My (2nd) Letter to Lil Wayne

8 Oct 2010 in Passion

*NOTE: About five weeks ago I hand-wrote a letter to Dwayne Carter (the artist better known as Lil Wayne), who is currently serving a prison sentence in Rikers Island, New York City. My friends urged me to publish what I wrote, but I had already mailed it. A few days ago I decided to write him one more time. Below is my letter.

At my first concert, ever: Lil Wayne in Pittsburgh


Dear Wayne,

The countdown is on like it never has been before. We’re less than a month away from your return. This is my 2nd letter to you since you’ve been in jail…and since you can’t receive mail anymore, I’ve decided to go to the Internet with this one. One day, I hope you are able to read this.

Let’s get to it.

A lot has happened in the past 5 weeks or so since I wrote you, but I’ll get to that in a minute. Drizzy is in D.C. tonight, I couldn’t afford tickets so here I am sitting in a loud coffee shop on a Saturday night hard at work. Right now I’m hustling on a few projects and bumping some Lil Tunechi in my headphones. As always, your music has me in a state of Zen, haha. Keeping me in the zone. Last night I went out in Georgetown to celebrate a friend from Dubai’s 21st birthday. The DJ played about 15 of your songs straight…from newer tunes like my favorite song from the summer, “Right Above It”, to one of your classics: “Go DJ”.

No one in the entire club was more pumped about that than yours truly. I all but sprinted over to the DJ to thank him. It was a momentary connection because of our support for “Free Weezy”, and it went on to be one those nights you don’t forget.

Frankly, it’s been an unforgettable year. I studied abroad in Singapore from January to May, spend the summer interning from home in Rochester, NY for a technology company (Syncables) based in San Francisco that I am obsessively zealous about, and am studying at American University in D.C. for the Washington Semester Program this fall. For the first 3 weeks that you are out of prison, I will be traveling around China with my class…and undoubtedly I will be listening to your music to remind me of home. This year, I have shared my passion for your music with people from all over the world. Awesome would be an understatement for the blessing that has been the last ten months.

Nevertheless, life wouldn’t be life without hardships and challenges am I right? Since I last wrote to you, it seems like I’ve been knocked down more often than I’ve been moving forward. On September 2nd, I dislocated my left shoulder for the 5th time playing basketball. I spent 8 hours in the emergency room while seven doctors struggled to relocate my shoulder. Fortunately, two great friends went with me and kept me from losing control. With two previous surgeries, journey after journey of battling back to full health in different physical therapy clinics around Rochester, and more months spent wearing a sling than I care to remember in the past five years, I said goodbye to the game I love. Unless I get a 3rd surgery in December and spend a year fighting back, it’s too dangerous for my shoulder to endure basketball at this point.

Anyway, I dedicated the long night to “FREE WEEZY” and reasoned with myself that if you could spend months and months in prison without complaining, why should I wine about being in pain in the ER for a few hours? I gritted my teeth and moved on.

(*Side note: the night would have been severely worse had it not been for my friends Dave West and Michael Ting staying with me the entire time from the ambulance ride all the way until the doctors from Maryland arrived after 2AM and were finally able to relocate my shoulder. Big hugs also to my best friend’s family the Beechler’s for telling my parents).

Fast forward three weeks. The date is September 22nd. The doctor had let me take my sling off, and I’d started doing physical therapy on my own (unfortunately, my insurance doesn’t cover professional PT). I’m wearing a “Press” badge (thanks to starting my own website!) at the Global Services Summit at the J.W. Marriott Hotel down the street from the White House. Abruptly, my dad sends me a text message…

“You should probably call me”

Uh-oh. I walked outside the conference room, called him, and found out that my grandma’s (we all call her Grams) heart had stopped. She had passed away just ten minutes ago. I couldn’t stand. Grams had lived with my family since I was little. We were tight, and many of my friends had memories of hanging with Grams. Fortunately, just a few days earlier I had flown home for my cousin’s wedding and got to see her and tell her I loved her one last time.

(*NOTE: I made a tribute to Grams here)

Been listening to some of your more ‘relaxing’ songs the past week or so…”With You” with Drake from your latest I Am Not A Human Being album has been on repeat a lot. I wore all black for a couple days to honor her and told myself I would actively make sure she is always a part of my life.

