"Who's Lil Wayne?" I asked about half-way through my 5-hr crash course in Drake while driving from LA to Las Vegas with Roz.
I already knew who Drake was--the rapper we were driving to Vegas to hear. On her Ipod she was playing Drake, Shakira, and Taylor Swift, trying to explain these icons of pop culture to me. (I was the recipient of her extra ticket because her sisters had declined this pilgrimage and some of her other friends would get drunk and be hard to handle.)
"Lil Wayne's voice is really different from Drake's," I said.
A few hours later we were standing on the ground floor of The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel being pounded by the music with some 4500 other fans.
We walked into the crowded chaos late. When one young guy and girl smiled and cheered me, I realized I was probably the only grey-haired white woman there. If only I had long hair dyed pink or a frizzy Afro or something. I just grinned.
Loud doesn't begin to describe this scene. I realized my lungs were pounding with the beat as if I were coughing. At some points I had to put my fingers in my ears (veterans bring earplugs, Roz said).
Next difficulty: when Drake talked with the crowd between songs, every other adjective was "motherfuckin'." Yet this Canadian 23-yr-old is well-educated and grew up as a cast member of a tv show, Degrassis High School. Does he talk this way to relate to his audience? What has the world come to?
I was okay until he did the piece I really object to: "I want to fuck every bitch in the world."
My options: Run out. Shout back with a few obscenities of my own. Try to understand gender politics in the hip-hop scene. Lecture him on how he's connecting to the five-thousand-year-old oppression of women in this world, including human trafficking, sexual slavery, gang rape of women in war, and other horrors happening in the world today.
But the next thing I knew Roz was giving me a big kiss and hug and saying something. The shred of her voice that made it into my ears sounded warped and fast-forwarded, completely unintelligible, but she later explained that the lyrics included "kiss your mother." Wha-a-at? Along with all this mf stuff?
Then I recognized Lil Wayne's voice and wondered why Drake would sing along with a recording while doing a live performance.
Suddenly, however, a small wiry bare-chested man with dreadlocks bouncing to his waist ran onto the stage holding a microphone. As the crowd roared, even I knew it must be Lil Wayne, aka Weezie. Roz had explained that he got out of prison two days ago after serving an eight-month sentence and might make a surprise appearance tonight.
She said he was in jail because a gun had been found in his tour bus in New York City; it was licensed in Georgia or somewhere but not in NYC.
Well, this experience was totally beyond my comfort zone, about as challenging as my climb up the steep wall of Governor's Basin last summer near Telluride.
In both cases there came a moment when I was thinking, "Help! Airlift me out of here--I'm way out of my league."
But I like adventure, and Eleanor Roosevelt said, "You must do the thing you cannot do."
At least I can be one small voice against the oppression of women in rap.