So I fucked up last night. I didn’t go see Lil Wayne at the Beacon Theatre. I’d been to the Siren Festival the day before, and I was hung-over and tired. A friend had told me that Wayne’s label publicists weren’t giving any free tickets out to writers, something I found out after the show’s tickets had already sold out. But I still could’ve gone; a reader sent me an email that day telling me that he had an extra ticket that he’d sell me for face-value, a really generous offer considering that he could’ve probably made more money selling it outside the show. And I still didn’t go. That day, my Xbox and iPod both miraculously stopped working within an hour of each other (sad face on the iPod and everything), and that sort of expensive technology-fuckup one-two punch is the sort of thing that can really destroy your night and leave you feeling too stressed and annoyed to enjoy a live show from your favorite rapper. So I opted for a night of barbecue chicken and Ghost Rider instead. This was a pretty understandable decision under the circumstances, but it’s abundantly clear today that I made the wrong call. My friends who were at the show had great things to say, and so apparently I missed my favorite artist of right now seizing his moment and dragging the entire Beacon Theatre into his whacked-out headspace for seventy-five minutes or so. And according to what Wayne himself said from the stage that night, the intense scrutiny he received from police and security before the show might’ve been enough to keep him from coming back to this city anytime soon; according to Sean Fennessey, he said it might be “the last time I do a concert in New York ever again.” Unfortunately for Wayne, he might’ve been more right than he knew.
At 11:30 last night, about an hour and a half after he left the stage, police pulled over Wayne’s tour bus near Columbus Circle because they smelled weed coming from it. (Either they were smoking a whole lot of weed or someone must’ve left a window open; I’m not sure how else the officers could smell weed coming from a moving tour bus. Either way, someone should’ve told Wayne that it’s only OK to smoke weed in public if you’re in the outer boroughs.) When they pulled the bus over and boarded it, they supposedly found Wayne with a .40-caliber handgun on his person. The Times news blog has details. Now: rappers get arrested for gun possession all the time. In a weird and unrelated coincidence, Ja Rule, one of Wayne’s onstage guests last night, was arrested for the same reason (same caliber gun, even) less than an hour earlier. It’s a pretty common thing, and nothing ever seems to come of it, though part of me wonders whether the police at the Beacon Theatre show took offense at Wayne’s onstage remarks and tailed some of the rappers after they left the show. But usually when this sort of thing happens, police find the guns in the car, and so the rapper in question is usually able to deflect blame, justifiably or not. If those police reports are right, Wayne had the gun on his person, and so the charges might be harder to shake. I didn’t think much of the arrest when it happened, but I was talking with Voice news web editor Mike Clancy about it, and he pointed me toward this press release. According to Mayor Bloomberg, New York has the toughest penalties for illegal handguns in the country. If Wayne’s gun was loaded and if he’s convicted, he’s facing a mandatory sentence of three and a half years. Even given the quality of legal support Wayne can no doubt afford, that’s a scary number.
Over the past year and a half, I’ve written a ton, maybe too much, about the run Wayne’s been on; anyone who hasn’t yet been convinced of his worth probably won’t be anytime soon. Still, the sheer volume of his mixtape output lately has been stunning; in Nick Barat’s recent Fader cover story, Wayne claims to be recording something like eight songs a night lately. And that insane pace actually seems to agree with Wayne; he’s honing his singular aesthetic more with every passing month. Even so, it’s hard to believe he hasn’t been exhausting himself; there’s a sort of Icarus quality to him lately, and I’ve been wondering how long he can keep this up. Per Fennessey, Wayne looked “unwell, agitated, dazed” when he first came to the stage last night; Sean also compares his stage presence to Jim Morrison, and I must be drinking the same Kool-Aid, since that analogy makes perfect sense to me (except Lil Wayne is better than Jim Morrison). If Wayne’s peak gets cut short because of a prison sentence or an extended court battle, it’ll be something close to tragic. Plenty of reasons exist for a rapper to carry a gun around these days; someone murdered Stack Bundles, a onetime Wayne collaborator, just over a month ago in this city. But Wayne was on a tour bus in midtown Manhattan last night; I’d be amazed if he was in any sort of immediate danger, and nothing good could’ve possibly come of him carrying that gun. It’s just impossible to justify. If Wayne’s current run ends for a reason as stupid as this, we’re all screwed. And if he goes off to prison for years before making another New York appearance, I’m going to be regretting last night’s decision for a long, long time.
Voice review: Jon Caramanica on Lil Wayne & DJ Drama’s Dedication
Voice review: Keith Harris on Lil Wayne’s 500 Degreez