Did Hillary Clinton lift lines from rapper Lil Wayne in her Democratic presidential nomination acceptance speech?
To be honest, I thought the notion was ridiculous, and said as much in a previously published version of this post. But that was before a commenter identified as “Americana” pointed me toward a fairly obscure skit on a Lil Wayne mixtape.
Clinton’s statement on Thursday, “When there are no ceilings, the sky’s the limit,” resembles something Lil Wayne said in his 2009 mixtape “No Ceilings”: “There is no ceilings, there is only the sky. And the sky is the limit. Christopher Wallace said that.”
Christopher Wallace, also known as the Notorious B.I.G., had a 1996 song called “Sky’s the Limit.” It doesn’t mention ceilings, but Wayne may have heard him make the ceiling reference elsewhere.
Of course, it’s totally possible that B.I.G., Lil Wayne, Hillary Clinton or a speechwriter thought of the no ceilings/sky’s the limit concept separately — along with many other people. It’s not the most original-sounding idea.
The discussion of whether Clinton cribbed from Lil Wayne began on Twitter during her speech. Soon after it ended, CNN tried to explain the situation in a post that referenced two different Lil Wayne mixtapes, but not the skit in which Lil Wayne said the phrase similar to the one Clinton used. From the CNN story:
The phrases “no ceilings” and “sky’s the limit” stopped some hip-hop fans dead in their tracks. Both of those phrases conjure Lil Wayne, one of the most prolific rappers of his generation, who in the late 2000s released a mixtape named “No Ceilings” and had a song off his acclaimed “Da Drought” mixtape series named “The Sky’s the Limit.”
It’s a serious stretch, but that didn’t stop people from having fun celebrating the self-proclaimed “greatest rapper alive.”
To elaborate: Lil Wayne had a song called “Sky’s the Limit” on the 2007 mixtape “Da Drought 3” that doesn’t mention ceilings. Two years later, in the 2009 song “No Ceilings (Pop That),” Wayne rapped, “This is no ceilings / I do this all day I got bars, no railings / Looking for a b— for some sexual healing.” That song appears on the “No Ceilings” mixtape, which also has another song called “I Got No Ceilings.”
Neither song mentions the sky being the limit, so CNN’s story seemed to suggest that Clinton may have linked two Lil Wayne lines from two years apart. Similarly, the Washington Post’s Wesley Lowery asked on Twitter, “Did Hillary Clinton just make an amazing, compounded Lil Wayne reference?”
So, do we have a Melania Trump moment here, a repeat of last week’s episode where the aspiring first lady cribbed lines from Michelle Obama?
I didn’t think so — because Hillary Clinton hasn’t previously demonstrated the pop-culture chops to pull off anything as ambitious as an “amazing, compounded Lil Wayne reference.” She earned a little bit of mockery earlier this year for saying that she, like Beyonce, carries hot sauce in her purse.
It also feels unlikely that anybody in Clinton’s orbit gave her a Lil Wayne mixtape, much less two Lil Wayne mixtapes. Or that she would ever sit through “No Ceilings,” a song that begins with the lines “Pop that pu–y and shake that a–” repeated four times.
And would she have sat through a skit? Even most hardcore fans don’t sit through skits.
But in the Melania Trump case, it was a speechwriter, not the speaker, who owned up to lifting lines from first lady Michelle Obama.
Clinton’s reference to ceilings is an allusion to the glass ceiling, a term that dates back to at least the 1980s and refers to a metaphorical invisible barrier that prevents women from rising above a certain point in their careers. Clinton has referenced it many times in her two presidential runs, saying at the end of her 2008 campaign, “Although we weren’t able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it’s got about 18 million cracks in it.” She said that the year before Lil Wayne released “No Ceiling.”
The phrase “sky’s the limit,” of course, came well before the Notorious B.I.G. or Lil Wayne. The Temptations had an album called “Sky’s the Limit” in 1971, for example. It’s one of those phrases that feels as old as the sky.
It’s possible that the membrane between politics and pop culture is now so permeable that ideas flow freely from presidential candidates to rappers and back, and between us all. A reality star is the Republican nominee. Maybe there are no rules, and no ceilings, and the sky is the limit. It’s also possible there’s no longer a floor.