(All week, Soundcheck is paying tribute to the unusual life and career of Lil Wayne with a series of features we’re calling Weezy Week.)
Lil Wayne has found a comfortable home away from home on tour, and it’s in, of all places, Tampa.
To be more specific: The Skatepark of Tampa.
Skatepark founder Brian Schaefer says Weezy has stopped by Tampa’s famed skatepark “half a dozen times” in the past few years — sometimes for a late-night skate session following a tour stop, other times in plain view of hundreds of elite skaters at the park’s annual Tampa Pro tournament. He’s sung the park’s praises on Twitter and in online videos, and has become such a presence there that earlier this year, the Skatepark issued a press release announcing Weezy had purchased a controlling interest in the legendary park. (The release was dated April 1; do with that what you will.)
Schaefer said he wouldn’t be surprised to see Lil Wayne swing by for a late-night skate following Saturday’s tour stop in Tampa. “I would say if he’s healthy, he’ll probably be giving us a call to see if he can come skate while he’s in town,” Schaefer said.
We asked Schaefer to give us the lowdown on why Tampa is his favorite place to skate.
How did Lil Wayne first come across the Skatepark of Tampa?
The dude just has a passion for skateboarding. They reached out and wanted to come by during one of his shows, and we lined it up. Because his shows are at night, the only time he has to skate is after shows. So they’ve been here three or four times now after their shows in Tampa or on the road. Even when they’re in Miami, they’ve been here from 2 to 3 in the morning to 6 or 7 in the morning. They come in and do the midnight shift.
Did you have any doubts as to whether it was really them?
It was like, “Get out of here!” It did start out with, like, “Hey, I’m the tour manager and Weezy’s bodyguard...” We’re like, whatever. Sure, man, we’ll be here if you want to bring him. That’s how it started out, in kind of a jokey fashion.
Was it a challenge to get him in and out without much of a fuss?
Not at all, man. When we do it, we keep it on the DL and don’t blast it out. Of course, it’d be awesome to go, “Weezy’s coming to the Skatepark!” and put it on our social media channels for our own selfish reasons. But it’s just one of those things we respect. It’s happened in the past with Dave Chappelle and other people that have been in that wanted to skate.
What about Tampa Pro? He comes in for that, and you all don’t broadcast out. It usually just leaks once he hits the ground, right?
You got it. They call us a month or a week in advance. They just want to come in through the back, and we just accommodate him where we can, because he’s a celebrity, so the last thing we want is that dude walking through the front with 100 people mobbing him.
What have your interactions with him been like?
I haven’t really had that one-on-one time with him, but anytime I briefly just said, “Thanks for being here,” we had a talk about (pro skateboarder) Greg Lutzka being his favorite dude. Nothing too intimate. It’s just usually in passing, because I’m the one hosting the contest, so I didn’t really have enough time to kick it with him. He’s so engaged around people wanting his attention or the contest that we’ve never really had that intimate setting to just kick it after hours.
Does he go to pro skateboarding tournaments around the country? Is that a thing he does?
I could totally lie and say he only comes to our event, but he loves to skate, and while he’s on tour, he tries to go to as many parks as he can, because this way, he can just do his thing. He’s been throughout a ton of parks throughout the country, and friends of ours have been there to connect with him. We’ve given him contacts up and down the east coast.
Aside from the cool factor of him showing up and skating, has he done anything for you guys? Hooked you up with concert tickets, signed autographs, anything like that?
Every time that he comes through, they always give us the opportunity, and we always take them up on it and get tickets and have access to the show. They’re always complimentary, and they always take care of us if we need anything.
-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*