JUST ASKING | Lil Wayne
Little Big Man
A Rapper Jolts the Music Industry
With Huge First-Week Sales
After years of crumbling CD sales, the music industry got a pleasant shock recently when a rapper named Lil Wayne delivered some big, old-fashioned sales figures. More than one million copies of his new album, “Tha Carter III,” sold in the first week, making it the fastest-selling album since 2005. The New Orleans rapper, born Dwayne Carter Jr., is known for his scratchy voice, inventive wordplay and versatile delivery. He spoke to us recently about his working methods, his mix tapes and his best-selling album.
WSJ: For people who haven’t followed your music, or who don’t even listen to rap, what makes your new album so different?
Mr. Carter: The difference is the maturity, period. I put my all into everything. I make sure that it’s better than good.
You’re famous for the number of guest spots you do and mix tapes you’re on. Is there a risk fans will get tired of hearing you?
There’s a reason not to do it because sometimes you can hurt yourself. If you’ve been on too many songs it can get old. For my situation, I just make sure that everything I do is great. I’m still doing collaborations.
What does a person do to celebrate a million sales in a week?
I think everybody went and had a party. I was recording.
You do a lot of that. Is there a certain kind of studio setting you prefer for recording?
I record anywhere and everywhere. On my bus and in the green room before a show. If you care that much about where you’re at when you do it, you’re not a rapper, you’re an interior decorator.
You’ve been making hip-hop records since you were about 15 years old. What’s changed the most since then?
Of course the popularity of the music has grown. At the same time, financially and economically, it has decreased. But thank God, I think I’ve brought a change to that. The opportunities are a lot easier right now. Anyone can be a rapper. But there’s so many of us that it’s an honor to be picked to be one of the best.
How do you keep track of your ideas? Do you have a notebook of rhymes waiting for music?
I don’t write my raps. I don’t have time to put writing down on paper. If I did, I’d be a lot more dangerous.
On one song, “Dr. Carter,” clich�Ã�©s and unoriginal rhymes are a sickness that you diagnose in other rappers. Do you ever feel trapped or bored by the conventions of hip hop?
It’s always a wide open genre. The real fans kick it to the real artists. I’m going to make a lot of albums. I’ll try to venture into other things as well. I can act a little bit, I think. But I’m going to make sure it’s well worth it. I don’t want to lose focus.
You’re one of the most downloaded artists on underground music networks. If people are so used to taking your music for free why do you think so many went out and bought the CD?
The answer is easy. The answer is because of me. No gimmicks, nothing that I do with marketing. I don’t have a great advertising team or a street team. That’s the reason I’m most downloaded and MySpaced. That’s me. My baby picture is on the album and the album is full of good music. Even the people who did download it [without paying], that’s a sign of respect. Trust me, it’s respect — if you don’t believe me you can call my bank. I don’t have a problem with downloading. I don’t have a problem with anything.