It’s been a little tough to focus recently. With the mounting pressure of upcoming midterm exams and work heating up at my internship with Syncables, your music becomes more and more vital to stay on track. People listen to music for all kinds of reasons. I am no different. Whether its purpose is to soothe or motivate, to relax or cause to think creatively, or (perhaps most importantly) to enable one to reminisce, listening to your music helps me enormously when the pressure to perform rises. Plus, as you once wisely retorted to a reporter, what’s a life without pressure?

You have to keep moving. When life throws a curve ball at you, adjust your focus, swing, and smash that ball out of the park. I love what I’m blessed to do. Said more specifically…I love learning, brainstorming strategies with my friends who are starting companies, blogging, helping others, and listening to music by Lil Wayne. I live for my friends and family…God is my foundation and my relationship with my friends and family is the single most important factor in my happiness.

All of this is part of why I respect you so much. In my words:
You have a contagious love and passion for what you do. You are continuously iterating your style, pushing the industry to do more and work harder, while setting the tone being widely regarded as “the hardest working man in show business”. Your insistence on constantly improving is infectious among your team. You didn’t just start Young Money Entertainment and then go back in the studio. No sir. You recruited (or at least, convinced) superstars-in-the-making (Drake, Nicki Minaj) and very young, emerging talents (Lil Twist) to join the label. Then you coached them into the stars they are becoming. You push your artists to keep working when most other artists are celebrating. Life-is-music-is-life. You seem to live by this. You defy the status quo. You are notorious for not caring if everyone else respects you, but your nonstop commitment to getting better and producing more and more songs in my opinion frankly demands their respect.

Simply put: persistent hard work beats talent.

So, this is it. You will be free soon. The excitement around the world will be inconceivable. When you first went to jail I told my friends in Singapore that I wasn’t going to cut my hair until you were free. As a hero of mine, Gary Vaynerchuk once said: “word is bond”. It’s been almost 1 year since the last time I cut it (late December before leaving home for Singapore)…I kept my word. Loyalty? To this day, the first and only CD I have ever bought was “Tha Carter III”. It was and will always be remembered by my friends as THE soundtrack to one of the greatest summers we ever had. I have to thank one of my best friends Ben Tripi for continuously showing me more and more of your songs over the years…because of his effort, I have been able to connect with your music, and sometimes it sincerely inspires me. I am so extremely driven to push myself to new heights as you have done over and over again your entire career.

Thank you for doing what you do.

One love,

John Exley


P.S. Below are a few pictures of me standing up for Lil Wayne, wearing my “FREE WEEZY” shirt with friends over the past few months (the last picture is with my friend ‘Eureka’, who is still the only other friend I’m aware of who could find a “FREE WEEZY” shirt that wasn’t sold out).

A couple weeks ago at dinner in D.C. *FREE WAYNE*


KING.OSIRUS.the.MIGHTY.QUEEN. & I from summer 2010


Eureka showing love for Lil Weezy


    Your really a hardcore Lil Wayne fan. I recently really started getting into his music, but haven’t followed any news from his personal life.

    Well it October now. Hope things are looking better and your enjoying your time in DC!

  • JohnExley

    Yes sir I am Adrian. The funny thing is, as much as I love Lil Wayne and listen to his music obsessively; he is not my favorite artist. Fabolous is my favorite artist and produced my favorite song of all time.

    And thank you for the warm wishes bro, D.C. is going well and I am certain October will be a great month!

    Meanwhile, I will be in NYC on October 22 – hoping to meet up with Matt Wilson etc. Are you gonna be around? Catch ya soon bro

  • Adrian

    I will be around on the 22nd! Wish you’d be here the weekend before, I’m celebrating my birthday on the 16th. Anyway give me a call when you get here if you have some free time. I just moved to the lower east side… Tons of bars and restaurants we can go to around here.

  • JohnExley

    Ahh that’s our fall break at AU as well! My best friend is bringing some of our friends from back home to DC though next weekend or I’d probably be in NYC haha. I need to figure out what exactly is going down on the 22nd, and then find a way home to Rochester…Saturday the 23rd is Grams’ memorial service/funeral.

    I’ll be in touch, have an awesome birthday bro! Celebrating in NYC will be epic undoubtedly.