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Lil Wayne's Oct/Nov VIBE Cover Story

Lil Wayne doesn’t take compliments too well. That much is apparent when you attempt to congratulate the hip-hop enigma on racking up his fifth top 10 debut on Billboard’s Hot 100 with his current single—the strutting darkly tinted Drake —featured song “She Will.” You then unknowingly add more proverbial fuel to fire by mentioning that the impressive feat puts him ahead of his three biggest peers in the current rap landscape: Eminem, Kanye West and Jay- Z. Wayne is not impressed.

“There’s no competition [with any artists],” he asserts in a perturbed tone after a VIBE cover photo shoot in Miami. “Music isn’t about competition no more. All the gangster rappers are happy. All the skateboard rappers are happy, all the white rappers are happy…Everybody just happy to do music these days. There are no problems,” he adds. “That shit died a long time ago with them old-ass rappers. We are just making music, making money and having fun-feeding our families. Competition is for the old guys.”

Such a hairpin response trigger response is not merely moody—rapper theatrics; it’s the contradictory, if elusive, ramblings of the “best rapper alive.” In late August, tracks for the goblin’s much-anticipated album The Carter IV leaked, drowning the blogosphere in Carter curiosity. One particular cut, “It’s Good,” ignited a frenzy of HOLY SHITS and other Cap-lock catharsis. The song will go down as Wayne’s first official salvo at Mr. Shawn Carter with the brutal line, “I got your baby money/ Kidnap your bitch, get that how- much-you-love-your-lady-money.”

Wayne’s jab comes off as a counter- punch to Jay- Z’s slap at Wayne and/or his mentor, Bryan “Baby” Williams on “H.A.M.,” on which Jigga raps, “Really you got baby money…You ain’t got my lady’ s money.” Of course, the inevitable debate followed: Is Wayne built to go toe-to-toe with the old guy? Was he really going at Mrs. Carter? Does Jay- Z have another “Takeover” left in his rhyme reservoir? Or is he in for another “Ether”?

Despite his blatant on-record diss, the Young Money label head is cryptic when the subject of jay- Z comes up. Wayne is more interested in discussing the inspiration behind his cover shoot: homage to the ultimate guitar god Jimi Hendrix. It’s all there-the badass black hat; a “Purple Haze” era Technicolor military jacket; black leather pants; and Jimi’s signature orange, black and white Fender Stratocaster. “Jimi’s just one of my favorite artists,” says Wayne, who a few years ago decided to pick up the guitar himself. “Everything Jimi stood for, I believe in.”

The irony of Wayne channeling the spirit of the late ax-wielding genius instantly hits you. There was a time when an unstable Lil Wayne was on a watch list for the next in line to join the Hendrix-led “Forever 27 Club,” a crew of deceased musicians (its most recent inductee, Amy Winehouse) who partied way too hard and left behind sad fans and beautiful corpses. An overdose from too much codeine-laced purple drink seemed highly plausible at one point.

However, at 28 years old, Dwayne Michael Carter has sidestepped such a morbid destiny. An eight- month prison stint from a 2007 gun possession charge seemed to have made the relentless MC more focused. At press time, Lil Wayne-who was finishing up his sold-out I Am Still Music tourhas taken in $15 million in 2011, according to Forbes. The music mogul who guided both Drake and Nicki Minaj to platinum stardom is a studio rat that has no interest in fronting the obligatory fashion line or staging a Hollywood takeover. In fact, he shrugs off any Tupac-style big-screen dreams. “I’m wealthy enough,” he says. “I don’t really dip into nothing that really ain’t my field, because that’s when you start looking crazy and doing stupid things.

