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Q: Tell me about the video concept. I watched it and it reminded me of the Spike Lee film, “Bamboozled,” which I’m not sure enough people understood or appreciated.
This was a true artistic collaboration. When we released the song, we were getting treatments from every major director in the business that wanted to direct that video. The director we chose was Gil Green, who is a White Jewish guy. That entire concept was his. He is a White Jewish filmmaker and he’s obsessed with Paul Robeson and his experience. There’s a dedication of the video to Paul Robeson. Putting blackface in it and making that an integral part of the video was his idea. For a good 100, I’ll safely say 100 years, minstrelsy was the premiere art form for the masses to the point where Black people couldn’t perform for White people. Black characters had to be played by White people. White people had to be painted black. But when they finally did allow Blacks to perform for White people, they had to paint themselves black because Whites were used to seeing the black paint, not the pigmentation of the skin. I knew about this, but I got a deeper education about this talking to a White man on the set of the video. [laughs] You want to get mad? If people are feeling certain ways about the video, guess who you have to get mad at? Another White man. [laughs]
Q: You recently got in the headlines for speaking about the nihilism in rap. And furthering that topic, Lil Wayne just topped Elvis Presley’s record on the Hot 100 Billboard charts. I saw a headline that said a “foul-mouthed” rapper with violent lyrics beats Elvis? Is there a way out of this phase for mainstream rap?
Society as a whoe is innately nihilistic. American society is very, very crass and non-compassionate. Just as a construct. But the ideals and the nature of it comes from a very individualistic, get-mine-before-you-get-yours kind of thing and if you get yours before I get mine, I’m going to take yours. That’s something you can’t… it’s almost like well, what did you expect? If you look at the moral trajectory of different artists in different time periods, you can see certain people had a certain mass presence. Top 10 records… you can see that Lil’ Wayne is America at this point in its totality. He’s murderous, carefree, laissez-faire, erotic, overly sexual, but very rough around the edges. Obsessed with money…. There’s a certain truth, a certain artistic and philosophical truth to that. I don’t really… not that I don’t care…. but I expected that. I don’t find that jarring. It’s good to see a Black man beat Elvis [laughs].
But with that too, Elvis sung gospel records. He was a beautiful brother in that sense. A brother who dedicated a large portion of career to singing praises of Jesus, morality and things of that nature. Lil Wayne is a force of positivity for some people, even if they just latch onto the verse he did for that Damien Marley and Nas album about the generation and the future of this nation, the future of this world, and how they rest at the feet of his son.
Q: You, though, have said that you want to move beyond rap. You’ve said you want to stop…
[Interrupting] Yes, it’s called retirement. This is a retirement package… these last albums.
Q: Retirement package? [laughing] You are cashing in on that 401K?
Yes, it’s time to venture off and do things a little more artistic in their scope. Something that is less of a commercial endeavor. And I think the precedent has been set. If I follow the tradition of people I consider true artists, they participated in many mediums and many formats. And when one format became saturated, they moved to another, even if just to challenge themselves artistically. And sometimes, they were able to make something commercially viable out of it, unexpectedly. This realm has become something I’m not really thrilled by as much anymore.
Q: What about the reality you leave a void in mainstream rap? Do you feel any responsibility to add that layer of deeper thought, of different topics to the mix?
I think in dualities, multiplicities. Me coming into this place created a void somewhere else. To that portion of your life, family, or whatever, your divinity practices… There’s a certain realization that duality exists outside of me as well. The same people who you would think would lead these holy positive lives based on songs based on songs from a particular artist can grow up to be criminals, could grow up to become the next Hitler, distort your messages to empower a certain secret nihilism within them. And they’re just waiting for that moment to get really pissed, to reinterpret “Words I Never Said,” not as a thing to equal the playing field, but focus on one line and use as justification to kill a bunch of people. People have done that with the Q’uran, the Torah, and the Bible. You have to be careful about what you put out there. It’s not yours once you do that. But that’s just one piece of this….I’ll still make music. You’ll just have to come get it.
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