Lil Wayne sat down with ABC last night for what turned out to be a very controversial interview.
So what happened?
Speaking with journalist Lindsey Davis, he was asked to share his feelings on the Black Lives Matter movement that has spread through many communities in the United States and beyond this year. He began by pointing out that he does not like to give fatal police related incidents that name. He said “that just sounds weird. I don’t know, that you put a name on it. It’s not a name [Black Lives Matter], it’s not ‘whatever, whatever,’ it’s somebody got shot by a policeman for a fucked up reason.”
He then went on to disagree with the very idea that people should be told that Black Lives Matter. He said ‘I am a young, black, rich motherfucker. If that don’t let you know that America understand black motherfuckers matter these days, I don’t know what it is.” Getting increasingly animated, he pointed at the camera man in the studio and said “That man white; he filmin’ me. I’m a nigga. I don’t know what you mean, man, don’t come at me with that dumb ass shit, ma’am. My life matter.” He concluded his answer with a look directly into the camera, smiled, winked and crooned ‘especially to my bitches’.
The journalist continued by asking whether or not Lil Wayne felt connected to the movement at all. And he responded “I don’t feel connected to a damn thing that ain’t got nothin’ to do with me. If you do, you crazy as shit. Not the camera, you. Feeling connected to something that ain’t got nothin’ to do with you? If it ain’t got nothin’ to do with me, I ain’t connected to it.” He ended the segment by removing his microphone and walking out of the interview early, saying “I ain’t no fuckin’ politician.”
Undoubtedly, the interview will be unpopular with a lot of people, but is it really a surprise? It’s consistent with comments that Lil Wayne has made in the recent past, only a few weeks ago he said “there is no such thing as racism”, and gave an anecdote of the white policeman who saved his life when he shot himself as a kid.
But perhaps Lil Wayne has a point. The battle Black Lives Matter fights is against systematic racism, but is it not that very same system that hands him and his contemporaries Emmy after Emmy? Is it possible that the disconnect between Wayne and his fans who empathise with this movement is that no matter what lyric he spits, Wayne is living the American Dream and belongs to a privileged 1% due to the socio economic infrastructure the Free World has built. It's simple - his experience is not the same as so many others and it certainly doesn't resonate with the Black Lives Matter campaign. So why are we reprimanding him? His artistry stems from his truth and he's telling it.
Moreover, he isn't the only person in his position to dismiss the movement. In the summer fellow entertainer Bow Wow also expressed a desire to stay silent on political issues. He tweeted “people want me to fight the power I'm just not with all that.” He continued by saying that he could not relate to the black power movement because half of his family is white and native American. Similar sentiments have been echoed by Waka Floka and ASAP Rocky, who cite personal experience and the ‘popular socially conscious trend’ as reasons for not committing themselves to the movement. Each artist has been hit with a massive backlash on behalf of the black community.
But is that really fair?
If you go by the US' First Amendment for example, then it isn't. The document, relating to matters of the state, says that "congress shall make no law ... abridging freedom of speech". Freedom of speech in the Constitution includes 'the right not to speak' and excludes rights such as 'the right to incite actions that would harm others', which he has not strictly done in this instance. If we go by the US constitution, which by the way Americans take very seriously (look no further than their gun laws), then Wayne should be free to make these comments. But with the responsibility of being a successful black man in America, people expect him to hold the view of the majority which is to support the Black Lives Matter campaign. But shouldn't we respect the fact he's being true to himself?
Before we rush to crucify Lil Wayne him for his opinion, I think it’s worth noting that he hardly pretends to be a public authority on such matters. On many occasions he has refused to engage with the question of race relations when prompted, and when he reluctantly agrees to share his opinion, he is universally maligned for it. From his perspective, one would think it’s hard to win. It’s no wonder that he brought the interview to an end by removing his microphone so quickly afterwards.
Obviously, most media outlets will rush to ostracise him for his comments that go against the grain of dominant black consensus and his views will be perceived as naive and deeply insensitive. Indeed it is the opinion of this publication that the black lives matter campaign is a useful and important force for ethnic representation in contemporary culture. Many black entertainers have made fantastic, progressive contributions to the movement including the likes of Common and Kendrick Lamar. On the other hand, we have to remember that this is a man who’s world revolves solely around the protection of his immediate family. Whether or not you agree with his opinion, you can’t argue that he was not honest in his opinion.
In a climate where we seem to hate dishonesty and value freedom of speech, then you would expect Lil Wayne’s honest opinion to be respected and treated objectively as an instance of freedom of speech. We need dissenting opinions. Without them society doesn’t make progress.