”For Wayne the choice is clear: music or death. --Keith Murphy


VIBE: You say competition is for the “old guys” but it sounds like you’re going at Jay- Z with that line, “I got your baby money/Kidnap your bitch, get that how-much-you-love-your- lady-money.” Are we looking at it in the wrong way?
Lil Wayne: I know for a fact, music is about perception. You can’t do anything but perceive what you hear. If I know that for a fact, I can never be upset abut someone’s reaction to it. I’m not gonna say I don’t know what will happen before I say it [on record]. I do know what will happen. I am aware of it. It is what it is.
So you knew the repercussions of going after Jay before anything even happened?
Well, I’m a man. I believe as a man you should know that. Every man should know the repercussion and consequences behind whatever they do before they do it. And of course, I know there wont be any repercussion behind what I did.
With the release of Jay- Z-Kanye West collaboration Watch the Throne, fans have already started discussing a similar project featuring you and Drake. Is that really going to happen?
Yeah, we still plan on doing it. We just gotta find the right time.
I know you mentioned that you don’t view your peers as competition. But is there any part if you that believes you and Drake can trump The Throne?

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NEXT: Kobe Bryant

This story appeared in the April 2000 issue of VIBE, months before he won his first of five NBA championships with the Los Angeles Lakers. Written by Isaac Paris

Okay, Sherlock, we know Kobe Bryant is way past the verge of stardom. As an all-star shooting guard for the Los Angeles Lakers, he gets thousands of fans screaming with excitement every other night. Bryant's baseline drives are as smooth as Nate Dogg's vocals, and his slam dunks bump like a gritty bass line from a DJ Premier track.

Now, with his debut rap album, Visions (Columbia), due in March, the 21-year-old is poised to follow in the footsteps of teammate Shaquille O'Neal (who he occasionally exchanges verses with in the locker room) and prove that his skills aren't limited to flying above the rim. Although Bryant realizes that being the man on the hardwood is no guarantee that you can actually hold it down in the studio (NBA stars/inept MCs like Gary Payton and Jason Kidd can attest to that), Visions proves his wordsmith capabilities are ample enough to allow him to play with the big dogs.

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"Tyra can sing," he says of supermodel Tyra Banks, who makes her singing debut on Visions' first single, the buoyant "K.O.B.E." Destiny's Child, the Roots' Black Thought, 50 Cent, and Beanie Sigel also support the hoopster on the CD.

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Tyler the Creator attends the 62nd annual GRAMMY Awards on January 26, 2020 in Los Angeles, California.
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The late Nipsey Hussle and Kobe Bryant are projected onto a screen while YG, John Legend, Kirk Franklin, DJ Khaled, Meek Mill, and Roddy Ricch perform onstage during the 62nd Annual GRAMMY Awards at STAPLES Center on January 26, 2020 in Los Angeles, California.
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Nipsey Hussle Honored By DJ Khaled, John Legend And More At 2020 Grammys

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Meek Mill began the performance with an emotive, unreleased verse that served as a letter to Nipsey, with Roddy Ricch singing a chorus. [Update: The song, "Letter To Nipsey," was released to streaming services later that night.] That led into a rousing performance of "Higher," the song that appeared on DJ Khaled's album Father of Asahd.  John Legend played the piano and sang the chorus while backed by a choir, which was directed by an energetic, adlibbing Kirk Franklin, as a video of Nipsey rapping played on a big screen. YG joined the stage in a red suit, speaking to the gang unity between Crips and Bloods that Nipsey endorsed with his music and his life. The performance ended with an image of Los Angeles legends Nipsey Hussle and and the recently deceased Kobe Bryant, with Khaled paying tribute to them both.

Nipsey Hussle's debut studio album, Victory Lap (2018) came after an epic mixtape  earned him a nomination for Best Rap Album at the 61st Annual Grammy Awards. He died on March 31, 2019, after being gunned down on in the parking lot of his Marathon Clothing store in Los Angeles. The music and business worlds reeled from his loss, with his rap career on the upswing and his work as a businessman and community leader inspiring many.

Before Sunday's (Jan. 26) ceremony, Nipsey Hussle was awarded a Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance for "Racks In The Middle," the last single that he released in his lifetime. The song features a guest appearance by Roddy Ricch, and is produced by Hit-Boy.

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