A self-proclaimed “Martian of rap,” Lil Wayne has always operated in his own universe.
Wayne has acknowledged that he doesn’t pay attention to any music but his own, recently confusing 21 Savage for a group and admitting he didn’t know what TDE and Quality Control were. It’s one thing to disengage from the world in order to protect the integrity of his music, but over the past five years, Wayne has also shown he’s disconnected with the current political moment. For years, he has avoided politics, even arguing that he’s “not a fucking politician.” But this week, he chose to involve himself in the conversation surrounding the upcoming presidential election. Unfortunately, his actions only proved why people shouldn’t look to him when it comes to current events.
Thursday evening, Lil Wayne revealed that he had a “great meeting” with Donald Trump at the White House. The exchange, which took place just five days before Election Day, was organized with the intent of discussing the Platinum Plan, Trump’s supposed proposal to help the Black community. It hasn’t yet been revealed what exactly was spoken about in the meeting, but at the least, it served as a photo opportunity for an image that has since gone viral as part of Trump’s reelection campaign. Conservative Senators and other Trump supporters gleefully shared the photo with terrible captions like, “Some would say @realDonaldTrump’s support has *no ceilings.*”
Wayne becomes the latest rapper to show support for Trump, joining a growing list that includes Ice Cube, 50 Cent, Kanye West, Lil Pump, and Asian Doll. Although Lil Wayne never explicitly encouraged people to vote for Trump’s reelection in his tweet, his co-sign of the controversial president right before an election was perceived as a betrayal by many. 2020 has certainly taught us that our favorite rappers will inevitably live to disappoint us.
Though it’s a tough pill to swallow for his fans, Wayne’s Trump endorsement shouldn’t come as a total surprise. Many rappers, including 50 Cent and Lil Pump, have spoken about the tax benefits that the Trump administration offers to the country’s richest citizens, and Wayne likely falls into that tax bracket as well. What’s most disappointing, though, is that even during a year dominated by protests and conversations about racial equality, the 37-year-old rapper is as disengaged with the Black community as ever.
In his tweet on Thursday, Lil Wayne claimed Trump has done a lot for criminal reform already, and will continue to “give the community real ownership” through the Platinum Plan. As of October 21, however, Trump has pardoned and commuted only 44 people, fewer than many presidents before him. Only eight of the people granted clemency under the Trump-Pence administration were Black. In comparison, the Obama-Biden administration commuted the prison sentences of 200 times more Black people than Trump. Among the Black people who were granted clemency by Trump are non-violent offenders like Alice Johnson, who received a commuted sentence with the help of Kim Kardashian in 2018. But Trump also has a track record of using his clemency power to excuse controversial leaders and political allies. This year, he pardoned Rod Blagojevich, the former governor of Illinois who was convicted of corruption and sentenced to 14 years in prison. In August 2017, he pardoned former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio. Described as “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” the U.S. Department of Justice concluded that Arpaio’s office committed the worst racial profiling under his leadership in U.S history. Pardons like Arpaio’s suggest Trump isn’t as concerned with issues that pertain to Black people as Lil Wayne and others try to make it seem.
Wayne’s understanding of political issues, especially the ones that directly affect Black people, has always been unstable. Days after George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis, Wayne suggested accountability be placed on Black people instead of the police. “We have to stop placing the blame on the whole force and the whole everybody of a certain race or everybody with a badge,” he said in conversation with Fat Joe. “If we want to place the blame on anybody, it should be ourselves for not doing more than what we think we’re doing.”
In 2016, Wayne sat down for a controversial Nightline interview, in which he showed ignorance of the Black Lives Matter Movement and racial inequality in America. “I don’t feel connected to a damn thing that ain’t got nothin’ to do with me,” he said. “If you do, you crazy as shit. I am a young, Black, rich motherfucker. If that don’t let you know that America understands Black motherfuckers matter these days, I don’t know what it is.” He later apologized for his comments, saying that he stopped putting any “thought into [the reporter’s] questions and my responses” after she mentioned his daughter. Lil Wayne has a pattern of only speaking up when he feels personally “connected” to a subject, though. In 2006, he criticized George W. Bush on a song called “Georgia Bush,” but he was only critical of the 43rd president because of Bush’s response to Hurricane Katrina, which hit the rappers’ hometown in New Orleans.
Following his co-sign on Thursday, Trump called Lil Wayne an “activist in a very positive way,” noting that the meeting went “very well.” Other Republican leaders have followed, showing love for Tunechi’s music online. Anyone who has followed Lil Wayne’s career, though, can see what’s really happening here. Wayne isn’t an activist or a leader. No one looks to him to speak on politics or issues that affect minority communities. In 2016, he even said “there’s no such thing as racism.” Wayne is just the latest pawn in the Trump administration’s last-minute scheme to win over Black voters.
This moment will be added to a long list of things out-of-touch celebrities have done this year in the lead-up to a very important election. But like many of those moments, it will likely blow over with time. We’ve already seen that Wayne’s most embarrassing comments over the years haven’t taken away from the musical highs of his mixtape era or Tha Carter series. And as a rapper, his disconnectedness is one of his strengths: Lil Wayne is at his best when he blocks out the noise around him and creates his own universe. For fans, his music serves as an escape from the real world. But right now, politically at least, is not the time to be disconnected from reality.