Lil Wayne On Top – XXL Issue 149
Three hip-hop powerhouses hit the road in a tour of epic proportions.
Images Jonathan Mannion
Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the July/August 2013 issue of XXL Magazine. This is part one of the three-part story with Lil Wayne, T.I. and 2 Chainz.
Four years ago Lil Wayne sold 800,000 tickets and grossed $42 million on Young Money’s America’s Most Wanted Music Festival, then was anointed the most profitable touring artist in hip-hop. The title remained in 2011 with the success of Weezy’s I Am Still Music Tour, which had 78 shows spanning three different continents: North America, Australia and Africa. The tour raked in $47 million.
Now, fresh off the release of his 10th studio album, I Am Not A Human Being II, Wayne’s going back on the road for the 2013 America’s Most Wanted Music Festival, and he’s upped the ante. The 40-date tour, which kicked off July 9 in Birmingham, Alabama, will include serious firepower in the form of T.I. and 2 Chainz. T.I., arguably rap’s hottest free agent, is currently in the midst of shopping deals for his Trouble Man follow-up, while 2 Chainz is prepping for the release of his sophomore album and celebrating the success of his debut, Based On A T.R.U. Story. On the heels of a summer tour for the ages, XXL sits down with Lil Wayne, T.I. and 2 Chainz to get the scoop on three of America’s most wanted MCs.
Can’t stop, won’t stop, Lil Wayne keeps pushing himself to the top.
Words Vanessa Satten
It’s 2:30 a.m. when Lil Wayne gets to head to the Miami Hit Factory in his chauffer-driven, custom Maybach convertible. He’s spent the last two hours at this magazine’s cover shoot, and before that he attended game one of the Miami Heat/Indiana Pacers NBA Eastern Conference Finals series where the Heat won by one point in overtime.
The hardcore sports fan is a night owl, so he’s functioning just fine four hours before dawn. Staying up late is the norm for most hip-hop artists, especially when on tour. Weezy’s not on the road yet, but he will be in July when the 2013 America’s Most Wanted Music Festival kicks off. Wayne, the current most profitable touring artist in hip-hop, seems to tour every two years. In 2011 he went on his three-continent-wide I Am Still Music Tour, and in 2009 he had the record-breaking first America’s Most Wanted Music Festival.
This summer fans will be excited to see Wayne perform live on stage as many were worried about the superstar MC who had a recent health scare. In March Wayne, 30, announced he was epileptic after a seizure landed him in Los Angeles’ Cedars-Sinai Medical Center for six days, a week before the release of his album I Am Not A Human Being II. In May, Wayne was back in the hospital after suffering another seizure.
Even with a health crisis, Weezy keeps going. In addition to the tour, the skateboard fanatic has released Spectre by Supra, a new line of sneakers in collaboration with the famed skate company. He also skates regularly…maybe even more than he’s been rapping.
During the drive to the studio, Wayne chopped it up with XXL about all he’s juggling.
XXL: So you’re getting ready to go on the 2013 America’s Most Wanted Music Festival with T.I. and 2 Chainz. How did that come together?
Lil Wayne: [My manager] Cortez [Bryant] put this tour together. He just asked me who I would want to go out with. He offered a few names. He was like, “What about Tip? What about Tit?” Tit is 2 Chainz. And I was like, “Yeah, of course. They’re both my brothers. No question about it. Ask them if they wanna do it.”
In addition to the tour, you’ve teamed up with Supra to create Spectre by Supra, your own line of sneakers. How did that happen?
Supra offered me the deal because they saw that I wore Supras so much. And I think during [my tour] in 2011, I probably had on Supras 80 percent of the time. Obviously that solidified that I am a Supra fan, so they offered me a shoe. The people that have a shoe with Supra are quote-unquote unique people, so I was honored and pleased to be given the opportunity to have a shoe with them, and I took that opportunity.
You’ve been skating for a while now, and you definitely seem immersed in the culture. Is there an end goal? Are you trying to be a pro? Are you just having fun?
I just have fun. No pro at all. To be pro you have to have been doing this since I was trying to perform for people. It’s super fun to skate, period. Every day I skate, I try to learn something new, and it’s impossible not to. It’s really addicting once you’re into it, and I’m really into it.
So you regularly reading skate magazines? Do you want to meet all the biggest skaters? You own a skatepark, right?
I have plenty of skateparks of my own.
Meaning you build a whole bunch of them all over the place?
Yeah, because I can’t stop skating, so I need one everywhere I go. When I was on the road, what I would do is go to skateparks after every show. It didn’t matter who was there, and I don’t know how to skate nowhere near how they know how to skate. But it doesn’t matter. If they see me have fun, then they have fun because it’s enjoyable. The reason for the skateparks is to have fun everywhere I go.
Are you going to the studio or the skatepark more lately?
Unfortunately it’s the skatepark more. [Laughs] But I’m trying to get it back to the studio.
Have you felt that urge to get back in the studio? Is there a Carter V in the future that you’re thinking about, or are you focused on something else right now?
I think about it, but I have to be focused on something else right now.
Were you happy with how I Am Not A Human Being II came out and the public response to it?
Overall I felt good about the project because I approached it in a manner of—and this may sound silly—trying to be underground.
The Carter series and the I Am Not A Human Being series are drastically different. Human Being comes off as an underground album or mixtape series that might not have even been put in stores years ago. Releases from Tha Carter series seem more like moments.
Yeah, that’s the way I approach them.
Who have you been listening to? If you are still listening to music with all that skateboarding...
I do. I listen to a lot of Odd Future. I’ve been listening to a lot of old stuff, though. Recently I’ve been listening to a lot of Bone Thugs. East 1999, that album. Stuff like that. The first album. I listen to a lot of UGK. A lot of 8 Ball & MJG. And that’s kinda it. As far as new, I listen to Future, to a lot of the older mixtape stuff. A$AP Ferg.
Do you follow a lot of what’s going on in hip-hop, the music and the artists and the industry?
I don’t know where hip-hop is at. I just listen to the old stuff, and my television stay on SportsCenter. Even when I’m flipping through the channels, I stumble across MTV or BET or whatever, if I stop and watch that video it’s because I haven’t seen that video. I’m so amazed. I don’t know if it’s new. I don’t know who the person is.
It’s weird how behind and ahead you are at them same time.
Exactly. But I’ve always been that way, and I don’t want to change.
You’ve had some health issues in the past few months. How is your health?
I’m doing perfect. I’m great.