Lil Wayne's Producer Infamous Calls 'Free Weezy Album' "The Best Album He’s Done Since 'Tha Carter III'"

The producer also has some thoughts on Complex's first reactions to the project.

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Complex Original

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Lil Wayne’s beef with Cash Money Records still has no solution in sight, but that hasn’t stopped the self-proclaimed Best Rapper Alive from putting out music for his fans. Tha Carter V is still in release date limbo, so Weezy went against Cash Money with the Free Weezy Album on July 4. It’s a Tidal exclusive, an inaugural release from one of the latest artists to join Jay Z’s streaming service as co-owner. So how does it stack up? Does Wayne have heat or nah?

The reviews are mixed. Some fans say FWA is his most focused project to date, while others believe it’s another letdown (read our initial review here) on par with January’s Sorry 4 the Wait 2. The 32-year-old rapper should be used to polarizing opinions by now. It certainly hasn’t stopped him from going back into the studio and recording more. If there’s one thing you can’t take away from Wayne it is that he’s the hardest-working MC in hip-hop. And Infamous can vouch for that.

The producer behind songs like “Mr. Carter” and the CV single “Krazy” is one of the few names that Weezy tapped for this album. He’s worked with Wayne since 2007 and has watched him evolve as an artist from Tha Carter III to his current output. Whether or not you are feeling FWA, Infamous thinks that people are quick to judge Wayne and that he’s back on his grind, creating some of the best music of his career. We spoke with him about the FWA sessions, haters, and why Weezy is still musically relevant in 2015.

Eric Diep is a writer living in New York. Follow him @E_Diep

Weezy announced the Free Weezy Album in February. When did he reach out for beats?
Wayne and I kind of have always been working since “Mr. Carter.” It’s not really that he reaches out for beats, we’re just always on shit. I know he’s always working and he never takes a day off. Randomly, he’ll hit me up whenever he has an idea. If not, I’ll probably pass by the studio like once a week just to drop off some new shit or whenever. It’s never really like, “Hey, it’s go time,” kind of thing because with him it’s always go time.

So you’re in his immediate circle then?
Yeah, that’s kind of something that’s different now. The immediate circle is back [and] condensed. Around Carter IV time when he got out of prison, there were a lot of new faces and a lot of new shit that was around a circle, which tends to happen when you become the biggest artist in the world. I think now the circle is definitely smaller and more condensed to people he’s been fucking with since 2007. Myself,Develop, StreetRunner, Cool & Dre, Kane [Beatz]. It’s more condensed to the original formula.

The single “Glory” is the first song off the album. How did that come together?
That was Avenue. Avenue sent the beat to Angel, and Angel made a couple a little switches to something, and they asked me to add some keys to it, and that’s how I ended up getting involved. I ended up playing keys once Wayne had half a record to it and a little bit extra. They just asked me to add some keys.

How many months were you in the studio with him when he was making this album?
His work ethic is crazier than anybody. He’s literally in the studio at least six days a week. And those six days, it’s a minimum of eight to 10 hours a day. It’s not like another rap session where six of those hours are shooting the shit and just smoking weed. It’s really, he goes to work, and if you are not contributing to what he’s working on in the moment, he probably doesn’t want you in the room anyway. Literally, I’ll go to the studio and be with him for 12 hours a day. He’s writing the whole time in his head. Nobody really talks to him. He lays down what verse he’s working on, then you get like a minute to shoot some ideas back and forth with him. He goes back to writing, and I either go back to the lounge or go back to work at home to work on whatever we spoke on.

His sessions are pretty casual?
Yeah, it’s also definitely like work. Literally, when he walks in the room, he turns the beat on. And it’s whatever he was working on the night before. He already has an agenda in his mind on what he has to do. Once the beat goes on, that’s it. The room goes quiet and he just sits there and smokes and writes verses in his head, and he’ll do that for an hour. So it’s literally just like sounds—just listening to the beat on loop for an hour or two and taps the engineer on the shoulder and he’s like, “All right, I’m ready.” He goes and lays it down. We talk for a minute, and he goes back to doing that, and I’m out.

