With Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Ivo Karlovic invading rap, it's only fair rap return the favor. In this case, it's Grammy-winning superstar and unabashed tennis fanatic Lil Wayne, who's taken to namedropping his favorite players in his music. The latest honoree? None other than Rafael Nadal, who pops up in the track 'Banned From TV.' The Sweet Spot somehow managed to catch up with Lil Wayne (oh hells yeah), aka Dwayne Michael Carter, Jr., who took time out of his vida loca to talk about his passion for Rafa, Roger and a good expletive-laden tirade. Yup, Serena, that means you.
First thing's first: what is it about Rafa that makes him so namecheckable? "He plays with passion," says Lil Wayne. "He reminds me of Andre out there, you remember Agassi used to be out there just playing with total emotion. That's why I really like [Nadal]. He got a lot of strategy and all that as well but his passion and his emotion overweighs it all." There's one more reason he's a big fan of Rafa's – his still living at home with mom and dad even when he was winning his Grand Slams. "I don't know if he still do right now, but when I heard he did I thought, 'that's real cool.'"
Spadea, he ain't afraid of ya
Rafa wasn't the first player to receive the Lil Wayne treatment. 'Fraulein Forehand' Steffi Graf and Roger Federer both got namedropped in his track "Sportscenter," a song with a beat built on the soundtrack of a tennis match, including the thwack of the balls and the omnipresent grunts of – wait for it - Elena Dementieva. If it sounds beyond awesome, that's because it is. Like, seriously awesome.
"I'm kind of a bigger Roger Federer fan than a Rafa fan," Lil Wayne admits, clearly unafraid of fueling the violent European east coast/west coast feud. "I've been a Roger fan because of course his dominance. He's been the man to me."
What got him hooked on the sport to begin with? Well, you can thank a female player for that. Make that two. A couple girls from Compton, CA. "I always watched tennis but I'd never been into it until Venus and Serena," he says. "I heard Snoop talking about them, about how he used to see them. They were the only kids playing on the tennis part of the park. It was interesting, just their story when they first came up."
To this day he stands by Serena, especially after the whole US Open brouhaha and the resultant fine and probation. And not just because she could compete with him with the number of F-bombs she dropped en route to getting bounced from the tournament. "That's an athlete in the moment, they're playing the game," he says. "In the heat of the game, people get into it. You can't expect those people to be like, 'I'm sorry' or 'excuse me' or 'let me think about who's watching.' No, forget that. I'm playing, and I'm emotional." He adds with a laugh, "I hope she do it again."
Even with Djokovic, Murray and Karlovic invading his turf, don't expect Lil Wayne to fully invade theirs. "I have played before [and] I totally enjoyed it," he says, "but I got super tired very fast. It takes a lot of agility to do that, just runnin' back and forth like that. And also it's tricky hittin' that ball at the right spot. It's nothing like ping pong."
The Greatest Tennis Hits of Lil Wayne:
"I'm servin' this track like Steffi Graf, yeah,
Roger Federer, there's no competitor."
'Banned From TV'
"I go hard like Rafael Nadal,
And if the b****** were havin' it, I bet we have them all."
Check out both tracks on youtube. Also check out Lil Wayne's brand new rock CD, "Rebirth," which debuted this week at No 2 on the Billboard charts.
Follow Lil James at twitter.com/JamesLaRosa.