Tag Archives: Lil’ Wayne


More evidence that DRIVE SLOW is actually the nexus from which all new rap developments emerge: all I have to do is mention a resemblance between Nef’s newest material and Wayne’s golden years and 5 days later he releases what amounts to an unofficial Weezy appreciation tape, complete with confusing self-indulgent spoken intros (“I guess you could say… I don’t know what you could say, fuck it“), a straight remix of “Shine” from Lights Out, and numerous outright references to Wayne and pervasive mimicry of his style.

Nef the Pharaoh – Cole

Yeahh, I’m sure “Daghe stole your laptop“, whatever Nef my blog got 11 views the day that original post dropped I KNOW YOU FOLLOW MY SHIT AND GET ALL YOUR IDEAS FROM ME.

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Wayne emerged yesterday from his sprawling mansion in Miami or wherever Wayne lives now to shake a fist and holler at some youngsters on his lawn who, in his opinion, just aren’t trying hard enough.  In his words, young rappers are “not trying to be the best rapper, or the best at anything.”  He actually brings up an interesting point – the keen listener of today’s raps will occasionally spot a claim to be “the realest” (or sometimes “da realist“), “the sickest“, or relatedly “the illest” but since Wayne there have not been any serious claims to the “Best Rapper Alive” throne by a young rapper.

I sorta made Wayne out to be a grumpy old man in that intro but he was actually pretty laid back about it in the full interview.  When asked when or how things went wrong, he made it clear that nothing went “wrong”, rap and rappers have just moved into a new paradigm since the voice of the youth is louder and gets more attention than it used to.  He rightfully points to Soulja Boy as the tipping point for this trend, which is another way of pointing to the Internet and its influence on the rap world.  Like much of the Internet, rap is more fickle, trendy, and disposable than ever.

The flipside to these negative-sounding trends is the huge breadth of music we can all access at any moment.  Fickleness leads to artists continually pushing boundaries and experimenting with wild sounds.  Trendiness, when it isn’t too wrapped up in name-dropping “designer” culture, makes rap fun and urgent.  Disposability helps rap stay unpretentious.

These factors all work against the “Best Rapper Alive” paradigm though – if you aren’t like Thug, Future, and recent Boosie putting out a mixtape a month then even if your rapping is great it’s going to easily get drowned out by what’s newest.  This is the downside if you’re the kind of person who needs a clear “winner” in the game, but is that clear winner of the past truly all that relevant or accurate?  When Wayne was putting out his best music, there was still a huge portion of the rap listening public who thought him an abomination, and would have scoffed at his claim to the status of Jay-Z/Nas/Biggie level achievement that he makes in this interview.  Right now Young Thug is our best contender for the throne, although he doesn’t seem to be all that interested in taking it – possibly to avoid comparison to his already obvious progenitor.

Whether or not you want Wayne on a list with Biggie (or Biggie on a list with Wayne), one thing that is clear is how much Wayne’s influence is still felt in rap today.  This release from last week struck me as being particularly timely for this piece:

Tate Kobang – Number 5

This track got me movin’ but does it cover any new territory?

Lil’ Wayne – Ask Dem Hoes

A lot of Nef the Pharaoh’s recent material (post “No Masturbation” – a very Wayne-esque title I might add…) has struck me the same way.

Nef the Pharaoh – Come Pick Me Up

Lil’ Wayne – Suffix

Now don’t get it twisted, I make no claims of membership to any kind of cult of originality.  Both of these young artists are making cool music and doing what young artists always do (including Wayne when he was a tyke) – emulating and experimenting.  But it is appropriate to give credit where it’s due and Wayne deserves a lot of it.  It’s amazing that a single artist could spin off as many stylistic descendants as Wayne has, and his point about the goals of modern rappers is a valid one.  Maybe we’re all witnessing the disassembly of a genre that was once much more monolithic than it is now.  Maybe kids can just afford to record and release music way easier than before so we’re seeing more of these formative stages than we used to, and the growth path of artists gets skewed by being part of the rap news cycle so early in their careers.  Experimenting in an insular group that has a genuine interest in your success is a lot different than experimenting to a worldwide audience who will forget you ever existed as quickly as they fell in love with you on your first YouTube hit.