You texted me after FWA came out that Wayne was focused like back in 2007-2008. Mentally, where do you think he’s at now? Is he in that same space?
I think so. I listened to the album, and I think that it’s legendary. He’s rapping incredible on it, and he’s being more honest on this album than he’s been ever. I never heard him being this honest and talking about financial troubles that he’s having. This is one of the biggest rappers in the world talking about that shit. I didn’t expect him to talk about shit like that. His storytelling is back on point and how it used to be. And his creative delivery and flow is light-years ahead of what everybody else is doing right now. In my mind, I’d called it that it felt like ’08 again a few months ago because the circle got smaller and it became more focused. He’s back on the super grind right now, making sure everything is sounding incredible. Like, to me, he definitely seems more focused on making sure that everybody knows that he’s still the best and pushing the boundaries.

I never heard him being this honest and talking about financial troubles that he’s having.

So for these sessions specifically, was that always the goal? Songs like “I Feel Good” and “My Heart Races On” are very different for him.
I don’t think “I Feel Good” is that different for him at all. I think that shit is “A Milli” or “6 Foot 7 Foot”—more “6 Foot 7 Foot” than anything else. “I Feel Good” was actually his idea. He called [producer] T@. T@ and Wayne has been friends forever. “I want to do a song with James Brown’s ‘I Feel Good’ shit.” So, he hits me up. “Yo, Wayne wants us to make a beat out of ‘I Feel Good.’” So we ended up making it—boom. He kind of pieced it together. To me, I hear that song and it’s like a more radio-friendly version of “6 Foot 7 Foot.”

Other songs like “I’m That Nigga” and “Thinking Bout You” got mixed reactions. Why do you think fans are quick to hate on him?
I really don’t know. I’ve been reading some of the reactions from the fans and fans seem to really love it. You know, the Complex review was the only one that I read that the dude was saying this was garbage, which was crazy to me. As far as the records that you mentioned, “Thinking Bout You,” that’s just a really old New Orleans classic hip-hop remake almost. You’re an artist from New Orleans. Even if you’re an artist from Philly or New York or whatever the fuck, you are always going to have at least one record on there to tie you down to the original core who put you on. So “Thinking Bout You” is that throwback New Orleans kind of vibe shit that they’re on.

But honestly, I feel like the fans really dig it and just a couple blog writers don’t. I just think people are quick to hate on Wayne which is crazy. He kind of fathered this whole generation of new rappers that are coming up. To hear someone say, “Oh, Wayne’s washed up.” And to hear the way he raps on “Glory.” It’s just like what the fuck does this dude have to do to impress you because no one has rapped like that in at least four or five years. As an album as a whole, to know that he has a song like “Glory” where we can all agree that nobody has rapped like that in five years and have radio hits like “I Feel Good” or “Living Right” with Wiz. Even fucking “He’s Dead.” You got your street shit like the record with Jeezy. You got super creative, forward-moving shit. You got some throwback shit from New Orleans. To me, it’s the most well-rounded Wayne album I’ve heard in fucking seven years and really, the most well-rounded album in at least two, three years from anybody. I love Kendrick’s album, and I love the new Meek album that just came out, but it just seems like this album has something for everybody.

What does he have left to prove?
I don’t necessarily know if Wayne is trying to prove anything. It’s weird because I never really talk to him about [that]. Whenever we talk about what people think, he’s just quick to be like, “I don’t really give a shit.” For the most part, he knows he’s good. Everybody knows he’s good and people want to hate on it. That’s kind of the consequence you have to accept when you are the top guy. I remember when Jay dropped Magna Carta and everybody was like, “This shit sucks. The beats are wack and Jay fell off.” And all this shit. You give it three months, and it’s the only album that anybody is bumping. And then six months later, you start to hear a bunch of beats coming out on other people’s shit that sound like they should have been on Magna Carta because they’ve inspired a bunch of people. That’s the shit, whenever you do something different, people are going to be like, “Oh this is different. This is different shit. What is this? I don’t hear ‘A Milli.’” Or some lo-fi pads in the background. People evolve and people grow. Honestly, I think this is the best album he’s done since Tha Carter III for sure.

