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Welcome to Weezy Week on Soundcheck!

Lil Wayne performs at Orlando's Amway Center in 2011.

Luis Santana

Lil Wayne performs at Orlando's Amway Center in 2011.

(All week, Soundcheck is paying tribute to the unusual life and career of Lil Wayne in a series of features we're calling Weezy Week.)

In late December 2010, I got a tip that one of the biggest rappers in the world was hosting a last-minute New Year’s Eve party at Club Empire in Ybor City. The club’s owner said it was a done deal. He put me in touch with a promoter who not only confirmed the news, he handed the phone to an even tighter source.

“I will be in Tampa, bringing in the new year at Empire nightclub,” said the familiar, crusty croak on the other end of the line. “We just gonna show up, do our thing. We’ll probably hang out for a minute. Then I gotta get back to Atlanta.”

Wow, I remember thinking. That was Lil Wayne.

Except ... it wasn’t.

The whole thing was a scam — part of a series of scams, actually, in which con artists claiming to be Lil Wayne’s handlers would rip off clubs by purporting to book the hip-hop icon for concerts and appearances. The scam got so bad, so prevalent, that Weezy’s people had to issue a statement clearing the whole mess up.

Many people, including yours truly, got snookered, but can you blame them? When it comes to Lil Wayne, discerning fact from fiction, man from myth, can be a Herculean task.

Dwayne Michael Carter Jr. has long been in the discussion for the title of Best Rapper Alive, from his days as a New Orleans hip-hop prodigy through his uber-platinum Tha Carter series. He’s won four Grammys, sold millions of albums and tens of millions of singles, and launched the careers of Drake and Nicki Minaj through his label, Young Money Entertainment. President Obama has said he’s got Weezy on his iPod.

But as a pure pop personality, Lil Wayne has grown impossible to pigeonhole. He’s not a larger-than-life mogul like Jay-Z, an antagonistic artiste like Kanye West, a braggadocious behemoth like Rick Ross, a reclusive visionary like Eminem. He’s a cipher, a cryptid, a “Martian” — his word, not ours — whose interests range from skateboarding to sportswriting to beginner-level rock guitar. He sucks down codeine-laced cocktails like a bronchitic vampire, yet when he’s on, few can match his spry and sprightly command of the mic.

But critics say all of Wayne’s outside interests are getting in the way of his once-boundless creativity. His legal troubles and increasingly erratic behavior have made him a target for tabloids like TMZ, which in March reported he was near death following a series of seizures. This year alone, he’s launched a feud with the Miami Heat, been fired as a spokesman for Mountain Dew and released his 10th studio album, I Am Not a Human Being II, to some of the worst reviews of his career. His croaky delivery has grown muddier; his rhymes, once so blazingly witty and playful, more profane.

“In a couple of years’ span, he became the Lil Wayne, and not just Lil Wayne the artist,” said Orlando Davis, program director and morning host at hip-hop station Wild 94.1. “And a lot of the press has been less about his proficiency in metaphor and verse, and more with the extracurricular stuff. That’s the gift and the curse of becoming famous.”

With Lil Wayne's America's Most Wanted Tour hitting Tampa's MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre on Saturday (click here for details), we decided to spend the week looking back at the rapper's life and career with a series of features we're calling Weezy Week. Keep an eye out here all week for some little-known facts, recaps of past visits to Tampa Bay, and stories about Lil Wayne from personalities who've gotten to know him.

Stay tuned.

-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 3, 2013 10:52am]


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