In 2008, superstar rapper Lil’ Wayne allowed a film crew full access to his hectic life.
Cameras rolled as he smoked marijuana, drank soda mixed with prescription cough syrup, recorded rap lyrics almost constantly, toured the world and enjoyed the trappings of fame.
The finished product, a documentary titled “The Carter,” premiered to critical acclaim at the Sundance Film Festival and the rapper reportedly enjoyed the movie.
That’s why Quincy Jones III was left scratching his head when the rapper sued to block distribution of the documentary.
“The interesting thing is that Wayne saw the film and liked it,” said Jones, son of the legendary Quincy Jones and the movie’s producer. “Even in the declaration of the lawsuit, it says that he likes the movie — so we’re not sure if [the suit] is coming from him or that’s someone else.”
The rapper, who was born Dwayne Michael Carter, Jr., is no stranger to contradictions.
Growing up in New Orleans, Louisiana, he was a rough, gun toting young “G” who accidentally shot himself at the age of 12. He was also an honor student who dabbled in the drama club in middle school.
Though in the film, the 27-year-old rapper imbibes hisdrugs of choice, he also claims to avoid alcohol and says he would never use heroin because of the effect it might have on his body.
The man who penned the song “Georgia Bush” as criticism of the government handling of his beloved city in the wake of Hurricane Katrina appears angered in the film by a writer who asks about his contribution to the New Orleans sound and the influence of jazz on his “poetry.”
“No I don’t want to do poetry, I’m not into poetry, this interview is with a rapper,” Wayne tells the reporter in the film before demanding the writer be ejected from the room.
According to several published reports, Wayne’s lawsuit is based on his assertion that he had been given final-cut approval of the documentary.
Variety reported that a California state judge rejected the rapper’s request, clearing the way for the film to be released recently on DVD at TheCarterDoc.com.
His attempt to control the film’s release is in keeping with Wayne’s personality as he asserts in the documentary that his genius cannot be controlled. Fans seem to love such bravado which the film displays along with his characteristically profane lyrics and innumerable tattoos.
The film also depicts his grinding work ethic which allows Wayne to produce so much music that his adoring public doesn’t have a chance to miss him.
As seen in “The Carter,” the artist records almost constantly and wherever he can — in the studio, in his hotel room, on the tour bus — often through a haze of marijuana smoke.
And his admirers also get to see the infamous Lil’ Wayne ego as he does not shy away from singing his own praises.
“I’m going to quit very rich, very successful and the game is going to be begging me to come back,” he says in response to a question about how he might leave the music industry. “Mr. Brett Favre.”
Lil’ Wayne has sold millions of records since bursting on the hip hop scene as a 16-year-old member of the Hot Boys.
Along the way he recorded with a variety of artists including Destiny’s Child, Robin Thicke and Chris Brown, garnering respect across the industry.
There’s a moment in the documentary when the clearly thrilled teen pop superstar group the Jonas Brothers meet up with Wayne at an awards show.
Lil’ Wayne also has a reputation as a bad boy and in October pleaded guilty to attempted criminal possession of a weapon for which he is expected to receive a one year jail sentence.
The film’s producer Jones, who goes by the moniker “QD3,” said Wayne’s complete individuality, fearlessness and intense talent made him an ideal subject.
The man who once told CBS’ Katie Couric “I’m a rapper. That’s who I am, Miss Katie. And I am a gangsta, and I do what I want,” has no creative boundaries, Jones said.
“He has a total disregard for convention and what people think of him,” Jones said.
“The more we filmed of him, the more we realized ‘This guy is a total rock star’ and I think to some degree that’s a breath of fresh air for hip hop because a lot of artists want to guard their images and they want to fit in to what going on already.”
“With Wayne, he’s always pushing the envelope and I think that’s pretty cool,” Jones said.
The filmmakers started the project about eight months before Wayne’s album “The Carter III” dropped, Jones said.
The film crew was there when the rapper learned the album had sold one million its first week — it later went on to become the top-selling album of the year.
Jones said Wayne did not want a traditional film and instead wanted the crew to live with him in a “fly on the wall approach.”
“I think that allowed us to make a much more intimate movie,” the producer said. “It also allows the audience to read between the lines and take away from the film what they are going to take away.”
The timing also meant the crew and director Adam Bhala Lough were able to capture that pivotal million-selling moment in the life and career of the rapper.
But there were challenges, Lough said.
Lil’ Wayne is nomadic, the director said, traveling from city to city on a tour bus, constantly performing, recording and living the excesses of a rap star.
Lough said the movie is as much about fame as it is about the Wayne’s talent and everyday life.
“That’s certainly a motif throughout the film is the trappings of fame and how it can really put pressure on one individual,” Lough said. “There’s the expectations on that person’s shoulders and it’s something any famous person can relate to whether it’s Beyonce or Bono. They all have those trappings they have to negotiate from the moment they wake up to the moment they go to sleep.”
Elliott Wilson, founder and chief executive officer of Rap Radar, said the comparisons to rock legends like Bono are not accidental as he believes the rapper “has a fascination with being a rock star and being the bad boy.”
Rappers of Wayne’s status fill the niche of the hot, young rock stars who are no longer plentiful, Wilson said, and as the walls between genres of music have slowly eroded.
“The lines have gotten kind of blurry and people look to hip hop artists as the cool factor in terms of energy, excitement and confidence,” Wilson said. “Hip hop was built on rebellion the same way rock and roll was.”
Jones said he believes the film captured that spirit. He said he also believes he and Wayne may soon be reaching an understanding about the documentary that is a reflection of both of their hard work.
“We’ve had some discussions with his camp that leads us to believe that more than likely we can work things out,” Jones said.