One of the lines that a lot of people caught was, “Rest in peace to the Cash Money Weezy, gone but not forgotten.” Do you think present Wayne is better than before?
I just think he’s different. I think he was different from Tha Carter to Tha Carter II. And then from Tha Carter II to Tha Carter III. He was different. He’s just one of those artists who are constantly reinventing themselves. I think a big part of his reinvention is kind of rapping about the moment. And he’s always kind of done that. Obviously, he’s going to be different. I don’t necessarily think he was better then or better now. As a creative person, he’s creative as fuck. You listen back to Tha Carter II, and it kind of seems like he found a lane. He mastered that lane and the album is that lane. You know what I mean? Tha Carter III, that’s when shit started expanding and that’s when things started sounding pop and a little more radio-friendly. And then now I think he’s got all his wacky, creativity stuff on Rebirth and the two I Am Not a Human Being albums out and he kind of refined all of his experimentations into what seems like a really cohesive, radio-friendly but still a creatively respectable album. If you are a fan of an artist, you gonna expect them to grow. And you either grow with them, or grow away from them.

It’s a free album and it’s free contributions from everyone involved. Does that affect the quality of the product?
Absolutely not. Everybody knows the attention you get when you do a Wayne project. Everybody brought their fucking A-game to it. I’ve heard some people say, “Oh, it’s a free album so it’s definitely good for that.” But, I mean, if you still had to buy it, it would be as equally as good as that. The beats that are great on there are fucking incredible. There are a couple beats on there that are fucking incredible. I know just talking to some of the other producers and myself that there were other really big artists that wanted some of the beats on this album and we all said no because it was going to Wayne’s album. That’s what I mean when I say the circle got tighter and back to the OGs. We all want Wayne to win because he put a lot of us on. Like Develop produced “Fireman” and that was his first big record. And Kane had fucking the shit with Drake [called] “Right About It.” And Cool & Dre, they made a living working with Wayne. We all understand that this is the dude that kind of put us on and put our face in the light and shit, so we all brought our A-game for it.

Was it his decision not to reach out to big-name producers? Some people were saying they would have loved to see Mannie Fresh on it.
I know Mannie has a couple records or two on Carter V. But in today’s age, does it really matter? What is the big-name producer gonna bring to the table? You know what Mustard is going to bring. You know what Mike Will is gonna bring. I’m sure—I know they both got something on Carter V. It’s not like having a big-name producer is gonna add quality to the project because most of us that are on the album are on everybody else’s fucking album too. We don’t have the PR that some of these dudes have, but everybody on the album had major success with other major artists. It’s tough to say if he had a budget would he have got bigger-name producers ’cause we all work with the same fucking people anyway.

After we wrote our first reactions piece, other fans felt the same way. What are your thoughts on people who trash an album like this right off the bat?
I read the Complex shit, and it seemed like dude wasn’t even listening to it. When “I Feel Good” came on he was like, “What is this? A breakup album?” I was like, “What?” How do you get this is a breakup album out of “I Feel Good?” It’s crazy to me. It’s that generation that we live in where we just play things in the background. “Alright, cool. Whatever. This shit is wack.” Just for the sake of it.

I think this is the best album he’s done since Tha Carter III for sure.

Do you think Wayne is still musically relevant?
Yeah. Here’s the thing: I think there’s a totally new generation of people that grew up to an age where they are opinionated now and they are sharing that opinion because it’s very easy to share your opinion now. He’s obviously relevant. He’s just broke records with the streaming of this album. And there’s no way everybody streamed it once and was like, “Fuck it, I’m not gonna listen to it again.” When you break records streaming an album, it’s because people listen to it and they want to listen to it again and they tell their friend and their friend catches on. And it grows on you. So yeah, I think he’s relevant, for sure. To that point that he got to where he was the biggest artist in the fucking universe, yeah, he’s totally still relevant. And if he continues to make music the way he’s doing and has that hunger, he’s gonna be relevant forever.

Do you think Carter V will come out this year?
I’m hoping it’s gonna come out this year. I’m sure eventually it’s gonna come out. It’s too good for it not to come out. Like I know what’s on there. I’ve heard these songs multiple times, and I already know what it is. I’m sure when it comes out there’s gonna be people still hating on it because people hate for the sake of hating, but who gives a shit

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