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Acting Out: On the “Retirement” of Lil Wayne

Earlier this week, Lil Wayne—in a characteristically head-scratching maneuver—declared that he now found hip-hop boring and was leaving his musical pursuits in order to focus on his skateboarding.

Weezy’s admission came with nothing in the way of hard deadlines. This isn’t a piece of pageantry quite on the same scale as Jay-Z’s “retirement” of a few years back, but still, when Lil Wayne says he’s sick of rapping, there are legitimate reasons to take the man at his word.

Lil Wayne has worked in the music industry continuously since the age of 14, at which point he parlayed his internship with Cash Money Records into a solo contract, which eventually launched the pop culture beast we have come to know and love.

Weezy’s youth was at first simply a fact, but it later became a marketing exigency. The man is 30-years-old, but he’s still sold to audiences like he’s a teenager.

Pop stars tend to be figures of aspiration. People who listen to Rick Ross often have an interest in being “bawses”; people who listen to Katy Perry ape both the star’s nymphic attitude and Technicolor wardrobe.

Cash Money has cast Lil Wayne as a delirious skate punk—a perpetual teen who kicks it around abandoned warehouses, pausing only long enough to smoke a couple bowls and maybe shoot a text to one of his various squeezes. And then smoke a few more bowls.

Where this marketing ploy ends and the actual Dwayne Michael Carter Jr. begins is hard to tell.

Lil Wayne has spent so much of his life living out an idealized form of teenage-hood that I doubt he can parse at this point whether he’s doing this stuff because he likes it or because it’s simply expected of him.

In this sense, I completely buy the premise that Lil Wayne—one of hip-hop’s biggest names—is bored with hip-hop. He has gone this route before, if you’ll remember, releasing the inadvisable rock album Rebirth, a specimen that I can only imagine was allowed to see the light of day because someone at Cash Money decided it was the price of the staying in the Weezy business.

When Lil Wayne rankles at having to continue with his day job as a pop star, the temper tantrums are the result of an arrested adolescence perpetually returned to by professional obligation.

I feel sort of bad for the guy, even if his struggles occasionally yielded gems:

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About the Author


Shane Danaher's affection for pop music has peppered his adult life with a variety of aesthetically rewarding and financially disastrous decisions. After moving to Portland, Oregon for college (because that's where he heard Modest Mouse was from) Shane has wound up participating in the music world in roles ranging from 'drummer' to 'promoter' to 'bathroom floor scrubber.' He has toured without money, written about almost every band ever to have come out of the Pacific Northwest, and one time traveled all the way to Los Angeles just to see a catch hip-hop show. He currently resides in Portland, where he writes about hip-hop, pop and rock music for a variety of publications. He still plays drums. He wants to meet Kanye West.

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Posted in: Featured, Hip Hop Music


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