In their conversation, the two of them talked about how they first met, why they love talking sports with each other, Taylor Swift and her fans, what’s been the biggest lessons they have learned from doing “Undisputed”, what they do together outside of the show, the theme song “Good Morning“, and much more.
Wayne also spoke on the reactions he has received from his “How To Love” single, his four kids and what they are up to in their lives, loving sports from a young age, and confirmed that his forthcoming Tha Carter VI album will be released in either December this year or the “top of the year” in 2024. You can read the full conversation below!
PEOPLE: Wayne, before you came on the show today, Skip and his co-hosts were discussing how Taylor Swift mania has infiltrated the NFL.
LIL WAYNE: It’s crazy. Kansas City Swifties. I couldn’t believe that we actually tapped into the Taylor Swift subject, period. I was like, “Are we talking about this?”
SKIP BAYLESS: Why not? You’ve been where she has played before…
LW: Yes, yes.
SB: And you told me a story about what you learned about how great she is at what she does.
LW: Yes. She is definitely an artist for her fans. She’s for them. The Swifties, or whatever you want to call them, she is for them. I have an artist by the name of Nicki Minaj, and she has the Barbz. Nicki hasn’t been doing it as long as Taylor has, but it’s just when you know that fandom is always there.
I had asked a question to someone, and I was like, “How does she do back-to-back days in one city like that, and it fills out every night?” And he was like, “Well, I worked with her in the beginning of her career. I’ll tell you one thing that stood out to me was whatever city or state we were in, she would make sure that we pulled 2,500 people to speak to her at a meet and greet after every show. She didn’t tell one person the same thing.” He was like, “When she was a teenager, those 2,500 people were teenagers or younger.
So I look at it as the reason why she gets to go back-to-back-to-back. Those 2,500 people that she saw every night, they’re all grown up now and they have their own daughters.” She has consistently been for her fans. To let the fans know how much they mean to you as an artist, and if they can actually grasp the reality of that, you solidified.
PEOPLE: What’s been the biggest learning lesson from doing this show together?
LW: I’m learning how to work on the fly, just because things can change. Things can change literally as we’re talking. Your phone might go off and say this person’s been traded or whatever. I’m also learning how to also be respectful to people I’m talking about that I have relationships with. I’m learning how to be critically honest and not offensive.
SB: For me, I pride myself in being able to get the best out of my partners. It’s called chemistry, and it doesn’t happen overnight. So our off-air chemistry has been forged over years and years, but on air is a whole different beast. What I’m learning is his rhythms on television, what he is most comfortable doing, what he responds to best, what his comfort zone is. It just takes repetitions. You can’t fake it. You can’t rehearse it, you just have to keep doing it. All I know is my energy soars when he joins our last 30 minutes of the show. I always say, “The GOAT is here.”
PEOPLE: Wayne, has anyone ever reached out after a show, like, “Hey, why’d you say that about me?”
LW: I’ve never gotten anyone saying, “Why’d you say that?” But I definitely got a few texts saying, like, “Let them know I did this, and let them know I did that.”
SB: In our business, you just have to take the clout, man.
LW: I keep it real. Yeah, I definitely do. Also, there’s been times where I’ve seen someone that I know I said something that they may not have liked. I have to double down on what I said in front of them, like, “I’m sorry, but you shouldn’t have missed the catch. I’m so sorry.” Nine times out of 10, the person would be like, “You know what? You’re right, man.” And they’ll tell you something that you didn’t know about a certain play or a certain situation. It’s a learning process.
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PEOPLE: Wayne, you started music very young. Were sports also a big part of your childhood?
LW: Of course. My grandmother, Mercedes Carter, raised me, and she is the biggest sports fan. She was a New Orleans Saints, Dallas Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers fan. If those three teams were playing, I had to sit in front of the television — and it was just her and I, now. Just her and I. There wasn’t no big party going on. So she passed that on to my mother, and my mother loves sports like that. My mom brought me to the park to play football. I didn’t sign up myself. My mom brought me to the park to play baseball. So sports was always around, and it was always kind of a mandatory thing.
PEOPLE: Beyond your love of sports, you and Skip came from humble beginnings, and you really had to put in the work to get to where you are now. Did you also bond over that?
LW: Yeah, definitely. Of course there is the cliché of ‘We started from the bottom’ and whatever, but the similarity to me is his dedication to what he loved from such a young age. He was just focused on what matters. I was that, too. I had to be obsessive because my mom didn’t even want me to rap. She was just like, “You’re too smart. You’re going to be a lawyer, a doctor. You’re not about to make words rhyme. That’s not what you’re about to do.”
She used to literally say that: “You’re not about to just be making words rhyme, boy.” So, I had to focus on what I believed in, and she saw that. Skip loved sports, he played sports and he’s still doing as much as he possibly can for sports. And I’m still here like LeBron.
