this is the life of a rapper, so enjoy it. Even if it’s not you that got us here, enjoy it. Because I was brought up under Juvenile and B.G., and when it wasn’t our turn, they were living it up, and they didn’t live not one moment without us. That’s just how I was taught.
Other than that I roll with my assistants. Because I need like eighty-five assistants at all times. Nah, I got three perfect assistants. My homies, my artists, and my assistants, that’s how I roll.
Josh, your engineer, told me that you got a new lip post?
I got it like a month ago.
Any reason you did it?
It be chillin’. Got a shop on the corner of where my condo at, my crib, they got a little spot at the corner. I was like, I’m going to get one of those.
What about that eyebrow piercing?
I just got that yesterday. I got this in L.A.
You’re a quick decision-maker.
Yeah. I would say that. Study long, study wrong.
I was just talking to your video producer and he told me about shooting the Milli video. He told me you said, ‘I want to shoot it tomorrow.’ And he said, ‘I can’t tomorrow maybe I could do the day after.’ You said, ‘Fine, day after, what do you want to do?’ He said he needed to think about it and you so: ‘No, tell me right now what you want to do.’ That’s where the idea for that video came from.
I write all the treatments to all my videos. Jeff (the producer) gives me the freedom of saying and doing what the fuck I want. If I say we go right we go right, if he say we go left we go left. We got a good understanding. He been working with me since I been a kid.
He said you’re the only person he wants to work with on this stuff.
He said that? He’s been doing this shit a long time, so for him to even be doing this shit now is amazing.
His point was that you just do think. You don’t think about it and write it all down and worry about it, you execute. True?
Yeah. I told you, it’s me being me. It’s my video we shooting here, we ain’t shooting nobody else’s. This video is my video, so if you even look at it twice, you’re looking at it for me, and this camera gonna catch me being me.
Now you gotta imagine, if I was David Blaine or some shit, I’m quite sure when that camera come on, they’re going to want me to do magic every single time. You know what I mean? But my job is to rap, and I be Lil Wayne. I don’t know if you been on other video sets, but it’s hard to see that artist become whatever they not, because a lot of the people behind those cameras don’t know who the fuck you are. So they be actually looking at they damn self saying, “What the fuck am I on this set for? What do I do that everybody like so much for them to shoot this motherfucking video?”
But for me, I try to impress in every single thing I do, in this fuckin’ interview, in my photo, anything, I try to do good, not try to do the best but good, therefore when you accomplish any piece of that, that’s what makes the video. That’s why he said I do things because all I have to do is me, he’s just calling it things because he’s not me. So to him I’m doing different things. Wow, he just did this. But I’m just being me, I don’t even know what I did, can you show me? So that’s how it goes.
I like to think that you create your own world. Your video producer calls it Wayne’s World, of course. But if you actually had your own country, your own planet, what would it be like?
First of all, I already know, men would be able to marry however many women they want. School would not be optional. It would mandatory. Because I do not like unintelligent people; it’s a pet peeve. If you dumb, you not around me, so that says a lot about the people you see around me, because I hate dumb people. Other than that, did I mention the men would be able to marry, ain’t no limit on that. And you don’t have to do no ceremony to get married. You’d have to do something, but not the proper ceremony we go through today. I’ll think of some cool shit you’ll have to do. I do some realistic shit, so that night before you get married, you got that bachelor party, she got that bachelorette party, and that morning—don’t you feel different than next morning? Like, fuck, I don’t really know if I want to get married, man. Like, if you can go through it and make it to some certain spot the church or whatever that next day, you married. Because something made you go through it.
So, like, if you still want to go through it the next morning, if you just say yes and show up, you’re done.
You know how I know about this? Because I went through that shit myself. [laughs] Sitting in front of the church, like nigga, I don’t know. Can you see how fast we can drive outta here?
Tez [Cortez, his manager and childhood friend], he was like, “Wayne, you know if you want to go? We gone.” I was like, “Where we gone go?” “Out the fucking country.”
And divorce? Now divorce? On my planet, you got to go through that. That’s a great discipline thing. I believe that’s one of the great things we have in America. Prenups, and all the divorce and all the consequences of marriage, that’s the ultimate question before you do it. What you gonna do about prenups, what you gonna do about faithful, what you gonna do about if she cheat on you? All those questions are the ultimate questions about whether you want to get married. Because I know I had to answer all those questions before I got married.
You did the full thing, the tuxedo?
Awwwww yeah. My daughter marched the aisle with the flowers and all that. Yes. It went down.
