Last week, an east coast fervor was stirred when chart-topping MC Lil Wayne stated “I don’t like New York.” Wayne made the comment in an interview after a free show in Manhattan, and attributed his sentiment to the resistance the city has shown him in the past as well as his feelings toward being arrested within the city’s limits. those five words reverberated throughout the music world, alarming many, including New York State Senator Malcolm Smith. Senator Smith held a press conference in Times Square, demanding that Wayne apologize for his words. We had the chance to speak to the Senator in regard to both his growing up in hip-hop’s home, as well as what further actions against Wayne and others he plans to take.
When was your first exposure to hip-hop?
My first exposure probably goes back to LL Cool J, Run-DMC, Jam-Master Jay. I grew up with all of them and that’s why I count Queens as being the home of the hip-hop movement. Yeah, it started in the Bronx, but it clearly got taken to another level when Queens got a hold of it.
Would that make LL Cool J and Run-DMC your favorite MCs?
Yeah, absolutely. As a matter of fact, LL and I still do a basketball tournament together. Every year, for the past ten years called Jump and Ball.
What was it about Lil Wayne’s comments that you found incendiary enough to warrant an apology?
Well, most importantly, I think it was that it sent out the wrong message to the 50 million tourists who we have come to the city. And then obviously, you have the fan base he has that he’s pretty influential over. My position is, I feel if you don’t like New York, you don’t have to come to New York. Obviously he makes his money here, millions of fans buy his music. Nicki Minaj actually lives in the area that I represent. I just thought it was a statement that wasn’t warranted.
Would your feelings be different had Wayne’s comments been in a song as opposed to being in an interview?
Do you feel you would have been as offended if it was an artist of comparable stature in any other genre of music, as opposed to hip-hop?
Listen, it doesn’t matter, no matter what celebrity it was. It could have been an actor. I love this city. I’ve been in love with this city. I have my family here. This is one of the greatest cities in the world. As an elected official that represents the state and the city, I’m not over anybody saying bad things about it. I understand his position as it related to why he feels that way because, obviously, what happened with Summer Jam and also he was arrested for possessing a gun. He shouldn’t have a gun in the city of New York, that’s not what it’s about. Matter of fact, if he wants to join me in my gun buy-back program, that would be good. I think he can turn a negative into a positive and send a good message to his fan base.
So you would still be open to working with Wayne in the future in event that would encourage positivity?
Absolutely, if it’s a positive cause. But again, if he feels he doesn’t like New York, he’s entitled to his opinion. He doesn’t have to come back, just like I’m entitled to my opinion about what he said.
In the event Wayne does apologize, would you pursue apologies from any further artists in the future who might bad mouth New York?
I will stand up for New York to anybody. Artists, another politician, a movie star, the President – I will still stand up for New York. Does not matter.
Would that include past artists too, such as Randy Newman for his comments on New York in “I Love L.A.?”
Well, I mean, anybody that wants to bad mouth New York, I’m prepared to stand up on behalf of [New York] and that’s that.
Interview conducted by H2C2’s Chief Media Liaison Chaz Kangas
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