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The music video is such a great medium.  It can have so much power to shift and sway your opinion of a song or artist, but in my experience, its power only works in a positive direction.  A really great music video can make you love a song you used to hate, but even the shittiest music video ever made can’t rob you of your ability to love a song you’re already in love with.  Its powers can only be used for good, not evil.

The most vivid memory of this I have is seeing the video for T-Wayne’s (the original T-Wayne not the dude from every Vine from Spring 2015) “Can’t Believe It“.  I was on a long road trip when this song was hot so I heard it on the radio a ton.  I loved Wayne already and had nothing against T-Pain (unlike most rap fans at the time) but this song just fell flat on my ears before I saw its video accompaniment.

T-Pain – Can’t Believe It (feat. Lil’ Wayne)

On first watch it was incredible to witness the song transform before my eyes.  The sparseness of the beat went from boring to spacious, the synth bells went from tinny to sparkling, and the vocals went from flat to fluid when paired with the imagery in the video.  It also always helps to see a rapper’s face and body while he/she is rapping, it can provide a lot of very helpful emotional context, but this video offers so much more than that.  T-Pain’s “yeahhhh” mellismas are so easy to ignore in the audio-only realm, but with this new context each one is a nuanced and refreshing unfolding of an image.  I’ve never been won over so quickly with a simple change of medium like this.

Two of my favorite new songs got videos this past week; one is a great example of how a video can deeply enhance its aural component and the other is a great example of how even an unwaveringly dumb video can’t ruin the greatness of its matched song.  We’ll start with the bad example:

Young Thug – For My People

Young Thug might have the largest gap between music and music video quality of any artist I’ve ever witnessed.  “Loaded” is the only video of his I’ve seen that felt like it had any connection to or felt at all like the song it visualized, and even that video isn’t great.  All those Rich Gang videos were just gross, and his solo material since then has been accompanied by mildly entertaining, chuckle-worthy but ultimately unfit visuals.  It’s a shame because Thug himself is an extremely visually interesting person and performer, and he is consistently the only thing that makes his videos worth watching at all, but even his natural charisma and emotive physicality aren’t enough to make these videos a fraction as powerful as the music they accompany.

Rising star Kodak Black, however, really struck a chord with me on this new one.

Kodak Black – Like Dat

This video is probably lower-budget than Thug’s (and is certainly lower-budget than “Can’t Believe It“) but its power is undeniable.  I liked this song before this video came out, now I love this song.  Certain feelings are only possible when performing or at least watching someone perform certain actions, and watching Kodak rap from the floor of a shitty hotel room with a head lamp on or do that little doo-wop shimmy with his homie at the end makes you understand how you’re supposed to feel about this song way more than any description could, or even that the song alone could convey.

I was listening to “For My People” daily before I saw its video, and I’m still going to listen to “For My People” daily for at least the next few weeks after seeing this video.  But “Like Dat” was only an occasional selection until this visual dropped; now it just might bump “For My People” down a notch in the rotation.

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There are a lot of things to love about Starlito’s newest tape (like the realest relationship-rap song in recent memory), but one reference in particular caught my attention on first listen.

