The discussion surrounding Weezy has changed considerably since his prolific output of yesteryear. Has the YMCMB star gone from "best rapper alive" to one of the worst?
Written by Brad Wete (@BradWete)
Lil Wayne is not the same. The rapper, for a long time joyfully vicious on his songs and others, has lost his bite, his appetite even. It’s been a quiet conversation among rap heads for a good while now: Did Lil Wayne fall off? It’s discussed the same way ESPN analysts talk about New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter—clearly on the other side of dopeness, but still capable of a great run.
Wayne hasn’t been great since his 2008-09 season, the one that saw him drop two projects—one acclaimed massively and the other by his core audience. In 2008, there was Tha Carter III, a beloved set for its combination of hard-hitting raps and pop luster. His frenetic, Bangladesh-produced monster “A Milli” was evenly matched by the quirky Auto-Tuned croak croons of “Lollipop.” The effort went platinum in a week. And rightfully so.
Then in 2009 came his remarkable No Ceilings mixtape, where he commandeered Dorrough’s "Ice Cream Paint Job," Jay-Z's "D.O.A.,” and Gucci Mane’s “Wasted” instrumentals and hawked wads of searing bars on them, only pausing to spark blunts in the vocal booth.
What followed that, really, was nothing good. Wayne began dabbling with rock music. The result was 2010’s mess, Rebirth, an effort many wished had been aborted upon conception. Next to strike out was I Am Not a Human Being, a batch of tired cuts to satiate fans that needed to satisfy their Wayne fix while the prolific rhymer served a brief sentence at Rikers Island after pleading guilty to criminal possession of a weapon the year prior.
It should be noted that both efforts were commercially successful. But as far as quality is concerned, his once well-cheffed raps were reduced to freezer-burned Hot Pockets. Being able to pedal such poor product is a luxury afforded to only those who were once truly great. Lil Wayne was a name you could trust. So fans bought and bought.
Oh, and the fails kept coming. Last summer, a drug-free (a condition of his parole) Weezy dropped Sorry 4 the Wait, a mixtape for those holding on for Tha Carter IV. It was bad. As was IV, which was not worth the wait and featured a lead single ("6 Foot 7 Foot") that was basically an “A Mill” replica. Sure, there were a few gems among the rubble, but for the first time it was evident that Lil Wayne had lost it, whatever that special thing is that fueled his artistic splendor.
Last week, Lil Wayne revealed that it’s interest that he’s lost. “I got bored,” Wayne said of hip-hop in a radio interview with DJ Drama. “It does get pretty boring when it comes to the rapping and all that kind of stuff. I’ve been doing it since I was eight. I’m about to be 30 in September and I’m still rapping. [I] kind of feel like I’m getting old.”
By no means does making it through the first trimester of life call for Wayne to pull out the walking cane. Though his flow sounds as uninspired as a wealthy senior peering out of his mansion windows, Weezy’s actually very much alive and excited about something outside of hip-hop: skateboarding.
“It’s kind of putting rap on the back-burner,” Wayne said of his new love, like it’s no big deal. “That’s all. I kind of feel like I deserve that. I kind of feel like the fans deserve that. I kind of feel like the fans deserve a little no Wayne.” Maybe he’s using skate ramps like Michael Jordan used ballparks back in 1994.
Coming off three consecutive championship wins in the NBA, an uninspired Mike retired to play baseball for the minor league’s Birmingham Barons. Though the move was initially a head-scratcher, in the end it somehow recharged his basketball battery and powered another triple crown dip in the NBA.
Time will tell if the same will go for Lil Wayne musically. There’s a chance. In that same DJ Drama chat, Wayne talked about his forthcoming Dedication 4 mixtape, gleefully saying, “I just did that [Ca$h Out song] ‘Cashin’ Out.’ It’s over, bro. I did [Chief Keef’s] ‘I Don’t Like’ and I did [Meek Mill’s] 'Burn.'”
Like he said what seems to be an eternity ago on “A Milli,” Wayne used to be a “goblin.” Here’s to hoping that he scares again.