I got a chance to get an interview from Best Selling Author of
The Literary Genius of Lil Wayne:
The case for Lil Wayne to be counted among Shakespeare and Dylan.
Professor Kreston Kent studied political science
alongside Lil Wayne at the University of Houston in the Spring of 2005.
A recipient of the Earhart Foundation Fellowship, Professor Kent has taught at the University of Virginia and Piedmont Virginia Community College, among other schools, instructing politics, philosophy, and mathematics.
Today Professor Kent gave youngmulababy.com an exclusive interview:
When did you become a fan of Lil Wayne's work?
My students were reciting lyrics from "Mr. Carter" off Tha Carter III one day in class, "Feet up like a paraplegic [juck], / paraplegic: I parallel park..." and I asked them what it was; went home; listened to "A Milli" and was hooked. The best thing about having been a Lil Wayne fan since that time is that he just gets better. He's had a couple swings-and-misses in the last seven years, but the general arc has been one of improvement and refinement of his lyricism. That's why it's so frustrating to hear people glorify "old school" Lil Wayne and then say he's washed up / sold out / no good anymore. It's fine if they have a sentimental attachment to his older work, but they shouldn't confuse that with his quality going downhill. It hasn't. Maybe they don't like his new stuff, but from the perspective of literary analysis, as I write in my book, his art has improved over time. His "multi"s, or polysyllabic rhymes, have gotten longer; his rhymes more sophisticated and varied; and his puns more frequent.
*My response: YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSS I tell people this all the time! Lil Wayne should not be scrutinized for his ability to evolve and have cross over appeal.*
How did it feel to attend college with one of the world's biggest superstars?
There was definitely a buzz about campus when he was there. I wasn't into rap at the time and didn't really appreciate the significance of it until after the fact. We never actually shook hands and met or anything, but there's still time for that.
How does Lil Wayne the student differ from Lil Wayne the artist?
Lil Wayne as an artist is incredibly intellectual, and I understand him to have done very well in school. But as a public persona, Lil Wayne isn't an intellectual/academic type. That's why I call him paradoxical in my book: his public persona and his fans don't really indulge the intellectual underpinnings of his work, but it's all there; you just have to look for it. That's why I wrote the book, to help people see just how ingenious his lyrics are despite the fact that all most people hear is–what he says in "Krazy,"–"tell me something I do know: money, drugs, bitches, weed." But people overlook the fact that the song is replete with 7- and 8- syllable "multi's", incredibly sophisticated rhymes, parallel structures, puns, etc. etc. It's frustrating that rap critics and fans deify these other rappers and call Lil Wayne a joke when he's so far outdoing them with his usage of literary devices. I have challenged rap critics and aficionados I've talked to, asking them to come up with an 8+ syllable "multi" from another rapper. Lil Wayne has dozens, if not hundreds of them. No one has ever shown me another rapper with a single one.
You're a professor at college...have you ever included any of Lil Wayne's lyrics into your teachings?
Yes! I taught an Intro. to Philosophy course the last two years where we had a Lil Wayne and Bob Dylan quote of the day that related to the readings the students had done for that class. I never failed to come up with a lyric from either artist that pertained to the philosophy we were reading. I let my students come up with their own connections to the readings and then would offer my own as well. Made for fun discussions and got us deeper into the texts.
What is your favorite Lil Wayne Song?
"Watch My Shoes" off No Ceilings. It has a twelve syllable polysyllabic rhyme and another 15 syllable pair of lines where there's parallel structure for all 15 syllables and 13/15 are identifiable rhyme types. The most lauded rappers of all time: Nas, Biggie, Pac, Jay Z, Eminem, Kool G Rap, MF Doom, Black Thought, etc. are all praised for their "multi's" that max out at 5 syllables. Wayne comes along with 8, 12, 15 and blows them out of the water. But it's not just a numbers game. As I write in the book, not only does Wayne rhyme with greater length and complexity, his rhymes add layers of meaning that are only unlocked when you make connections between the lines.
Do you think that rappers are not respected as much as other musicians?
As one who studied theory and composition at a music school, I can say that rappers are not generally respected in fine art music circles, but there are some classically trained music theorists who have looked at rap, for example, Martin Connor of The Composer's Corner. He does some cool stuff. What he and others have completely missed is Lil Wayne and the fact that his style wouldn't even fit into that type of analysis because it's so different from other rappers. You have to look at Wayne from the standpoint of traditional literary analysis, not from the analysis of "flow" that's done on other rappers. Although, as I write in the book, Wayne has very respectable, sometimes top notch flow, he stands head and shoulders above all other rappers in terms of his use of literary devices: length of rhyme, literary repetition, parallel structure, diversity of metaphors, length of extended metaphors, and, of course, puns.
I've heard that there is actually a course on Beyonce at a college. Would you ever consider teaching a course based on your analysis of Lil Wayne's lyrics if you could?
There's also a sociology course on Hip Hop at FSU. I'd love to teach a course all about Lil Wayne. It would be in an English department, though, not sociology or music.
What's next for Professor Kreston Kent?
Keeping that one close to the chest. Stay tuned. You, Tiffany, will be the first to hear!
I want to thank Professor Kent for taking time out of his busy schedule to give us this priceless interview! I look forward to more literature from him in the future!