A few reasons why Tunechi's new single should kill any talk that he's fallen off.
Written by Ernest Baker (@newbornrodeo)
Rap doesn't care about what you did five years ago. It's the nature of the genre. We don't treat our legends with the same unequivocal respect that's kept rock bands like U2 relevant well past their musical prime. For better or for worse, rap is constantly asking accomplished veterans, what have you done for me lately? It's the reason why Jay-Z has to make songs like "Reminder," and this chronic amnesia is also part of the reason why Lil Wayne has gone from critical darling to polarizing punchbag in half a decade's time.
It doesn't matter that Lil Wayne went platinum in one week in 2008 and fell only 34,000 copies short of doing it again in 2011. It doesn't matter that the Wikipedia page for his discography is about as long as the health care reform bill. It doesn't even matter that he once rhymed "haters gotta go on iTunes to go get me" with "gators, matadors, baboons, and those grizzlies."
Nope. Like André 3000 said, "you're only funky as your last cut," and if you're tuned into the endless conversation surrounding rap music, it's no secret that many listeners think Lil Wayne's cuts have not been particularly funky as of late, specifically, since he came home from prison.
Never mind that, since his release from prison, Wayne's had memorable, impressive features on Ace Hood's "Hustle Hard," Chris Brown's "Look At Me Now," Kelly Rowland's "Motivation," DJ Khaled's "I'm On One" and "Take It To The Head," Rick Ross' "9 Piece," Drake's "HYFR" and "The Motto," Tyga's "Faded," and French Montana's "Pop That." (The "Pop That" verse is awesome. Sorry.) Wayne deserves to be scrutinized because his last solo album, Tha Carter IV, had five really good songs, but the other 13 sucked. Therefore, the argument goes, so does Lil Wayne.
It's true that Tha Carter IV wasn't very good. ("John," "Blunt Blowin," "Nightmares of the Bottom," "6 Foot 7 Foot," and "She Will" though? Stellar.) The problem is, the resistance to the new Lil Wayne isn't really rooted in a disappointment with his music—as much as it is in discomfort with his eccentricities.
Those 10 previously mentioned guest appearances alone trump most A-list rappers' past two years of output, in both quality and impact. Those verses should be enough to keep him in good favor with rap listeners, but they're not. That's because, for the past two years, in between rapping, Lil Wayne has become increasingly focused on trying to accomplish something in the world of skateboarding, sought to boost his net worth with the launch of the apparel line Trukfit, and worn snow boots in public.
Because of this, some people can't take Lil Wayne seriously anymore.
Since Weezy's release from prison, that's been the prevailing attitude towards the 29-year-old rapper, but the buck stops with Dedication 4. Lil Wayne is still making good music, damn it, and the best example of that is the mixtape's standout cut, "No Worries," which is an embodiment of everything that made him everyone's favorite rapper for an increasingly distant moment in time.
The sole record with original production on Dedication 4 doubles as the second single ("My Homies Still" was technically the first) from Wayne's next album, I Am Not A Human Being 2. Universal recognized its commercial potential, giving it an immediate release on iTunes, where it already sits at No. 21 on the Top Songs chart. Last week, "No Worries" got the best reaction of the night at MTV's Video Music Awards, even though the song was just three days old. Apparently, the New York Jets came out to it during Sunday's football game. Search "Wayne No Worries" on Twitter, or skim YouTube comments on streams of the song, and see how many positive things are being said about it, literally by the minute. The energy behind this song is real.
"No Worries" producer Noel "Detail" Fisher is responsible for hits like Ray J's "Sexy Can I" and Lil Wayne's own ballad, "How To Love." His brand of shimmering, urban-based synth work is in overdrive here. "No Worries" begins a cappella, giving you 15 seconds to brace yourself before it launches into an explosion of calculated, instrumental chaos. The beat is anchored by "bah-bah-bah" vocals that creatively re-appropriate doo-wop into something ominous. The rest of the production is of the triumphant, post-trap variety that Wayne sounded so comfortable with on singles like "Right Above It" and "Steady Mobbin."
The chorus, which Detail performs, leans on the progressive style of Auto-Tune use that Future mastered on parts of his debut, Pluto, earlier this year. Detail simply points out that shrooms, "redbone mangos," and assorted YMCMB members are in his general vicinity, but does so with such rhythm and precision that by the time Wayne jumps in with ad-libs after his first verse, you can tell it's coming from a place of genuine excitement.
But it's not just a good beat and a catchy chorus that makes "No Worries" one of the best songs of the year. Lil Wayne is effectively commanding our attention again, and not just because of laugh-out-loud lyrics like "suck a nigga dick for some Trukfit." His flow is smooth and charismatic again, steering away from the abrasive, relentless approach that's defined much of his post-prison music since the "Fire Flame" remix. And there's still more than enough humor to go around. Lines like "smoke so much that Smokey the Bear have to bear with us" and "sorry, I didn't shave, so that pussy is a little furry" hit purely out of entertainment value, but they're also less self-aggrandizing here. For the first time in a while, Wayne doesn't sound so obsessed with his own cleverness, and it results in a better delivery.
Improving the presentation gives truly slick lines like "I know gold diggers and ditch diggers/You don't get dissed, you get disfigured" an edge that harkens back to the streaks of brilliance Wayne exhibited on Da Drought 3. On "No Worries," Wayne proves that his revolving subjects of sex, drugs, and violence can still sound fresh if delivered with the urgency for which he was once known. In rap, it's not just what you say but how you say it, and if Wayne's enthusiastic screams at the end of "No Worries" are any indication, he knows that he nailed both on this record.
Any criticisms of this song, and Wayne's latest mixtape as a whole, are understandable. Writing a bad review for Dedication 4 would be really easy. Just say that the content is repetitive, his punchlines lack their former bite, and you're done. Yes, Wayne's rapping about the same topics and relying on the same songwriting structure, but with more wit and sharpness than he has in a while. That's the reason why asinine lyrics like "all rats gotta die, even Stuart" and "I would talk about my dick, but man, that shit'd be a long story" are highlights, not eye-rollers.
Take into account the legacy of Lil Wayne's career and how he upholds it on Dedication 4, especially on "No Worries." He's still a pro at beat selection. He still spouts a seamless flow with minimal effort. He's still funny. He still faithful to the similes, metaphors, and other figures of speech that are the linchpins of wordplay. And he's still good for those multi-syllabic rhyme schemes.
Lil Wayne never really fell off after prison. More importantly, "No Worries" shows that he's not about to.