A few minutes before Lil Wayne and his entourage walked into El Privado, a low-lit basement space beneath Chelsea’s Hotel Americano, a fellow attendee turned to The Observer and said what the rest of us were thinking.
“You know what would make this party even better?” she said. “If they were playing Aaliyah … and I had some weed.”
The now-sober rapper’s history with the herbal stuff, including a high-profile arrest for possession here, is enough to get the crowd thinking of toking up. That we were at the unveiling of his Trukfit skatewear line—inspired by the bong-happy aesthetic of teenage skate punks—well, that could only help. The clothes, designed by the rapper, were nothing if not faithful to the source material. In two rows, cut men stood in camo’d-out cargo shorts, tiny backpacks, backward caps, headphones and Ray-Bans.
Also: their skin, from top to bottom, was slathered in glittering silver paint.
We had left the party for a cigarette—a perfectly legal one, alas (at least to the extent cigarettes are still legal in New York)—when a caravan of black Escalades pulled up, smothering the 27th Street art gallery that once housed Bungalow 8. Most were decoys, but out of the important truck walked a small man in sunglasses and dreadlocks, with teardrops tattooed beneath both eyes.
We rushed back inside.
Those waiting by the bar for another free drink had already been alerted and left the booze behind to try and snag a glance of the Young Money label boss. The line of streetwear-minded men lined up to speak to Weezy resembled the Tumblr dashboard of an intern at Complex. But their outfits could not top that of the man himself. Trukfit tee, luminous metal grill fastened to his teeth, hot pink cap …
“Did you see what shoes he was wearing?” someone in the jumble beside his booth said.
Ah, yes, his kicks: moon boots designed by Terence Koh, conceptual artist by way of Mars, for the boutique darlings Opening Ceremony.
The Observer approached Wayne as he left his roped-off booth to check out a few of the models.
“Ah, New York is awesome!” he said to us, sipping a mini-bottle of Coca-Cola and looking around at his party. “I just wanted my brand to be a reflection of myself and how I handle things and how I look and how I go about things,” he explained.
The models were forming a semicircle around him, and then he removed a white stick from his mouth.
“Do you always request a lollipop at these things?” we asked.
Perhaps it was an allusion to one of his biggest hits—or maybe not.
“Oh, yeah,” Wayne said, giving us an intent look. “I got a sweet tooth.”
As the rapper-turned-designer made his way back to the booth set aside for him, a distinctive stench crept out from the nook that housed the men’s room.
“It smells like fire down here,” a guest said.
“Well, yeah,” said another. “It smells like something.”
We headed for the door in question and gave it a push. It appeared to be stuck.
“Lean against it!” we heard from inside.
We shouldered ourselves in and found a standing-room-only situation: packed against the walls of the cellblock-size box were six men in glittery silver facepaint, dressed head-to-toe in Trukfit. The walking jawlines in board shorts were occupying the bathroom.
We were about to retreat back through the half-open door when one of the silver men asked his fellow models for a lighter. No one responded.
“Here,” we said, thumbing out a red Bic from our pocket.
“Let him in, let him in!” the silver faces said.
And so we handed the lighter to the model in the front, who had before him a rolling paper spread out on the counter—the receptacle for a spectacular amount of glowing green sticky-perfect nugs. One pair of shiny hands rolled the weed into its paper holster, and another sparked the flame. The effects took hold quickly enough.
“Look at you!” one of the models said.
“Me?” The Observer said. Everyone seemed to be moving into us, like a dolly zoom, and pointing.
“We gotta get you some facepaint!” said another model.
“Oh, shit!” said another model, who was touching his metallic chin and looking in the mirror. “I didn’t realize I was still silver!”
“We gotta get this shit off!” said another.
Then one of the models motioned toward the door, beyond which lay promises of crab cakes, which—given our state—would soon become the best thing any of us had ever tasted.
“No, it feels good,” he said, rubbing his face. “I look like platinum, man. You’ll see, Imma get on the subway just like this.”