To many of the “Rap-Purists” modern day rap is dead, dying or in some state of decline. Whilst there has always been rap centred around creating a “turnt” vibe, with classic artists like House of Pain, Salt-N-Pepa and Missy Elliot amongst those whose discography is filled with songs that could light up any party; Some feel that this music now makes up the vast majority of a genre that used to be a forum for reflecting social issues in inner city communities. However, even the likes of 90’s legends Tupac and Biggie had songs in the party mould, with “I Get Around” and “Hypnotize” but these feature as part of an entire catalogue and don’t constitute their sound as a whole. For some listeners, the trend in what constituted popular hip-hop music with regards to this was completely and forever changed by the rise of the South in the early 2000’s. The artists that rose to prominence in this era had neither the razor-sharp lyricism associated with acts from the East Coast nor the gritty realism of those acts from the West Coast. This was the birth of “Turn Up” music or Mumble Rap as we know it today. Many names had success during this period such as T.I, Paul Wall and Lil Jon who we fondly remember; And artists like The Ying Yang Twins, Dem Franchise Boyz and Young Dro who we may not. But there was one rapper who stood out from the rest, the self-proclaimed greatest rapper of all time, Lil’ Wayne.
Affiliated to Cash Money records as a nine year old, Wayne was quietly making waves in southern hip hop through his teens and landed his first platinum albums at age 17, as part of the Hot Boyz’ Guerilla Warfare and with his solo debut Tha Block Is Hot that same year (1999). His popularity continued to increase at the turn of the century with releases such as Tha Carter being heralded as classics. All this momentum led to Tha Carter III in 2008, which is for many the pinnacle of his artistry, as here Weezy F Baby demonstrated the mix of utilising autotune and slurred/mumbled lyrics with catchy melodies that would give birth to much of the mumble rap we hear today. Some modern rap fans affectionately refer to this pre-Tha Carter IV material as “Mixtape Wayne” due to the rappers habit of releasing at least 2 or 3 mixtapes every year, demonstrating a ferocious work ethic. Also, this reference is made to draw a line between the music he produced in this time, which the majority of listeners enjoyed, and a large portion of his work including and after Tha Carter IV which has received negative feedback.
Songs such as “A Milli” and “Lollipop”showcased the best of what we would see Wayne produce in his career, with the latter going to number one on the US Billboard Hot 100, US Rap and US R&B charts. It is stemming from his work up until this point that he can be seen as the Father to much of the mumble rap in modern music, with artists ranging from Future, Young Thug and even 2 Chainz all the way down to newer names like Lil Yachty and Lil Uzi Vert all benefitting from a little Wayne influence. Whilst there will always be exceptions and those who stylistically are outside of the Wayne family tree, even the likes of Drake (Signed by Lil Wayne back in 2009) and Kendrick Lamar (Recorded an entire mixtape dedicated to Wayne’s Tha Carter series) can’t escape the Weezy bloodline thus making him influential in most of popular rap by influence or interaction.
Despite this, it’s become increasingly difficult to argue that the quality of his work post Tha Carter IV hasn’t been on a downward slide. The less said about Rebirth, his ill-fated detour into what only can be loosely described as rock music (I wouldn’t want to do the genre a disservice like that) the better, and thus we now exist in a strange place where the once legendary rapper is now a synonym for substandard, cringeworthy metaphors and general below par work in general. I myself, fondly remember Tha Carter III and wonder how on Earth we got here from that? Either way, it is hard to speak against the tremendous influence of Lil Wayne regardless of the quality of his releases now. If we’re being honest, in terms of legacy, he should at least be on the level of a Jay-Z. Here’s to hoping his new tape, Funeral sees him return to form.
Verdict on Lil Wayne aka Weezy F Baby – The F is for “F*ck, you used to be so good!”