Thursday, October 15, 2009
The Unhinged Genius of Lil Wayne
Lil Wayne is, as he describes himself, "the best rapper alive", and you would be hard pressed to find an informed person to argue otherwise. He has a instantly recognizable voice, a unparalleled delivery and a thesaurus for a brain. Lil Wayne's solo albums alone would be enough for him to enter the pantheon of hip-hops best lyricists, but it is his prolific mixtape and guest appearances that put him on another playing field entirely than the entire rap community.
A cursory glance on Wikipedia details no fewer than 6 projects that Lil Wayne is directly associated with, including a collaboration with his Young Money group, a group with T-Pain entitled T-Wayne and an R&B album tentatively entitled Luv Sawngz. This is in addition to the three albums he is due to release on December 15th and his appearance on every Drake, Gucci Mane, Jay-Z, Kanye West song to crack the Billboard Charts. In a word, Lil Wayne is a genius.
But what is it about Lil Wayne that makes him different than everyone else? He raps about the same things as everyone else, uses the same beats as other rappers, yet everything he does has a shine and an edge that makes everything else sound flat. As I said before, it boils down to three simple things: his voice, his "flow", and his brain.
Wayne delivers his lyrics in a hoarse constipated snarl, an instantly recognizable mumble that he punctuates with a cackle or a sound effect that fits seamlessly. Other rappers have unique voices (see Eminem, Tupac) but unlike these artists, Wayne never raises his voice or has their anger bubbling under the surface. Some may think this is a bad thing, but when I discuss his flow, you'll see why it works so perfectly.
Wayne's flow is the verbal equivalent to running on a tightrope. Every syllable he utters fits perfectly into the beat, yet still sounds unexpected. Any rapper can follow a simple rhyme scheme, but Wayne routinely layers multiple rhymes within a single line, and consistently delivers these lines at a breakneck pace, making it virtually impossible for someone to both process his lyrics and appreciate how deftly he dances on the beat. While his delivery sounds casual and lazy, the speed with which he rhymes and changes his cadence is remarkable and would leave other rappers breathless (believe me, I've tried to recite his verses and can never find a space to breathe).
Finally, Wayne's lyrics are what put him in another league entirely. Several rappers can boast a good flow, or a unique voice, but no one is more innovative when it comes to lyrics and meshes the entire package like Wayne. Even more impressive is the fact that he NEVER writes anything down. Every single thing he raps is completely off the cuff. His metaphors, his analogies, his wordplay, his rhymescheme, completely impeccable. Take his first verse off Let The Beat Build as example #1:
Straight off the block with it
Eagle street to be specific
I'm peepin at your people different
I'm pay my dues you keep the difference
I can see the end and the beginnning
So I'm not racing
I'm just sprinting
Cause I don't wanna finish
I'm out this world hoe
I wear bright red like a girl toe
No homo, fingernails dirty
I've been counting dirty money since 12:30
if they sure take them
right back and spray him amen,
I just do my wayne
and everytime I do it I do my thing
Believe that like a true story
Rims big make the car look like it's two stories,
If I hop out - that be suicide
No back seats call that paralize
I don't have a spine I don't fantasize
I mastermind then go after mine
You see I handle mine I dismantle mine
I told her tool box, bitch it's hammertime
Wayne has probably 15 more lines of this stuff before he even gets to anything that resembles a chorus. Every song he writes is absolutely bursting at the seams with incredible wordplay. I don't know how he does it (maybe its the syrup), but like the greatest in any discipline, he makes it look easy.
Take his guest verse on Drake's mixtape over Jay-Z's Ignant Shit beat as example #2:
And I take probation
I don't want that T.I. and Vick vacation
Private plane, big location
Im going to the bank to make a big donation
Yeah, I don't stunt, I stunt hard
And if the food ain't on the stove I hunt for it
But in the meantime you can call me young Roy
Jones Jr. fighting the drugs and gun charge
So don't leave me unguarded
And I'm a cheese head, word to Vince Lombardi
Word to Marky Mark, leave a snitch Departed
All that blood like the red sea parted
My gun go crazy like it's retarded
Red light on it like it's recording
I ain't recording, I'm jus C-4ing
My currency foreign
We are in a league they aren't
Better dig in your pocket and pay homage
Better cover your eyes, your face falling
Watch the game from the side, I'm play calling
No, I didn't say that I'm flawless
But I, damn sure don't tarnish
My pistol got comments for your garments
I'm so high I can vomit on a comet
When Lil Wayne uses a beat, he outdoes the original, when he has a guest verse, he overshadows everyone, and when he puts out an album, it's an instant classic.
Several rappers are on the top of their game right now, namely Kanye West, but until Kanye can consistently put out jaw-dropping verses at the rate Lil Wayne is doing it (as has been doing it for 2 years now), Wayne cannot be touched.