My obsession with Lil Wayne is well-documented. I called Tha Carter V a classic before it had a release date. I sang the praises of "No Worries" at the highest register. I’m one of the few who thought Dedication 4 was immaculate. I loved I Am Not a Human Being 2. I'm crazy about "Take Kare." My car probably has suspension problems because of how recklessly I drive it when I'm listening to "Krazy." There was a party last year where I was screaming "Believe Me" so loud that, I swear to God, I had a headache for a week after. I even liked Rebirth. Don't ever question my loyalty to Wayne. I’m not a hater.
But what is this new mixtape? Wayne was supposed to make the original versions of “Coco” and “Hot Nigga” obsolete. I guess those are No Ceilings expectations in a Sorry 4 the Wait 2 world. Wayne still has incredibly entertaining ways of threatening to murder your family or fuck your girlfriend, but they occur at a far less inspiring rate. Do you know how mad I am that I can't laugh in the faces of the sheep who insist Wayne's fallen off and start quoting its lyrics ad nauseam? I’ve reached the breaking point where I'm forced to question if those sheep are right: Has Wayne fallen off? I hardly know myself anymore.
Wayne is one of, like, six rappers who I'm not ashamed to worship. I never even felt like a Stan because, for so long, he was just objectively better than everyone else. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without his music. Some of his verses have been as crucial to my development as learning my ABCs. At any given moment, when it looks like I’m talking to myself, I’m rapping random Wayne lyrics. I've honestly considered if he's some sort of deity. I’ve had personal epiphanies because of his lines and literally looked to the heavens, placed my hand over my heart and said, “Thank you, Wayne.”
So you can imagine my shock and dismay at how this Tha Carter V rollout is going. First, why is anyone still doing rollouts in 2015? Everyone from Björk to D'Angelo is releasing albums practically unannounced. No matter what the content of Wayne’s LP sounds like, he needs to get it out of the way, put it behind him, and let the fate of its legacy lie in the hands of the people. Instead, Wayne and his superiors are committed to the outdated, belabored process of clamoring for a hit, but we’re only getting underwhelming, forgettable singles in return.
I think Wayne raps pretty well on “Grindin” and “Gotti,” but the truth is, no one gives a fuck about either of those songs. Seriously. Even I don’t, and I like those songs. He’s done nothing to capitalize on the anticipation inspired by the standout guest verses on “Loyal” and “My Nigga” that had everyone thinking there was a great return on the horizon.
Small, intermittent victories are all that Wayne has left. There’s his verse on Nicki Minaj’s “Truffle Butter.” Even some of the lines on Sorry 4 the Wait 2—”I got bitches that’ll kill for me, Charles Manson”—are reminiscent of vintage Wayne. But I still cut off (or restart) “Truffle Butter” after Drake’s verse, 90 percent of the time. Waiting for a proper Lil Wayne comeback is beginning to feel like waiting for a Lindsay Lohan resurgence. Maybe Birdman doesn’t care about Weezy anymore because he’s found his Emma Stone in Young Thug. “Lifestyle” is the song with 100 million views on YouTube. “Believe Me” never got a video.
It was all good just five months ago. I was so overwhelmed when Wayne came out to “Blunt Blowin” at the Drake vs. Lil Wayne show that I had to sit down. I wasn’t emotional in an ironic, Internet-joke type of way. I was actually fucked up. There was momentum. I was convinced that a full-on resurrection was underway. Wayne stood on that stage and, with some level of confidence, announced that Tha Carter V was coming out Oct. 28. That never happened. The December release date wasn’t met either. Now the Greek tragedy, The Fall of Lil Wayne, is playing out in front of my eyes, and it’s unbearable to witness.
Waiting for a proper Lil Wayne comeback is beginning to feel like waiting for a Lindsay Lohan resurgence.
I’ve always had faith in Lil Wayne, even when it was the unpopular opinion. I think lines like “I can say don’t rhyme and it’s gon rhyme” and “I’m red hot, blue cold” are awesome. I think he went harder than Kanye on “Barry Bonds.” I think he went harder than Eminem on “Drop The World.” I think he went harder than Drake on “Ransom” and “Ignorant Shit.” I still look at Wayne as the guy who put “Money on My Mind” and “Hustler Muzik” on the same album. I still look at him as the guy who released Dedication 2 and Like Father, Like Son and Lil Weezyana and Da Drought 3 all within the span of a year. I’m someone who got more insight out of “Let the Beat Build” than I ever did from the Bible.
Now I’m wrestling with the reality of watching my hero fade. He’s Jordan in the Wizards jersey. I hate seeing those videos of him in the club, dancing to songs by new rappers. There was a time when Wayne frequently stated that he didn’t even listen to other rappers. And it showed when he took the beat from “Mr. Jones” and rapped over it with such irreverence on “The Sky Is the Limit” that the original record became a distant memory.
When they play Boosie’s “Zoom” on Shade 45—which they love to do for some reason—I’m always mad that the song’s not starting with, “Weezy bad, no, really, I’m good/Sound like a T-Rex live under my hood.” I can’t even type those lyrics without yelling that whole verse at my keyboard. Wayne’s “my flow is art, unique” boast used to hold weight. But on Sorry 4 the Wait 2, he’s merely rehashing. It’s derivative, and it’s boring. Mixtapes were once a platform for Wayne to take the hottest instrumentals of the day and make them his own. Not anymore.
Lil Wayne’s released enough brilliant work to sustain 10 careers, and no matter how far downhill he slides, he’ll always be at the top of my list. It’s just depressing to watch an illustrious run come to an end, however inevitable that is. Nothing on Sorry 4 the Wait 2 makes me feel the way that Wayne’s music used to. I thought that him being off probation and back on drugs would solve the problem. It hasn’t. If anything, Wayne’s sober output was better than what he’s doing now because, I don’t know, maybe he had to try? Birdman delaying Tha Carter V indefinitely is starting to make sense.
The other thing is: I named my cat Tunechi for a reason. This can’t be life.
Ernest Baker is a writer living in New York. Follow him @ernestbaker.