Monday, July 30, 2007

Lil Wayne: A Critique

I'm going to come up straight and say it: I've never been a huge Lil' Wayne fan. I thought he was a little bitch in the Hot Boyz. I still think he's a bit of a bitch now on his own. But, my personal feelings aside, I'm going to explain solely on formal terms why I don't like Lil' Wayne as a rapper. Apparently, MTV disagrees with me because they think that he is the hottest rapper right now. I have a blog, so I'm going to list why I don't think that Lil' Wayne is the hottest mc right now.

The primary reason is that Lil' Wayne is a punchline rapper. Frankly, the fact that he is a boastful, self-involved rapper is nothing new. As long as rap has existed, rap has been about trying to prove how awesome you are in comparison to the other person. This feat is normally achieved through the verbal dexterity displayed over an entire course of sixteen bars, the usual length of a rap verse. Lil' Wayne does not drop hot verses; he drops hot lines. Lines are good for battle rappers. But, battle rappers are not always good rappers. They are, usually, marginal rappers over the course of a fully developed verse at best. Eyedea is a good example of this phenomenon. Dude's exceptionally talented, but his recorded work is weak.

I know that Wayne likes to talk about how he doesn't write rhymes in the booth. Let's compare his rhymes to a dude who never wrote in the booth: Jay-Z. Just to ensure fairness here, I'm going to take verses from recommended tracks according to All Music Guide on both artists' best albums, which are The Blueprint and Tha Carter II.

From Jay-Z first, this is a verse from "The Takeover," the infamous takedown track from The Blueprint:

I don't care if you Mobb Deep, I hold triggers to crews
You little FUCK, I've got money stacks bigger than you
When I was pushin weight, back in eighty-eight
you was a ballerina I got your pictures I seen ya
Then you dropped "Shook Ones," switch your demeanor
Well - we don't believe you, you need more people
Roc-A-Fella, students of the game, we passed the classes
Nobody can read you dudes like we do
Don't let 'em gas you like Jigga is ass and won't clap you
Trust me on this one - I'll detach you
Mind from spirit, body from soul
They'll have to hold a mass, put your body in a hole
No, you're not on my level get your brakes tweaked
I sold what ya whole album sold in my first week
You guys don't want it with Hov'
Ask Nas, he don't want it with Hov', nooooo!
From Lil' Wayne's "The Best Rapper Alive" from Tha Carter II:
Bring the crowd and I'm loud _In Living Colour_
It is Weezy fuckin' baby got these rappers in my stomach
Yumi, I'm takin' it I ain't asking them for nothing
If you sell a million records we can battle for ya' money
I rather count a hundred thousand dollars on a sunday
Watch a football game and bet it all on one play
Still stuntin' baby yes I'm still flossin
Latest car on the market wit the top peeled off it
Big wheels make it look a lil bulky
You look a lil salty have ya' self a chill coffee
Chill out the girls is still out
Even though I am a boss and got papers to fill out
I'm busy I got paper to reel in
God I hope they steppin' at the end of my rod
And I hope I'm fishing in the right pond
And I hope you catchin' on to every line
Who am I?
Now, let's look at the thematic differences between the two verses. While both verses are driven by the braggadocio that drives so many rappers, there are clear differences between the two. For someone who is hated on by so many Wayne fans, Jay-Z's verse is clear proof of why he is considered the better of the two mc's. Look at the structure of those two verses against each other. And, then attempt to answer the following question: what is the point of the verse? Jay-Z's point is clear: you step to him, you will get slayed because you are not as hard as I am and you don't flow as hard as I do. Jay-Z just declared that if you step to him, he will end your career. Now, think about that in comparison to Wayne's rhyme.

Now, Lil' Wayne is not talking on this level. He does talking about eating mc's, but Wayne doesn't progress past that. Wayne talks about battling mc's, but he doesn't talk about beating mc's. After possibly declaring any cred he would have towards beating an mc that steps to him, Wayne proceeds to waste this momentum by talking about how much money he stacks. His verse is formless and unfocused. How am I supposed to respect him as the best rapper alive when pretty much every good rapper save BIG and Pun are still alive? The best rappers alive eat mc's like Wayne on a 15-minute lunch break. It doesn't even take a lot of time to slay a rapper who makes such low quality, punchline-driven verses.

