Wayne's health scare brings the problem to light once again.
Written by Rob Kenner (@boomshots)
We haven’t heard much from Lil Wayne since he was hospitalized last week after suffering a series of seizures, reportedly during a video shoot for the Nicki Minaj song “High School.” He was released from Cedars-Sinai Hospital yesterday, and his mentor and label boss Birdman suggested that his issues were caused by "hard work," but this latest health scare has raised old fears that Wayne may be slipping back into drug dependency. This is not the first time he's suffered seizures. Late last October he was hospitalized following a medical emergency aboard his private jet. At the time his team attributed the incident to migraines and dehydration.
That hospitalization prevented Wayne from testifying in a court hearing related to his lawsuit against filmmaker Quincy Jones III, whose critically acclaimed 2009 documentary The Carter confirmed that one of the greatest artists of his generation had a problem with prescription cough syrup—which contains a highly addictive blend of codeine and promethazine. Although he initially cooperated with the movie, Wayne was not pleased with the final result. His lawyers did their best to prevent the “scandalous portrayal” from being distributed, but without success. The film, which has been compared to the classic Bob Dylan documentary Don’t Look Back, portrays a stone cold genius who has given his entire existence over to his art—and who is very much in the grip of addiction, although nobody around him can make him stop.
When Wayne was on tour he would hit his marks. He’d show up and do the show. He’d be in the studio and record all night. He was working hard the whole time. So I was trying to figure out when he had time to do all that stuff.
—Quincy Jones III
It is especially painful to watch Wayne’s childhood friend and manager Cortez Bryant struggling to convince Wayne he has a drug problem. “I was ready to walk away,” Bryant says during an interview. “I can’t look at him in that state.”
Jones says that he was inspired to make a film about Wayne because the rapper reminded him of Tupac. He maintains that portraying Weezy’s excessive syrup use was never the objective. “I was surprised at the fact that people were saying he was doing so much because his work ethic was so strong,” says QD3. “When Wayne was on tour he would hit his marks. He’d show up and do the show. He’d be in the studio and record all night. He was working hard the whole time. So I was trying to figure out when he had time to do all that stuff. He was getting on stage every night and killing it. That was more confusing to me than anything else.”
The filmmaker insists he was unaware of the extent of Wayne’s syrup use. “I’ve smoked weed before," he says. "I’ve tried other stuff when I was younger. But I’ve never tried syrup. That’s one of the few things I’m not familiar with. I’ve had family members who have done different things that I’m more familiar with but syrup is not something I’ve had experience with. Living in L.A. it’s not something that a lot of people do here. Every artist is kind of eccentric in their own way. So it was hard for me to decipher what was going on.”
Wayne has spoken about sizzurp through his music for many years. His 2007 mixtape classic “I Feel Like Dying” comes to mind: After Karma-Ann Swanepoel’s voice sings the haunting hook “Only once the drugs are gone, I feel like dying,” Wayne drops brutally frank bars about addiction: “Jumpin’ off a mountain into a sea of codeine/I’m at the top of the top but still I climb/And if I should ever fall the ground will then turn to wine/Pop-pop, pop-pop I feel like flyin’/Then I feel like fryin’ then I feel like dyin’.”
In a 2008 interview with Benjamin Meadows-Ingram, Wayne admitted that he was having a hard time kicking the syrup habit. “It pissed me off 'cause I couldn’t get off it,” Wayne explained while sitting on his tour bus. “That pissed me the fuck off. I can take pain good... but that wasn’t pain I could take. I was like, Lord—breathe! I saw a doctor—he gave me pills, told me, This is what you take to get off it. I never tried them. If them bitches work, then I probably gotta start. Other than that it’s gonna be hard. What a nigga told me to do is start lessening my amount. So what I do, I tell niggas to pour it for me instead of me pouring it... I be patient.”
In 2011, while still on probation following his year-long incarceration on gun charges, Wayne admitted that he still craved the sizzurp. “I drank syrup and I smoked a lotta weed,” he told a writer from GQ. “I wish I could be back on it. That’s how it fucking feels. How does it feel to be sober? I’ll be like, ‘It feels fucked up.’ What you want me to say? ‘It feels great?’ No. I was on something that the doctor prescribed. I was ill, and that was helping me… I cannot wait until I get off probation, sweetheart. No, not for syrup. I stopped syrup in May 9 of 2009. But nobody knew. Because I still rapped about it. Because I respect the culture of where it came from. I still rep that shit.”