10:42 am Oct. 2, 20121
Lil Wayne, a.k.a. Dwayne Michael Carter, Jr., achieved a number of things last week.
On Wednesday, he helped open a solar-powered skate park in the Lower 9th Ward section of New Orleans. On Thursday, he surpassed Elvis Presley’s record for the most Hot 100 hits, topping The King’s 108 with an astonishing 109. Later that night, he celebrated his 30th birthday at a nightclub in Hollywood, where the rappers Game and 211 got into a fistfight and someone photographed himallegedly smoking pot—a potential violation of his probation stemming from a 2008 drug and weapons charge.
But perhaps the biggest Lil’ Wayne news came last Tuesday, when TMZ leaked footage of a bizarre deposition the rapper gave in June, in connection with a lawsuit he filed against Quincy Jones III and the creators of the critically acclaimed 2009 documentary, The Carter.
In the clips, Carter says he doesn’t remember being arrested in 2007, or pleading guilty to weapons charges in 2009, or serving eight months on Riker’s Island in 2010 as a result. He goes on to claim that he’s “psychic,” after he answers a question before Jones’ lawyer, Peter Ross, has a chance to ask it. Finally, having just risked perjury, he appears to threaten the understandably perplexed attorney.
“You know he can’t save you, right? In the real world,” Wayne says, referring to the judge who appears in the corner of the screen.
“What does that mean?” Ross asks.
“I don’t have to elaborate,” Wayne says, and grins.
The lawsuit, filed in early September, accuses the filmmakers of copyright infringement, alleging that they used eight of the rapper’s songs—including the hit singles “A Milli” and “Lollipop”—without his permission.
In an email, Ross said the trial is scheduled to begin on Oct. 9.
“I cannot comment on the case right now,” he wrote, adding, “We look forward to presenting our case to the jury.”
The current lawsuit is the latest of three that Lil Wayne has filed against the long-suffering creators of The Carter, which include filmmakers Joshua Krause and Jared Freedman, Digerati Holdings, and Jones’s company, QD3 Entertainment. The previous suit sought an injunction against Digerati to prevent further screenings of the film after it was released in November 2009 on iTunes, where it quickly rose to the top of the movie charts. The Huffington Post called The Carter “one of the five greatest hip-hop documentaries of all time.” Comedian Aziz Ansari wrote on his blog: “I can’t recommend it enough.”
But Lil Wayne’s lawsuit spree officially began in March of 2009, two months after The Carter debuted at Sundance.
The film, a vérité-style documentary that shadows Wayne as he tours the U.S and Europe in support of his platinum album Tha Carter III, was an immediate hit with critics. The film blog IndieWire called it the best film of the festival. Others compared it to D.A. Pennebaker's Bob Dylan biopic Don’t Look Back.
But on Jan. 23, its final night of competition, the film was pulled from the festival under mysterious circumstances. Shortly thereafter, Wayne’s management company, Young Money Entertainment, filed a $50 million suit in an attempt to block its commercial release.
The suit accused QD3 of character defamation, invasion of privacy, breach of contract, and other wrongful conduct. It claimed that Lil Wayne did not receive final approval of the film, and that the film featured “highly damaging and objectionable scenes” related to the rapper’s drug use.
Throughout the documentary, Wayne is shown drinking large quantities of codeine cough syrup mixed with—depending on the shot—Vitamin Water, Voss water, and A&W Root Beer, concoctions he famously referred to as “sizzurp.” He also smokes a lot of weed on his tour bus. The lawsuit stated that these scenes—which the filmmakers contended were shot with Wayne’s full awareness and cooperation—would have an adverse effect on his pending criminal trials for gun and drug possession. In the end, the lawsuit was thrown out, and Lil Wayne went to jail.
What’s interesting in all this is that he appears to have really liked The Carter. When I spoke with people close to the case in 2009, they told me he screened it regularly on his bus and burned copies for friends.
The director, Adam Bhala Lough, said that he shot only what Carter wanted him to shoot.
“He’d invite us to film a show in Atlanta, or inside his hotel room in Amsterdam,” Lough said in 2009. “He’d ask us not to shoot certain things, and we complied. So to be told it was slanderous? I thought they’d made a mistake.”
Requests for comment from the lawyers for Carter's new legal team, from the Los Angeles law firm Lavely and Singer, were not returned on Monday.
Reached over the phone, Lough said he is officially done talking about The Carter. In the years since its tumultuous release, though, he’s pursued two documentary film projects with oblique ties to Lil Wayne: one about Lil' B, the eccentric young rapper who claims to have released more than 2,000 songs; and another about skateboarding, Lil' Wayne’s new hobby.
"When you finally get into it and you learn to like it, you'll quickly learn to love it,” he told the Associated Press last week at the solar-powered skate park. “It's more than just four wheels and a piece of wood."
In mid-September, Lough traveled to Newark to film an annual skateboard competition called StreetLeague, the so-called Super Bowl of skateboarding.
Lil' Wayne was in the crowd.
“He noticed me, but he didn’t say anything,” Lough said. “It was a pretty crazy moment.”
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