Lil Wayne - "Lollipop"
Lil Wayne - "A Millie"
from the forthcoming Tha Carter III
Call it inspiration, but I feel inclined to say a few things on Lil Wayne, the New Orleans rapper. His new album, Tha Carter III, will (supposedly) hit stores on Tuesday, May 13. It is one of, if not the, most anticipated albums of 2008, thus far. If you’re unfamiliar with the 25-year-old MC, then try this piece first. Or this one.
His buzz has been building for what seems like an eternity, and right on cue, the detractors have become just as loud as the fans. The haters have plenty of ammunition: Wayne loves drugs (weed and lean are obvious; cocaine and ecstasy seem like possibilities), recording songs (a few are perfect compositions, some are great, some are mediocre and others are head-scratchingly poor) and claiming he’s the best rapper alive.
I get where they’re coming from. New mixtape are made at an alarming rate (“The Drought is Over 5 (Grand Closing)” or “New Orleans Nightmare 8” or whatever it is this week) and the majority of the tracklists are recycled from other tapes or just not very good compared to Wayne’s standards.
And those standards are startlingly high. In the past couple years, Wayne has released some true gems – Dedications 1 and 2 with DJ Drama, Da Drought 3, Tha Carter III’s first “Leak” and the five-song EP titled The Leak EP are all imperative in understanding the rapper’s appeal, which there is an abundance.
I can’t keep my eyes or ears off of Lil Wayne. In terms of figures in music – not just Hip-hop – Dwayne Carter is the most compelling figure today (sorry Kanye, Boosie). Wayne stands alone in his scope: at his best, his wordplay, vocal inflections and metaphors create a rush that is intriguing, enthralling and fascinating all at the same time. His catalog is incredibly large, thus there’s always something to dig deeper into, even if the process takes time and work to produce results.
It is a legitimate argument that Wayne has yet to grasp the concept of quality control. In a recent interview, he said that he just records songs and sends them to his record company, Universal, to create Tha Carter III’s tracklist. That scares me – does he know the difference between a decent mixtape cut and a bonafide crossover smash? Is he too cocky, too arrogant or too high to know when a concept works or, more importantly, when it doesn’t? We will have to wait until May 13 to know, but I’d prefer Wayne to make the ultimate call of what makes the album and what doesn’t.
It’s the first of April and two tracks from Tha Carter III have been released. The first is the much-discussed “Lollipop,” Tha Carter III’s official single. From what I can tell, music journalists and fans are both split on it – some love it, some call it garbage. It’s not my favorite Wayne song, but I like it a lot. And I understand the apprehension – Wayne is an MC but he’s not rapping, the “lick the rapper/wrapper” pun is weak, it’s a play to mainstream success similar to 50 Cent’s “Candy Shop,” Wayne rips off T-Pain’s vocals, etc. – but the song, as a whole, just works for me. In Jeff Weiss’ Idolator piece, he writes that “Lollipop” is “a big, absolutely retarded pop song that you enjoy dancing to at clubs.” I haven’t been to a club in a while but I could imagine that pornographic beat would incite some serious grinding. And although Wayne doesn’t murder the track like he has so many others, his silliness still peaks through at times: while describing his sexual encounter, he sings, “And when I’m at the bottom, she’s Hillary Rodham” but pronounces it ride-him. Even Static, the now-deceased R&B singer, has fun with his slinky chorus, singing, “Shorty want a thug / Bottles in the club / Shorty want to hump / You know I like to touch your lovely lady lumps.” Trust me, it’s much better than Fergie singing it.
If “Lollipop” is Wayne’s attempt to garner more fans, then “A Millie,” the record’s street single, is the rapper hoping to keep the mixtape lovers happy. The song lacks a chorus and its beat consists of only a pounding 808 drum beat, simple snare blasts and a screwed-up repetition of “a millie, a millie, a millie…” Wayne goes in on the beat and does his best to drop jaws with his wordplay and vocal ticks. It works for the most part, especially when he spazzes:
Man I hate a shy chick,
Don’t you hate a shy chick?
