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There is an absurdly vast selection of music movies and documentaries available on Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go and on and on and on. But it’s hard to tell which ones are actually worth your 100 minutes. Watch the Tunes will help you pick what music doc is worth your Netflix and Chill time every weekend. This week’s edition covers The Carter, which is streaming (and downloadable!) over on Vimeo.
Whether it’s chalked up to youthfulness, a generational gap, or sheer stupidity, I’ve weathered several strains of an odd disconnection to the national synergy that rekindles itself when beloved pop stars pass away. I never grew up with Michael Jackson in the house, but I’m a Black boy… I knew it was fucking Michael Jackson when he died. I’ve never seen Purple Rain, but I know Prince’s legend beyond the shade memes that resurfaced in the weeks to follow. Pac and B.I.G. were murdered before I could read a book, and my hip-hop education didn’t begin with a chapter on Phife and where his homies left a wallet.
My childhood wasn’t spent mourning giants, but I spend minutes out of my week contemplating which moments will make me fall to my denim and let go. Which superstars will die while I’m still alive? Who’s my MJ, my Prince, my Whitney? If we know Drake will cry when Hov is long gone, who gets the reservation in my tear ducts?
There’s a moment in the closing minutes of The Carter where Lil Wayne’s in an interview with a lollipop glistening against the grills in his mouth. An interviewer asks him how he pictures his death, and Wayne ducks the question. He spends the next scene with director Adam Bhala Lough, reflecting on how frazzled he was by the gravity of such a question.
“I’m good… I’m not that good. I don’t see my death. I see my death, then... the movie’s over.”
It’s a humbling moment of vulnerability, considering Lil Wayne speaks to the reaper the way some of us speak to the weed man. He’s lived through airplane seizures, self-inflicted gunshot wounds and a double cup while the whole world was watching. The Wayne we meet in The Carter’s 75 minutes is far from Hollygrove, but he’s still “too Hollygrove to go Hollywood.” He’s also at the apex of his mainstream popularity, coming right off Tha Carter III: a blockbuster smash and a fitting capstone for Wayne having several certified classics to his name.
He was untouchable, but again… he’s not that good.
Damn near no one sells a million records in a week now, but what’s a million worth when your daughter’s best present is to have you home? When a white kid in another country has a “Best Rapper Alive” shirt with your picture on it? The Carter interrogates the glory intersecting with the fucking horrific, as Wayne’s decade-plus workhorse mentality finally reaps its reward for all the world to savor.
Bhala Lough’s crew couldn’t interview Wayne directly during the six months of filming; in fact, Wayne lost $2 million in a lawsuit attempting to block its release. Knowing how biopics tend to be told by the victors, The Carter doesn’t kiss anyone’s ass or erase anyone’s pain. You get the studio flow moments, the concerned manager, the on-stage charisma, and the backstage drama. But the best moments are quieter, subtler, painful. You see the working parts of the Martian, and the power he clutches that drains him and everyone around him. Take note of how quickly Wayne’s styrofoam is refilled once he spills it on the carpet. Listen to manager Cortez Bryant’s quiver in his voice, as he goes to celebrating the million-in-a-week to solemnly disclosing why he won’t go on the bus. And I could write several volumes on the moment with Lil Twist, but I must leave you something.
Dwayne Michael Carter, Jr. is a giant strong enough to hold my sorrow. He’s 5’5” but I wouldn’t doubt him, even if he was wearing TRUKFIT at the time. I’d fucking bawl my eyes out if he left the Earth while I’m still on it. He’s been close too many times... We need him here, gettin’ his millions while pouring champagne on Samsung products (but it makes his stomach hurt.) As of now, this piece sits in obscurity for rap nerds like me to watch it six times a year for inspiration, but you damn sure shouldn’t pick today to start runnin’ from this flick.
Download it straight from the director for free, right now, and take a glimpse at the swagger and suffering of a motherfuckin’ Cash Money Millionaire.
Michael Penn II (aka CRASHprez) is a rapper and a former VMP staff writer. He's known for his Twitter fingers.