For anyone reading this article that’s currently 22 years old, just know that within a decade you’ll be kicking yourself for some of the shit you’re saying and thinking right now. Time makes fools of us all, and if you think that your expectations of life right now are going to hold steady, get ready to be repeatedly knocked flat on your ass.
At 22, Lil Wayne was prepping the release of Tha Carter II, one of the benchmark transformations that would cement him as one of the greatest to ever do it. His relationship with Cash Money was still on the up and up, and his innate confidence was being put through the magnification that comes along with being 22 and thinking you’ve finally figured life out.
In a 2004 interview for a local Houston news channel regarding his decision to attend the University of Houston for a Sports Psychology program (which he quickly dropped out of after scheduling conflicts), Wayne made a comment about his expectations of the future, saying, "I ain't about to be 35 and rapping."
To put that comment into context, Wayne is currently 34 years old and is indeed still rapping. While Wayne threatened retirement multiple times last year while in the midst of a legal battle with Cash Money CEO Birdman, as the calendar keeps chugging towards September 27 (Wayne’s birthday), the features are still coming and the fight to liberate Tha Carter V is still well underway.
I’m not judging Wayne based on his 22-year-old musings, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a rapper that’s actually followed through on their threats of retirement. An artist that’s dedicated their life to their craft will inevitably have a hard time giving that up, as the art was always just a distillation of their personality and experiences, and those inspirations continue as long as the heart is still beating. Jay Z couldn’t stick to his retirement plan, so we know it’s not out of a need for more capital, rather it’s the idea that an artist never stops being an artist even if they’re not spending their days in a studio.
On the flip side, I wouldn’t say that Wayne is necessarily still going strong. Label woes have bogged down his output and left him fighting to release music his fans have been awaiting for years now. His threats of retirement are likely a result of a draining legal process and a burgeoning new generation of rappers that are making even eternally youthful emcees like Weezy sound stuck in the past, but just the other day we heard a reinvigorated Wayne on B.o.B’s latest album and as of right now, Mr. Carter is still very much a rapper.
On a selfish note, I don’t want Wayne to retire. He’s one of my favorite emcees of all time and I truly believe he still has the capabilities to put many of today’s buzzing artists to shame on wax. The litigious cage imprisoning Tha Carter V is one of the greatest atrocities in hip-hop right now, and while I can’t begin to fathom the frustration that’s causing for Wayne, I can also easily envision a near-future in which Wayne is free of those constraints and returns with a fire resembling the one that raged in his abdomen 13 years ago.
Whether Wayne makes it to the other end of this (hopefully temporary) stagnation and reclaims his dust-caked throne or not, there’s absolutely no way we’re getting an official retirement statement out of Weezy before his 35th birthday, and I personally couldn’t be more grateful that he’s yet to follow through on his younger self's expectations of the future.
The game still needs you, Wayne. Don’t go just yet.