SB: That’s a good line!
PEOPLE: When you’re not on the show, what does a hang look like for you two?
SB: Maybe every month, my wife Ernestine [Sclafani] and I get in our car, and we drive out to Wayne. It’s on a Saturday afternoon. It’s 30 to 40 minutes. When we first started this, I was a little worried about my wife because we do tend to talk sports, and she’s not the biggest sports fan. But she gets it, and she knows the principles involved. We found right away that we could sit with him at his house — sometimes we just stand in the kitchen, sometimes we sit on the couch, sometimes we go out on the back porch. The last time we were there, we were on the back porch, and I looked down and we had been talking for four hours straight with no bathroom breaks, no drink, no food, no nothing.
LW: No knowledge of the four hours.
SB: Those times in my life are the most special, meaningful times. You’re doing something that counts. It matters to me because I learn and I laugh and I share in ways I just don’t often have time or the opportunity to do. We don’t look at our phone. It’s beautiful. And the most beautiful part is he involves Ernestine in ways you cannot imagine because she is totally engaged and comfortable and highly entertained.
LW: E is amazing, E knows. Even if she’s not into the sport or not into what we’re talking about, she gets what we’re talking about.
SB: She’s awesome. She’s a ball of fire.
PEOPLE: Do you two also talk music?
SB: We talk about his creative process because I am fascinated by how he creates what he creates. I think he’s the GOAT. I think he’s the greatest living rapper. We could debate it all day and all night. I’m biased, but I got hooked on Carter III, just as we were getting to know each other, like everybody else. You’ve told the story of how you came to find “Lollipop” and how you took it and made it something extraordinary.
LW: It’s become a staple in how I approach and do music now because that was my first time accepting someone else’s idea and working with them with the idea. I’ve done it a few times after that, and those times I’ve done it again have also been great moments like “How to Love.”
SB: Such a great song.
LW: Yeah, I’ve never gotten a response the way I do from that song. The response I get from that song is totally different. I meet people that would say things like, “I want to thank you. There was a time I was going through [something], or I was overweight.” And I was like, “Did I make you feel like you needed to lose [weight]?” They’d be like, “No, you made me feel like I didn’t need to lose a damn pound.” You know what I mean? I would hear that once or twice about another song, but “How to Love,” that’s the only response I get from that. Everybody has a different story. It can be everybody, I mean, even [49ers coach] Kyle [Shanahan]. They all have a different reason why that song touches them.
Sometimes I just wish that the song would’ve came out in a [different time]. Nowadays we focus on mental health and a lot of people aren’t afraid to step out and say they [struggle]. I know when I went to jail [in 2010], I was getting my letters that came in, like fan mail. It was a bunch of thank-yous for “How to Love.”
PEOPLE: Did getting those letters help you through that period?
LW: They did. They would talk about their hard times, but it was always how I helped them through that hard time. I would be looking down at a piece of paper, like I don’t know this person, I probably never will meet this person, and they’re telling me how much I’ve helped them in probably the most vital time in their lives. So words are everything, especially when you mean them. Those moments are the actual reason why I am doing music.
SB: I was born a writer, and I came up as a writer, and I have a deeper appreciation for the lyrics you create. Nobody is in your league with lyrics that touch and probe and connect. I know JAY-Z is great.
LW: You already know.
SB: But the reason I can appreciate this man even more deeply is we tend to text more than we talk because that’s what people do. And some of the most rewarding times I have with you is when we go back and forth because we are sort of matching wits. Sometimes I look at these texts and say, “This is so good.”
LW: It’s like Shakespeare talking to Confucius.
SB: Something like that. I don’t know if we can go quite that far. The point is, I look at the last 15 texts and I think, “This should be in a book.” I shake my head and I say, “That is some rare stuff right there.” We’re inspiring each other.
PEOPLE: Wayne, how did you come up with “Good Morning,” the theme for Undisputed? And Skip, what was your reaction when you first heard it?
SB: He did the original intro song called “No Mercy,” which I thought was unmatchable. He kept saying, “No, I’m going to do another one.”
LW: For years.
SB: I’d say, “Well, how can you do better than the best?” Because you can’t.
LW: I remember coming here one day and the producer who plays the song caught me. He was like, “Man, you don’t be thinking about changing the song?” I was like, “Bro. I’ve been trying to change this song for so long.” He was like, “Skip?” I said, “Exactly.”
SB: When my ex-partner left, all of a sudden we recreated the show on the fly. We took a little hiatus, so he had a little bit of time to gather himself, and we could have changed out a couple of lyrics and kept “No Mercy.” Then one fateful night in August, Ernestine and I are about to go to bed. It’s after midnight. We didn’t have a show at this point. Usually I get up at 2 a.m., but it was just a weeknight. And all of a sudden I looked down, and he just texted the song.
