By Lee Zimmerman
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With his long dreadlocks, croaking voice, and penchant for zaniness, Lil Wayne is an unpredictable MC. He's also a prolific one, releasing albums and mixtapes by the handful. In 2007, he recorded guest verses with everyone from Shakira and Beyoncé to Chris Brown and Little Brother.
But his newest collaboration will have even his most die-hard acolytes scratching their heads. In an attempt by the not-quite-mainstream rapper to reach a wider range of fans, the 25-year-old Wayne has announced that he will rap on the remix to the latest installment of the High School Musical franchise, entitled High School Musical 3: Non-Stop Dance Party.
"Yup, I had to do that," Wayne says with his trademark diamond-encrusted smile shortly after welcoming me into his Miami Beach mansion for an exclusive interview. "I'm trying to reach those suburban kids like Kanye did, but I want to go further. I want, like, 8-year-old white kids, 6-year-old Asian kids. Babies in diapers, even."
He's not kidding.
Disney Channel's High School Musical franchise is a pop-culture phenomenon, having sold millions of DVDs and millions more CD soundtracks. But its clean-cut characters and positive themes don't seem to gibe with Wayne's lyrical content, which often focuses on doing drugs, eating rappers, and receiving sloppy fellatio.
"I'm just being me," Wayne insists, as if he can anticipate people's apprehension. He adds that the project was actually set in motion after a chance meeting with High School Musical star Zac Efron.
"Zac and me was both in San Francisco a few months ago for some kind of cancer benefit or comic-book convention or some shit, and we met at an afterparty at this bar," he says, pausing to sit down on his blue-felt pool table and break down pieces of weed to roll into a blunt. "To get away from these girls that was chasing him, he ducked into the bathroom, and I followed him in there. I pulled up to the stall next to his, dropped trou, and was like, 'What's crackin', my brother from another mother?' "
At that very moment — as if on cue — Efron himself emerges from Wayne's den, grinning ear-to-ear like he'd already gotten into Wayne's medicinal. I'll later learn that the 20-year-old brunet heartthrob is crashing in Wayne's guest room while the two grind out their verses for the upcoming High School Musical 3 album. At first glance, however, watching Efron walk into Wayne's living room unannounced is like seeing a polar bear in the midst of the Brazilian rain forest.
"What's up, my nigga?'" Efron says, giving Wayne a pound, a hug, and then, to my astonishment, a full-on kiss reminiscent of the one Wayne famously gave his surrogate father Baby last year. (Needless to say, it's clear that Efron is going to have to work harder to squelch rumors surrounding his sexuality.)
"What was we talking about here?" Wayne laughs, emerging from the embrace. "Oh yeah, about me putting the 'high' in High School Musical."
"I've been a big fan of Wayne for a long time," says Efron, his wispy-hair-framed face growing suddenly serious. "Growing up in San Luis Obispo, my friends were more into crap like Fall Out Boy and Radiohead, but I was like, 'Nah, man. Young Money, Cash Money!' "
"A lot of my people thought it wasn't too cool for me to get involved with this guy right here," continues Wayne, grabbing Efron by his pink Bape hoodie and putting him into a headlock. "But they don't understand that we're both from another planet. I'm from Mars, and he's from Saturn, and when you hear this shit, you're going to feel you're like smoking angel dust on Jupiter."
With that, Wayne drops Efron to the thick chinchilla carpet and begins giving him a noogie. "Dude, you're going to make me spill my Proactiv!" Efron yells, grabbing a handful of Wayne's dreads in retaliation, and a full-on wrestling match ensues.
Just as I'm beginning to feel like a third wheel, Efron gets up and — shaking his head in pretend anger — cues up the room's CD player, which just happens to be sitting atop a cage full of sleeping pit bulls.
"These are the cuts we just finished," Efron says, adding that the disc will be released on New Year's Day and that I'm the first media to hear them. "Dope, right?"
I wish I could share his enthusiasm, but the songs are a bit jarring, to say the least. Wayne's left-field rhymes and off-beat flow clashes with the songs' hand-claps and PG choruses. "I'm the best rapper alive," Wayne raps on "Fabulous," which features a bouncy rhythm perfect for a suburban junior-high school dance. "The best MC didn't come from Marcy/I'm so green, you probably think that I'm parsley."
On "All for One," Efron sings the chorus: "Everybody all for one/A real summer has just begun!/Let's rock 'n' roll and just let go/Feel the rhythm of the drums/We're gonna have fun in the sun!" While that seems fitting, Wayne does his best to sound as Disney as possible: "I'm a dog/You're all a bunch of fleas on my dick/I make Tootsie Pop rhymes/Why don't you come and take a lick?"
While I'm listening and taking notes, the guys have undertaken an impromptu game of parkour, jumping between suede couches, a trampoline, and a Tron pinball machine. They stop for Efron to take a phone call from a hysterical Vanessa Hudgens — his High School Musical costar and girlfriend — and eventually, we head upstairs to the kitchen for a snack of Sunny Delight and gumbo.
When they ask for my honest opinion about their new songs, I mutter something about them being "outside the box" and "memorable." Though my answer is clearly insincere, Wayne seems unfazed.
"This isn't the only thing I got going on right now," he says as the two young celebrities walk me out past a stuffed emu with a gold medallion hanging around its neck. "I just did songs with Mannheim Steamroller, Good Charlotte, and Bow Wow, something for the Mario Universe videogame, a track with a bunch of monks from France, something for the new Raffi album, and 16 bars in Spanish on Juan Luis Guerra's new one. Plus, I just finished designing a new spring line of clothes for H&M with Hillary Duff's sister, and I'm trying out for that show Iron Chef. I may even star in Mel Brooks' upcoming stage theatrical version of Spaceballs if I can get my gun charge dropped in New York state."
Does he ever get overwhelmed by the pace of his high-flying lifestyle?
"Hell, no," Wayne says emphatically. "This is how I live! I get up in the morning, get my dick sucked four times, drink a Molson's, and then hang out with Zac. What, do you want me to go to Hawaii for a vacation? You got a job, but this is my vacation right here."
Adds Efron, "Word!"
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