So, clearly, he is not better than Jay-Z. Let's see if he is better than a real OG in Rakim. Now, this might not be considered a fair fight because Rakim writes his rhymes. I mean, he's a real rapper and also, arguably, GOAT in the rap game. From "My Melody" on Paid In Full:
So what if I'm a microphone fiend addicted soon as I sing
One of these for MC's so they don't have to scream
I couldn't wait to take the mic, flow into it to test
Then let my melody play, and then the record suggest
That I'm droppin bombs, but I stay peace and calm
Any MC that disagree with me just wave your arm
And I'll break, when I'm through breakin I'll leave you broke
Drop the mic when I'm finished and watch it smoke
So stand back, you wanna rap? All of that can wait
I won't push, I won't beat around the bush
I wanna break upon those who are not supposed to
You might try but you can't get close to
Because I'm number one, competition is none
I'm measured with the heat that's made by sun
Whether playin ball or bobbin in the hall
I just writin my name in graffiti on the wall
You shouldn't have told me you said you control me
So now a contest is what you owe me
Pull out your money, pull out your cut
Pull up a chair, and I'ma tear shit up
My name is Rakim Allah, and R & A stands for "Ra"
Switch it around, but still comes out "R"
So easily will I e-m-c-e-e
My repetition of words is "check out my melody"
Some bass and treble is moist, scratchin and cuttin a voice
And when it's mine that's when the rhyme is always choice
I wouldn't have came to ?set? my name ?around the? same weak shit
Puttin blurs and slurs and words that don't fit
In a rhyme, why waste time on the microphone
I take this more serious than just a poem
Rockin party to party, backyard to yard
Now tear it up, y'all, and bless the mic for the gods
Once again, Rakim's point is perfectly clear: he is the best mc of all time. If you step to him on the mic, you will get slayed. You talk trash about Rakim, Rakim will take you to the stage and settle this. But, the settling will end up in your destruction as an mc. To retort from Wayne, I'm submitting a part of a freestyle that was done on Da Drought 3, Wayne's well-received mixtape:
And I go out my way just to get my dro and my doe
Cause, I love it more than I do my hoes yes I doess
I got gasoline comin out my pours
Imma torch
I got glasses like that white boy Scott Storch
And a porshe
I got license for tha scortch
Snipers at your porch
Rifles by the forts
And we shoot up courts
The judge juss a bitch
The jury suck dick
Im a eastside blood
And I dont smoke that crip
I smoke that kutch
First name Bubba
First names Young
Last name Stunna
Carter in the office
Take notes when I'm talkin
Smooth as a cruz boat floats when I'm walkin
I boast cause I'm ballin
I boast to be ballin
When I'm on the phone wit bitches man the money keep callin
You ain't satisfied till ya son'll be callin
Tellin you where to leave the money in the mornin
Ok you wanna zombie mover instead
Thats when you walk in ya house and everybody dead
I can take a shit where I stand
Where I stand...and watch you pussies piss in ya pants
You ain't a man your a hoe
I can kill him with the flow
Firstly, what the hell is he talking about? Yea, there are some punchlines there. But, there's no substance, no definition of one's superiority within the rhyme. The tempo is pretty good. I'll give Wayne that. But, that content is lacking. A couple punchlines does not a good rapper make. A rapper must make a point through their rhyme whether that point is talking about the streets or talking about how awesome you are. Additionally, I have no real image of Wayne as a rapper from what I've posted so far. All I know is that he likes to boast and he has a lot of money that he likes to throw around in his spare time. I mean, when he's not fucking girls. If you don't understand what I mean by Wayne not having an image to substantiate his raps, I point you to T.I. and one of his verses in that burner "What You Know":
See me in your city sittin pretty know I'm shinin dog
Ridin with a couple Latin broads and a china doll
And you know how we ball
Riding in shiny cars
Walk in designer malls
Buy everything he saw
You know about me dog
Don't talk about me dog
And if you doubt me dog
You better out me dog
I'm throwed off slightly bro
Don't wanna fight me bro
I'm fast as lightening bro
You better use your Nike's bro
Know you don't like me cause
Your bitch most likely does
She see me on them dubs
In front of every club
I be on dro I'm buzzed
Gave every hoe a hug
Niggaz don't show me mugs
Cause you don't know me cuz
T.I. is clearly a quick-triggered, young man who's got cash and will not back down from a challenge. Can you say that about Wayne from his rhymes as so far displayed? Bragging has a point, but that point must be substantiated by the creation of an image, of a persona. T.I. has done this. As is well known, T.I. previously rapped about being the Rubberband Man. While T.I. might be a little more lethargic in his flow, his flow is more fundamentally and thematically sound than Wayne's rhyme.