Ernestine says, “Well, we’re ready to go to bed.” I said, “Well, I can’t go to bed without listening to the song.” She said, “Well, if you listen to the song, we’re going to be up for three more hours.” We listened to it three times, and I got goosebumps. I said, “He did it. He pulled it off. He bested the best.”
LW: It was so easy. When you’re on a subject like my friendship, my love for Skip, to speak on it was easy. It’s nothing. It’s a blessing.
SB: Bless you for that, because we just sat there looking at each other thinking, “This is incredibly good. This is better than ‘No Mercy.'”
LW: I put “No Mercy” in there. We had to pay homage to the original.
SB: So now we had the best of both worlds in a new intro song. I kept saying, “These are singles, these are hits.”
LW: That was Skip playing A&R. He put the idea out there, like, “Man, that song could go on your mixtape.” I said, “You know what? It can.” It’s on [my mixtape] Tha Fix Before Tha VI.
SB: It plays to start the show and I look across my debate desk at Keyshawn Johnson or Michael Irvin or Richard Sherman, my partners in crime, and they’re just moving to it. You can’t sit still.
LW: I don’t think I’ve ever seen a show start without Key at least saying something or bobbing to it.
SB: For me, I’ve told you this before, it gets in my head, and I will play it in my head all afternoon long, wherever I am.
PEOPLE: In the comments under the YouTube video for the song, people are like, “Skip must play this on repeat during his workouts.”
SB: I do. I do.
PEOPLE: What does your routine look like these days?
SB: Same as always. I just don’t change. I’m like [Bill] Belichick. No days off is his slogan. I just do the same thing every day because I love it, and it’s part of my psyche and it’s just who I am. I don’t know. It’s not like I dread working out. I look forward to working out. I’m going to lift weights as soon as we get finished here, and I’m looking forward to it. I get up at 2 a.m. and by 2:30, I’m on my treadmill because it’s the only way I can get awake because I am not a morning person. If you give me an hour on the treadmill watching the highlight shows, by the time I am finished, nothing can stop me. I feel like I’m ready for anything. This man is a skateboard wizard to the point he’s now been officially ordained as a professional. He’s a professional skateboarder. By the way, when I shake his hand or hug him, he is a solid rock. Your skateboarding is incredible exercise.
LW: And I did work out a lot back then, especially in jail. I know how to skate.
SB: And you’ll go and you’ll skateboard all night at the skateboarding park.
LW: It was just my chef’s birthday, and she skates. So we just had a big old skate party. We was in there from night to the morning. It was daylight when we came out of there. You’re just trying to get that trick, and you’re beyond focused because you do not want to fail.
PEOPLE: Skip, I know you get up at 2 a.m. Are you usually still in the studio then, Wayne?
LW: Studio sessions always start at 2 a.m. actually.
SB: If I have something I need to ask him, I just text him and he fires right back.
LW: He already knows I’m up. I have a studio at the house, so I wake up and then fall asleep [there].
PEOPLE: You have your album with 2 Chainz, Welcome 2 Collegrove, coming out Nov. 17. When can we expect Tha Carter VI?
LW: I would say, if not December, then the top of the year. We don’t want to bombard with two albums.
PEOPLE: You have a daughter Reginae, 24, and three sons: Dwayne III, 15, Kameron, 14, and Neal, 13. How are they all doing?
LW: Grown! They all great. I appreciate that. Reginae’s doing her thing, loving life. She lives out here in L.A. now, but she’s never here because she’s busy, which is a great thing. She ride or die for Dad. My oldest boy [Dwayne III], Tuney, he is all hooked on basketball now, but he’s still a soccer wizard. I think he had a game two days ago, and they won 4-1. He had two goals in that one. He’s real good.
SB: He’s a chip off the ‘ol block.
LW: My youngest boy [Neal], Meatball, he is rapping and rhyming. His mom is Nivea, so it’s innate. He’s also singing. And Kameron, the genius, is continuing to be more than his mom [Lauren London] can even bargain for. He’s stepping up. He’s stepping up being a man of the house.
PEOPLE: Neal recently went viral for a TikTok he made with his friends because people thought he looks just like you.
LW: Yeah, with his little friends. I was like, we did not have that much style when I was that age. Like what? I was like, “Who dresses like this? Did y’all get a stylist for this?” That’s how his mom is. I asked him, “Is that your clothes?”
PEOPLE: You’ve both accomplished so much. Anything still on your list of hopes and dreams to tick off?
LW: For me? For me, I hope and dream every day. I just want to be better every day.
SB: I will buy that. On a professional level — with a lot of input from him — I have written a screenplay that I just finished before we relaunched our show, and my dream is to get it made. That’s it.
LW: I’ll definitely be starring in that.
SB: He means that honestly.