Let me start by saying that as a diehard Hip-Hop head and a child of the south I have been listening to Lil Wayne and Cash Money since they burst on the music scene in the late 1990’s. I can acknowledge that at times Wayne has shown signs of artistic brilliance, but I also feel that his musical output over the last few years has been nowhere near the quality of his incredible run between 2004-2008.
With that being said, I have no problem with Hip-Hop fans debating whether they believe Wayne has fallen off or if he is still one of the best in the game. Comparing Top 5 lists, GOAT lists, and Hottest Emcees lists helps keep fans investing in the culture and pushes artists to strive to be better. But I do take serious offense to Wayne (or any rapper) ever being compared to a legendary civil rights leader like Malcolm X.
Let’s be clear, Lil Wayne is an entertainer. His job is to sell records for the sole purpose of making money. Yes, as a public figure I believe he is responsible for the content he presents to young people, and if someone feels that the music he releases has a negative impact on his listeners then they have every right to call him out on that. The same way his supporters have the right to defend him. The First Amendment applies both ways. That’s a public discussion that is completely understandable. But again the only reason Wayne is a public figure is because he is a performer.
Malcolm X was so much more that. He was a minister. He was an activist. He was a philosopher. He was an advocate for change.
I cannot see how anyone can compare the man who said “beat that pussy up like Emmett Till” to the man who said “power in defense of freedom is greater than power in behalf of tyranny and oppression.”
This is not an attack on Wayne or his content. It just needs to be pointed out that we are being asked to equate a man who at this point in his career mostly raps about sex, drugs, and skateboarding to a man who gave his life to end discrimination and promote peace.
To even compare Lil Wayne to the pre-converted Malcolm Little is also beyond the stretch of imagination. Racism is still alive and well in 2013, but I don’t think that Wayne could even understand the level of hatred and discrimination Little had to overcome during his life growing up in the 1930’s and 1940’s.
Wayne has been surrounded by money since he was a teenager, so he had advantages as a young black male that Little never had nor most of the American-American youths of today will ever experience.
The “anger” expressed by Little was from a place of deep hurt and resentment from being poor and voiceless. Wayne’s “anger” seems to stem from a feeling of being misunderstand for the work he creates and constant public criticism. The difference (beyond the fact that one is the result of institutionalized racism and the other a bruised ego?): Wayne has a worldwide platform to express his discontent. Little didn’t.
I will say that Wayne and Little both have one thing in common. They both saw the inside of a prison cell. But again that’s where the similarities end.
Malcolm Little came out of prison a changed man who had found faith and a true sense of purpose. Lil Wayne came out of prison a man who not only continued his reckless behavior, but as someone who many feel digressed artistically as well.
While I hope that Wayne is able to fully recover from his current medical condition and that this latest incident in his life opens his eyes and forces him to reevaluate his decisions in the future, we do not have to elevate him to the level of Malcolm, or any other notable hero, to wish him well.
[Related Post: What Lil Wayne and Malcolm Little Both Have in Common]