Would you ever do it again?
[cough] No. [cough] Fuck no! I don’t know blood, I don’t know. Because I told you I like scary movies. That was very scary.
What would be legal or illegal on planet Wayne?
Weed about to be legal everywhere. I would make it that there’s no such thing ever as crack. Nor heroin. I don’t feel that. It kill my city that’s why I say that.
And violence? Instead of going to jail, you just evaporate from my world just like that. I don’t know where you go, but you gone. You know where you go? Back to earth! Picture that. Back to earth. That’s what it’s like being with me.
Especially ladies! You knoooow. After me, it’s back to earth. Just go one back to earth.
Is your bus as close as you can get to that world?
Yeah because you can get married however many times you want on this motherfucker!
What music you been listening to?
I only listen to me. I’m not trying to be funny. I’m just analyzing. Critical. Seeing what I like what I don’t like. Say what I should have said. What I could say next time, what I should have said, things like that.
I’ve been playing the drum set. Pete Weiss. Pete Wentz. Whatever. That dude from Fall Out Boy? He gave me a bass guitar, so I’m playing bass on my new song. I been trying things. Electric guitar. I learned how to play “Shoot Me Down.” You can learn it, they show you how to do the chords.
And you’ve been producing?
Yeah. I love it. It’s like, who can tell you what? You made your own song, and for you to play it back for someone and they like it, that’s the ultimate feeling that you were made for this. Because I’ve never made beats, so I play it for them and then at the end I say, I made that beat. That’s a great feeling.
How much of Tha Carter III did you have to rewrite because material got leaked?
None. They already had a lot of it. I record so many songs they had so much material.
How many songs you record in your life?
Christ, over a million.
Quite sure. I been recording since I was 11. That’s the difference. Not writing, but recording and rapping for people. Baby and them had me in the studio since I was 11. My first album came out when I was 12. Over a million, yeah.
I wrote this song for Michael Phelps, when we did SNL together. Gave him a whole iPod with unreleased music. He was a good friend. Never leaked it. I never got an all hip-hop blast: Lil Wayne has a new song. He never put it out. But this I want you to put in there. Shit was lyrical. I went in there and just sung it. To know that I don’t write. This sound like someone sat and wrote it down in his tablet for days.
Part of what helps me is I have a vision. Like with this here, I see myself like Bruce Springsteen, pulling people up on stage to sing. Pulling a girl up on stage. I would be writing it and picturing her.
Do you rap about the outside world or is it a little window into what’s inside of your head?
I feel that it’s, what you just said, a window, my window on those things on the outside world. All my raps come from that window, not some come from here and some come from there, they all come from that window. And that window is me. It all comes from me. I don’t put no categories on it, it’s not hip-hop, it’s not gangsta rap, it’s not R&B, it’s not reggae, it’s not reggaeton, it’s Wayne. Because Wayne do all those fucking things. That’s why it be easier not to put no categories on it, and just call it Wayne, because if you do I be taking home awards for every fuckin thing.
But I don’t want no more awards after the awards I got this year I’m just flabber— just astounded. The only award I want right now is good, warm, juicy, warm…chocolate-chip cookies. Love them. Straight love them! [laughs]
You have your bus and your have your chauffeur. Do you ever drive?
I haven’t driven, sat behind the driving wheel of a car, in four years.
You don’t enjoy driving?
I have a chauffeur. That’s why. My car is big, so I probably fuck it up if I tried to drive it. I got some big-ass cars.
You like cars?
Mmm, no. I’m not one of those guys that’s big on cars. I got nice-ass cars, though. If I told my line you’d think I’m into them. I just get ’em, because I need something to ride. This bus was a gift for me for the tour I went on with Chris Brown. I got new buses coming within a week or so.
How do you respond when people try to put a schedule on you?
What do you mean? A schedule to meet some kind of engagement? That’s okay. I try my best to meet it. The only thing you can’t do, you can’t stop me. That’s what you can’t do. That’s the people who have problems.
But other people, like friends and girls, when they want things like—can I get a day off. No. I don’t stop. That’s what’s the hardest for them to understand. You can’t stop my recording. You can’t stop my performing.
I can imagine that’d be a problem for girlfriends.
I hope it is. Because if is then it’s a good problem because it means I’m that much of a worker. Yeah. It’s a great problem.
Other people got other problems. Like he got too many girls, or he got too many of this, or he lies. My problem is I work too damn much. I love my job.
You’re married to your job.
Married to the money.
This Q&A was condensed from two separate interviews.