Monday, November 23, 2009
No Ceilings/The Carter Documentary
Lil' Wayne is certainly making the most of his time before he is sentenced to jail in February. The past month has seen him release his No Ceilings mixtape (for free online) and The Carter Documentary, a film that chronicles his life in 2008, before and after the release of his critically-acclaimed smash The Carter III. Both of these feature Wayne in rare form, and offer fleeting glimpses into the life of a music icon and the pressure that goes hand-in-hand with fame.
As I've said before, Mixtapes arguably contain Lil Wayne at his creative peak, unadulterated by hooks and musical interludes. He simply borrows a great beat and unleashes himself upon it, and more often than not, eclipses the source material. No Ceilings is no exception.
Is there anyone else who can unflinchingly rap about Windows Vista, Michael Phelps, Cambridge, pet canaries and Alvin and the Chipmunks and still sound menacing? Lil Wayne does all of this on No Ceilings before he even INTRODUCES the mixtape itself. The rest of the mixtape is equally enlightened, as Wayne continues to find new euphemisms for shit and new ways to toot his own horn. As he has said before, he is not like us, he is a martian. I'm starting to believe him.
His only missteps on the album come when he attempts to inject some of his young money crew into the mixtape. While they rap admirably, they sound lazy and uninspired when sandwiched between Weezy's verses. But then again, who wouldn't. The entire mixtape is a bittersweet affair, as one can't help but feel a twinge of sadness when they realize the brilliant Wayne will spend most of his next year incarcerated.
The Carter documentary is a similarly bittersweet project, and among other things, it makes me downright frightened to envision Wayne in jail, stripped of the two things that give him purpose; syrup and a microphone. While it has been said before, the documentary shows the massive role that drug-use and recording play in his life. He is rarely filmed without a styrofoam cup of syrup or more than 5 feet away from the microphone. Often sipping from the cup between verses, his eyes completely glassed over but his mouth continuing to rhyme like a man possessed. His addiction is even harder to watch when it follows interviews with his 10 year old daughter and his manager. How much his daughter understands is debatable, but his manager has the unmistakable look of a man defeated, as he details other times he's tried to help Wayne kick the habit. When you are one of the most powerful men in the world, you don't hear the word NO. Plain and simple.
The documentary has the voyeuristic quality of an episode of Intervention, but without the rehab and accountability. Just the slow, steady spiral of a man surrounded by loved ones, but wholly alone. I couldn't help but feel a bit personally responsible for the situation he now finds himself in. The public is sustaining his lifestyle, glorifying it, eating up every bit of it. We are completely willing to look the other way so long as he continues to put out new material.
I have no doubt that Wayne's substance abuse will result in his premature death within the next 5 years if he doesn't get clean soon. Who knows, maybe prison is the best thing that could happen to him at this point in his life, forcing him to face his demons and put his life in perspective. The demons that come with fame are many, and they can not be conquered alone. Until Lil Wayne stops self-medicating himself, they will only continue to grow. Just ask Kurt Cobain.