Ah New York New York big city of dreams/And everything in New York ain’t always what it seems/You might get fooled if you come from out of town/But I’m down by law and I know my way around
-Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five “New York New York”
On Tuesday, August 21st, Lil Wayne played the part of William Tell by shooting an arrow through the core of the Big Apple. While in Las Vegas promoting his Trukfit clothing line and Lifestyle shoe collection for Supra, he was interviewed by MTV. When asked about an August 15th performance with Nicki Minaj at New York’s famed Roseland Ballroom, Wayne made a not-so-shocking confession: “Flat out, I don’t like New York.” His statement was met with a sizable public outcry. New York State Senator and mayoral hopeful Malcolm Smith called a press conference in Times Square, during which he demanded an apology from the rap star. Rapper Donny Goines joined the fray by recording and releasing a scathing diss track titled “Fuck Lil Wayne (Flat Out, I Don’t like You).”
The resulting flak from Lil Wayne’s comments was overblown, to say the least. That a state Senator would demand an apology for such an inconsequential statement is nothing less than ridiculous, and speaks to the grand standing nature of modern politics. To add insult to injury, it also makes New Yorkers look exceedingly…soft. Those who have a proverbial axe to grind with NYC will take great pleasure in what I just typed. What they fail to realize is that Wayne’s comments reveal him to be every bit as delicate as the New Yorkers whose ire he has drawn. New York is now a city of whiners, and the greatest rapper alive is as delicate as fine China.
Lil Wayne’s disenchantment with the Empire City likely began on July 22nd, 2007. That date marks his first appearance in New York as a headliner. The event took place at Manhattan’s Beacon theatre were local authorities created an oppressive atmosphere. Just before stepping on stage to begin his set, Wayne was frisked by police. Feeling thoroughly violated, he then aired his grievances to the crowd: “Let me tell y’all somethin’: I just went through the worst f—in’ feelin’ ever backstage with y’all security and y’all police. So, I’m here to tell y’all this will be one of the only times you’ll see me on a New York stage, the way they’re treating me right now.” Alas, his ordeal was far from over.
After the show, his tour bus was pulled over by police, who claimed to have caught the aroma of marijuana coming from the vehicle. Authorities boarded the vehicle and made a beeline for Lil Wayne’s personal compartment. The rap star allegedly threw a Louis Vuitton containing a .40 caliber pistol on the ground. Though the weapon was registered to his manager,Lil Wayne was charged with a class “D” violent felony of attempted criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree. He pled guilty, and was condemned to a year in Riker’s Island correctional facility. After serving eight months of that sentence and being released, Wayne proclaimed that he would have to be paid “U2 money” to ever perform in the big apple again.
In light of such experiences, it’s perfectly understandable why Wayne would harbor a certain amount of animosity towards New York City. I spent over two years as a New York state correction officer, before transferring to county corrections. County jails are no picnic. That being said, Lil Wayne has no one to blame but himself for all of this. When at the mercy of the judicial system, ignorance can prove costly. Even the most seemingly unjust or draconian laws will sometimes be enforced to nth degree, if only to make an example of someone. By 2007, Wayne had been a recording artist for 10 years. Surely he, or someone on his management team, had to be aware of the strict gun laws in New York City. For Lil Wayne to cry foul, or act as if his experiences with New York’s judicial system are somehow indicative of the city as whole, is bullshit.
Now you’re up on the isle/ In a position that you ain’t got to refusin to smile/ But keep in mind there’s a brighter day, after your time spent/ Used to be wild, but locked up, you can’t get bent/ Thought you could hack it, now you’re requestin PC/ See you’re fragile, it ain’t hard to see
-Mobb Deep “Up North Trip”
Wayne likely didn’t face the same kind of circumstances that the average civilian would face if jailed in Riker’s. He was able to afford the best defense that money could buy. In lieu of protective custody (as requested by his attorneys) he was accompanied by an escort wherever he went. When released, he’d be returning to an adoring public and a flourishing career. As bad as jail can be, Wayne’s eight month vacation could be written off as a minor stumbling block in an otherwise stellar rap career.
Many of Weezy’s supporters received his recent comments with a shit eating grin. They view it as something of a comeuppance for the years of unchecked New York arrogance endured by southern rappers (among many others). Back in the 1980’s and 1990’s, any rapper from outside of the five boroughs that hoped to “make it” was forced to play the game. Even then, they were often denied access to the playing field by Hip-Hop’s gatekeepers. Over the past decade and change, the tables have turned dramatically. Southern rappers no longer have to kowtow to their Northern cousins.
Past sins notwithstanding, Wayne’s disdain for the Big Apple likely doesn’t run as deep as some would like to believe. The tracklist for his latest album, The Carter IV, reveals guest appearances by no less than five New York rappers. Two New Yorkers are signed to Young Money Entertainment. Wayne wasn’t addressing New York arrogance, but his own personal experiences and bad memories. Either way, what’s there to get upset about? He’s entitled to his opinion, and has a right to air it publically. He didn’t deliver it with venom, or package it in the form of a diss a la “NY87.” There used to be a time when New Yorkers would take such statements as a compliment. Much to my dismay, a once mighty dragon has been slain by a drug addled court jester with a toothpick.
Us the villains, fuck your feelings/While yall playa hate we in the upper millions/Whats the dealings (huh) its like New York’s been soft Ever since Snoop came through and crushed the buildings/I’m tryin to restore the feelings fuck the law keep dealing/More money more cash more chilling
-Jay-Z “Money, Cash, Hoes”
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