I had a plate of shy chick
and she ain’t shy no more,
She changed her name to My Chick,
Yeah boy, that’s my girl
and she pops ex-cellent up in Wayne’s World
You should see the faces when they see that this robot can move...
(I will concede that the song is inconsistent, though. “A Millie”-haters say the track is a confusing, drug-induced tangent, which might be true, but the execution is efficient until the end where Wayne’s finish is more huff-and-puff than an all-out sprint.)
So we have two songs and more than a month until the album is supposed to be released. My expectations of Tha Carter III fluctuate every day. Sometimes - usually when Wayne releases a strong remix or guest appearance – I put my faith in the fact that this dude can truly rap and create engrossing songs. And why not? He’s earned my trust – check out “Zoo,” “Something You Forgot,” “I’m Me,” “Kush,” “I Feel Like Dying” and I could keep going. But although I enjoy “Lollipop” and “A Millie,” I’d be lying if I put them on the same level as my favorite mixtape tracks. So now all I can do is wait. Impatiently.
Regardless of what happens, let’s attempt to put ourselves in Wayne’s shoes, just momentarily. His process of rapid-fire recording has transformed the way rap works in ’08 – no longer do you need the one hot single to build a fanbase; a steady outpouring of quality tracks (officially released or leaked to the Internet) will suffice – and now he has the weight of the world on his shoulders. He has yet to universally earn the crown of the best rapper alive but it’s clear he is on the brink of either mega-stardom or one of the biggest burn-outs in the history of music. Either way, I’m forever grateful that one man’s work is fascinating enough to spark so many different debates in an age where artistry takes a backseat to ringtone sales. You can love him or hate him, but there is no denying Lil Wayne is currently the heartbeat keeping Hip-hop not just alive, but relevant.
For those wondering where to start with Lil Wayne, the following is essential listening for comprehending all of the hoopla.
“Stuntin’ Like My Daddy” (feat. Birdman, from Like Father, Like Son)
“U Gon Luv Me” (from Dedication)
“Down and Out” (from Dedication)
“Go DJ” (from Tha Carter)
“I Miss My Dawgs” (from Tha Carter)
“Intro” (from Da Drought 3)
“Upgrade” (from Da Drought 3)
"Put Some Keys on That” (from Da Drought 3)
“Ride 4 My Niggas” (from Da Drought 3)
“Dought is What I Got” (from Da Drought 3)
“Promise” (from Da Drought 3)
“Live from 504” (from Da Drought 3)
“Dipset” (from Da Drought 3)
“Seat Down Low” (from Da Drought 3)
“Where The Cash At” (feat. Curren$y and Remy Ma, from Dedication 2)
“Georgia…Bush” (from Dedication 2)
“We Takin’ Over” (from DJ Khaled’s We the Best)
“What He Does” (from The Leak: Tha Carter III)
“La La” (from The Leak: Tha Carter III)
“Something You Forgot” (from The Leak: Tha Carter III)
“Zoo” (feat. Mack Maine, from The Leak: Tha Carter III)
“I Know the Future” (feat. Mack Maine, from The Leak: Tha Carter III)
“Scarface” (from The Leak: Tha Carter III)
“Time For Us to Fuck” (from The Leak: Tha Carter III)
“Beat Without Bass” (from The Leak: Tha Carter III)
“I Feel Like Dying” (from The Leak: Tha Carter III)
“Prostitute Flange” (from The Leak: Tha Carter III)
“I’m Me” (from The Leak EP)
“Kush” (from The Leak EP)
“Gossip” (from The Leak EP)
“Viva La White Girl” (Gym Class Heroes remix, from Lil Wayne and Friends 2 mixtape)
“Famous” (from Lil Weezyana Vol. 1)
“Tha Mobb” (from Tha Carter II)
“Money on My Mind” (from Tha Carter II)
“Best Rapper Alive” (from Tha Carter II)
“Oh No” (from Tha Carter II)
“Mo Fire” (from Tha Carter II)
“Receipt” (from Tha Carter II)
“Hustler Muzik” (from Tha Carter II)
“Shooter” (from Tha Carter II)