The show's initial run lasted from 1997 to 2006—though it lost steam long before it went off the air—and it featured everyone from Harry Chapin and Fleetwood Mac to, perhaps most famously, Def Leppard and MC Hammer. As it followed these musicians from humble beginnings to unimaginable levels of success, making sure to stop at every possible drug addiction, legal issue and intra-band squabble along the way, Behind the Music is notable in that it was among the first shows to really foster our budding infatuation with the lives of famous people—with watching them fail, often spectacularly and hilariously, and with watching them get their shit back together and march forward on their path to world domination. You thought there was no way Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen was gonna recover from the car accident that caused him to lose his arm? Nonsense. Dude just started using a custom-made electronic kit that allowed him to use his feet, then he made fucking Hysteria.
This is not the type of story that's easy to turn away from. And to be fair, neither is Lil Wayne's, even if its narrative arc doesn't quite stick to what had become a very successful, if also very carefully edited, formula for the show.
Wayne's episode starts with a look at his childhood in a New Orleans neighborhood that seemed to be just a bit more down and out than all the other down and out New Orleans neighborhoods. His father essentially abandoned him and his mother, though according to Wayne, he would stop in every few days to physically abuse his wife, Wayne's mother. They would eventually divorce, and she would go on to marry a local hustler named Rabbit. Wayne referred to him as "my father who ain't my father," but he was shot and killed at a gas station four years later.
We learn that Wayne started rapping when he was nine, engaging in battles with local teenagers and holding his own enough that he earned the attention of the New Orleans-based label, Cash Money Records. We learn about Wayne accidentally shooting himself with a gun he found in his mom's room, and about the super nice emergency worker, Uncle John, who saved his life. We also learn that Wayne lost his virginity at age 11 (to a 13-year-old who he's still friends with), the same age he started doing, literally, every drug he could find, even if he couldn't properly identify it. And that's where Wayne's episode deviates from the standard Behind the Music plotline, and where things start to feel a little bit dirty, or at least seriously unsettling.
It's certainly no secret that Wayne continues to enjoy his drugs (I could be mistaken, but I think he's even smoking a joint during his on-screen interviews) and especially his syrup. Many have speculated that his addiction, which he claims he's beaten, is far more serious than he's ever let on, and watching him talk about it last night, it's hard to argue. He speaks about it defiantly, with all sorts of hard-talk about how what's in his cup is no one's business because it's his cup, and how he does what he wants to do because he's always done what he wants to do—it's exhausting and stupid, and more than anything, a reminder that Wayne's still only 27 years old. Which, you know, 27.
His drug-use is touched on, then immediately abandoned as a central part of the plot. They focus instead on his reaction to Hurricane Katrina and the minor commercial failure that was his second solo album, presenting these as the rock-bottom moments that every good episode of this show so desperately needs. It rings false, though, and it's ultimately why the episode is at least partially a failure. Perhaps it'll be a TLC situation, where a second episode is called for when producers realized there were far juicier bits after the conclusion of the first. For Wayne's sake, let's hope not.