Working off thematics, Wayne suffers as a rapper because he, on top of not being able to personify himself and give a clear image of himself as a rapper, cannot tell a story in a rhyme. One of the best stories ever spit on rhyme that wasn't "Children's Story" by Slick Rick is "Cold World" from GZA's influential album Liquid Swords. Check the form:

It was the night before New Year's, and all through the fuckin projects
Not a handgun was silent, not even a Tec
Outside as I'm stuck, by enemies who put fear
and blasted on the spot before the pigs were dere
You know hoods robbers snipers new in sight, fuck blue and white
They escape before them flash the fuckin lights
Gunshots, shatter first floor window panes
Shells hit the ground and blood stained the dice game
Whether broke callisthetic, any style you set it
Beat niggaz toothless, physically cut up like gooses
But with iron on the sides thugs took no excuses
Therefore, your fifty-two handblocks was useless
Links was snatched off necks, scars on throats
Jackets took, after bullet rips through coats
Against those who felt the cold from the steel made em fold
and squeal, once the metal hit the temple of his grill
Destruction worker, who was caught for his bomber
No time to swing the hammer that was hangin from his Farmer's
And it's bugged how some niggaz catch slugs
and pockets dug from everything except check stubs
and it does, sound ill like wars in Brownsville
Or fatal robberies in Red Hook where feds look
For fugitives to shoot cops, niggaz layin on roof tops
for his CREAM he stashed in a shoebox
But he was hot, and the strip was filled with young killers
you don't suspect, so cops creep like caterpillars
And born thieves stay hooded with extra bullets
those who try to flee they hit the vertebrae, increase the murder rate
Similar to hit men who pull out Tecs and then
drop those who crack like tacos from Mexican
Rapid, like recipients cashin checks again
Back to the motherfuckin spot on Lexington
Wayne has yet to drop a verse on this level. When he does drop a rhyme on this level, he can then consider himself to be a good rapper, even one of the best rappers of all time. But, seeing as he can't rap his way out of a paper bag right now and hasn't slayed a rapper (Gillie the Kid) who has stepped to him, Wayne should not be given the credit of being a comparable rapper to anyone out right now. Even T.I., who I think is a middle-of -the-road rapper, slays Wayne on the regular. On the real, I'm not against giving Wayne his due, but he has to make me earn his respect. I'm the consumer of the rap.

Other consumers will argue against me and say that Wayne should be respected because he doesn't bite other people's rhymes. To this point, I say so what? EVERYONE IN RAP BITES! Every rapper in the game bites lines. Even in the most classic of rhymes "Rapper's Delight", Hank of the Sugarhill Gang ripped whole verses from Grandmaster Caz. So, all of the haters talking about biting need to chill out with that. In fact, maybe Wayne needs to bite more since the fundamental components of his rap flow are so weak.

He doesn't establish his persona on tracks, he can't tell a story, he can't present complete ideas. And, how is he supposed to be the best rapper alive? By my own figuring, he isn't even the best rapper in the South. Disagree if you want, but lyrics are lyrics. You can't look at the evidence presented and begin to tell me that Wayne is the best rapper alive. You can like him, I don't have a problem with that. To each his own. But, don't sit around calling him the best of all-time or even the best alive when most of the dopest mc's in the game are still alive and exponentially hotter than him.

Epilogue: yes, I'm a rap nerd. I spent hours on this. Additionally, all lyrics taken from Original Hip-Hop Lyrics Archive (