If you didn’t think Lil Wayne could be a positive role model, think again.
The Grammy Award winning rapper — who is known for his controversial lyrics, diamond-encrusted teeth, and tattooed face — is now inspiring young people in his hometown of New Orleans to stay off the streets.
And he’s not doing it through his music…he’s doing it by sharing his new favorite sport, skateboarding.
“It’s a great influence,” Wayne told me in an interview at the skate park. “It’s no violence. It’s keeping the peace. It’s learning something new. It’s being active. It keeps you in shape too.”
Wayne might be onto something. After talking to a number teens at the DEWeezy skate park’s grand opening, it became clear that skating is much more than a hobby.
“It relieves my pains and the things I?m going through,” said 17 year old Brad McCormack. “Kids could be outside selling drugs or they could be up in there skating.”
Like many of his neighbors, Brad left New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina devastated his neighborhood in 2005. Now, young people who have moved back to the city’s 9th Ward are reuniting at the skate park.
“People that I met before the storm, I?m meeting them again,” said Brad’s friend Kevin Keys. “Like when I’m here I don?t have to worry about nothing, I can just come skate, have fun, and be here with my friends.”
Many of these teens also told me that Lil Wayne has made skating “cool” and acceptable in their community. A lot of kids who would never have been caught trying kick flips are now picking up skate boards and heading to the park.
So what does Lil Wayne think about his new influence?
“It means the world to me,” the rapper confessed. “Now they know that I’m skating, those same kids now want to skate. It takes them off the streets.”
For a guy who has received a lot of negative press in the past, it’s a positive turn towards the future.
“We always fall, and it?s about getting back up,” said Wayne. “It?s not only about getting back up with skating, it?s about getting back up and skating again. And that?s what life is about.”