DJ My Sick Uncle’s mashup 500 (Days of Weezy), a rather brilliant mix of verses by Weezy and friends over the music from the 500 (Days of Summer) soundtrack, begins with a voice-over lifted from the eponymous film, (500 Days of Summer). The narrator wryly insists that “This is a story of boy meets girl.” In the film, this comes off an obnoxiously and smugly ironic cliché. On the mixtape, followed as it is by clips from Weezy’s famous 2009 interview with Katie Couric, the clip has the opposite effect. It frames the interview, one of D’Wayne Carter’s most candid television appearances ever, as the watershed moment it was. Katie Couric, who only months before had famously interviewed Sarah Palin, turned her gaze toward Weezy. It was a deserved leap into the mainstream America spotlight for hip-hop’s resident teen phenom gone good. More importantly, it opened up a character whose deliciously inscrutable rhymes often left you scratching your head even as you were bumping and giggling along.
Under Couric’s ever piercing gaze and probing questions, Lil’ Wayne explained his eccentricities in a somewhat subdued, defensive but not quite defiant manner. He calls Couric “Miss Katie,” as if she is his nanny or kindergarten teacher. As Weezy makes clear in the interview, being anything other than himself is a prescription for death, literally. In the film’s world, the protagonist, Tom Hanson (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt), is under the misguided notion that the purpose of his life is to meet the girl of his dreams, Summer (played by hipster princess Zooey Deschanel). Life with anyone other than this girl means pure, unadulterated unhappiness. In the film, pure unhappiness means serious though not that serious depression fueled by whiskey, junk food, English pop music and a curiously large LA apartment. Buying into 500 (Days of Weezy) as something more than a brief, clever piece of easily consumed and forgotten cultural product requires believing in the initial parallel between the film/Tom Hanson and the interview/Lil’ Wayne and the ideas behind each product. If the fictional Tom Hanson is an everyman, Lil’ Wayne is an fictional iconoclast. Each represents an idea. One that appeals to consumers and generates profit accordingly.
500 (Days of Weezy) takes hold of the self-referentially obsessive tendencies that fuel celebrity-consumer culture and locates it not merely in Lil’ Wayne but in the interview as a crucial touchstone. The album articulates the desires of a public entranced by gossip and the faux celebrity inferiority offered up by kernels of unfiltered but always mediated information. Attachments develop and clouds of associations spring up. Each celebrity comes to represent an idea defined by empty adjectives and marginally related product endorsements. It begins with a hip hop verse and ends with with a drink order at a bar. Though the notion of consumers feeling a connection to commodities is hardly new (witness any of Don Draper’s celebrated monologues), the simulated intimacy of the confessional record and album has more recently been popularized in hip-hop. In that sense, 500 (Days of Weezy)’s more recent antecedents are Kanye West’s 808s & Heartbreak and Kid Cudi’s Man on the Moon. It’s far more interesting than either of those records but follows a similar path of channeling the narcissistic elements found in most hip-hop in a more introspective direction.
In this case, DJ My Sick Uncle combed Lil’ Wayne’s discography for a selection of verses that brought together onto one album create a surprisingly coherent totality. There is nothing slapdash about it. 500 (Days of Weezy) manages to retain the mood, tone and narrative thrust of the film while also subtly inverting it. The woebegone white dude motif of the film is replaced by Weezy’s gangstaness, which is further complicated by the interspersed interview clips of his trembling but insistent voice. His contradictory energies, prodded by Couric’s almost suspiciously compassionate questions, blend in with the alternately depressive and euphoric music. The enduring concept is ambivalence. Though the mash-ups pretext is the “story” of Weezy, this is something of a red herring. At the album’s apex is “Please, Hustler, Please”, a mash-up utilizing The Smith’s “Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want”, richly illustrates the absurdity of the project. Is Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s sad-sack Tom Hanson remotely analogous to Lil’ Wayne? Of course not.
500 (Days of Weezy) is not concerned with anything as trite as some false cultural binaries or bland affinities. If anything, it resists the necessity of lame distinctions and instead gets after the core of what makes Lil’ Wayne so appealing. That is, the record is looking for the reason I heard Tha Carter III popping out from decked out Escalades on Lakeshore and from my former roommate’s closet-sized bedroom while he was playing Civilization 4. 500 (Days of Summer) traffics in shameless sentimentality that Lil’ Wayne would scoff at but many of Lil’ Wayne’s most ardent fans would no doubt feel twinges of empathy for the film’s characters. There is an asymmetrical cultural disconnect where the flows of appropriation are hardly evened out. The link between these worlds is purely affective. The face-value sentimentality of the film is suffused with privilege, whereas Weezy’s persona in the Couric interview, relies on a sense of deflected and veiled damage wrapped in bizarre and unconvincing braggadocio. The interview makes obvious Wayne’s uniquely wavering voice on most of his rhymes, as he’s on the verge of a major breakdown. In an age where being original is probably harder than ever, Wayne’s baggage fuels his thoroughly marketable eccentricities. His power is that we never quite know what to expect next. Currently serving time in Rikers Island Prison, Weezy lives unapologetically on the edge of knife. His relevancy might be ebbing, but what 500 (Days of Weezy) makes clear is that he is far from forgotten.
Lil Wayne: “A Milli”