Starlio – I Get Tired

The Game – My Life (feat. Lil’ Wayne)

When “My Life” came out it quickly became my go-to Exhibit A for defending auto-tune to all those mid ’00s haters who still took their rap cues from Jay-Z and hungrily grasped at any opportunity to dismiss an innovation or new direction in rap.  I liked T-Pain a lot too but that was a hopeless position to take toward anyone who I’d be having this debate with, but Wayne’s auto-tune use was harder to dismiss, especially on such an emotionally deep and vulnerable song.  Cher (or, more accurately, one of Cher’s producers) introduced it to the world, T-Pain built an entire style on it and made it a household name, but I think Wayne deserves a lot of credit for paving the way for a less-gimmicky and more expressive use of the infamous Auto-Tune.  It’s his work that set the stage for Future, Chief Keef, and Young Thug to make some of the most interesting emotionally powerful music of the past decade, and I think “My Life” is a prime and often overlooked example of this.  This reaches beyond rap too, if Wayne hadn’t taken Auto-Tune’s use as an expressive tool to the next level and it had simply out of fashion when T-Pain did, would Bon Iver have made “Woods“?  Doubtful.

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Fat Trel – Truffle Butter (Freestyle)

Young Money needs to just start funneling all their hits through Fat Trel, he does way better than the artists with the “official versions”.  Remember his “Started From The Bottom“?

Maybe a more realistic idea would be for Trel to go full on ’07 Weezy and make a mixtape where he raps better than Young Money on all their own hits for a couple hours.  I mean how excellent would he sound on “Hookah“?  Or “Rich as Fuck“? Or “0 – 100”  — oh wait

Fat Trel – 0 – 100 / The Catch Up (Remix)

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I know I’ve spoken on this a couple times already, but seriously how can Wayne make Thug change the name of his album and then put out a song like this that’s basically one “Woop!” adlib away from being a lawsuit-worthy “Givenchy” ripoff?

Lil’ Wayne – Hollyweezy

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I really wanted this new Boosie single to be a Bone Thugs reference but instead it’s a much more well-trod Big Pun/Lil’ Wayne/Rich Homie Quan/Ty$/etc. etc. reference.

Lil’ Boosie – Retaliation [2015]

Ty$ – Stand For [2014]

YG – My Nigga (feat. Rich Homie Quan & Young Jeezy) [2013]

Lil’ Wayne – Ride 4 My Niggas [2007]

Big Pun – Off Wit His Head (feat. Prospect) [2000]

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After being introduced to Quan’s incredible ode to his father after he was shot multiple times last September, I’ve been trying to keep a mental list of rap songs dedicated to fathers; a remarkably more difficult task than spotting the more plentiful mother-oriented rap song. This song knocked me on my ass when I was doing the dishes yesterday, and rival’s Quan’s in its staggering emotional power.

Pimp C – I Miss U (feat. Tanya Herron & Z-Ro)

So far it seems like the only way to get rappers to talk about their dads in a positive light is after a tragedy (remember Wayne on “Everything“?), but if Quan, Pimp C, Z-Ro, and Wayne’s stories didn’t provide you with enough remorse for one sitting, follow this storyline from the video for the original sample.

Aaron Hall – I Miss You

And here’s a little bonus Lil’ B in the spirit of the most recent RAP JOURNEY.

Lil’ B – Never Going Back

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I guess Wayne and Thug didn’t think I illustrated my point clearly enough the first time around.

Rich Gang – Take Kare (feat. Young Thug & Lil’ Wayne)

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Today might be the official beginning of Wayne sounding like an old rapper.  Just like when Jay-Z released his first post-retirement single sounding more than a little rusty, or his grumpy old man-sounding “D.O.A.” from Blueprint 3, or maybe most appropriately when he tried to sound like every young, new pop rapper in “Tom Ford“, there are those moments where it’s hard not to feel like a rapper has lost touch with him/herself but is still trying to stay relevant in the industry by putting out “new-sounding” material.  Wayne’s is even more interesting than Jay’s though, because the rapper he’s emulating on his newest single got his start imitating Wayne (by his own admission even).  Just watch this progression:


Lil’ Wayne – Wasted


Young Thug – We Are


Young Thug – Danny Glover


Lil’ Wayne – Grindin’ (feat. Drake)

I’ll always love Wayne – I’ll always love Jay too – but let’s be real.  If you really listen to what’s coming out of their mouths recently, there’s really no other way to describe it but old.

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