by Joseph Bonney
“Lollipop” was the first Lil Wayne song that I heard, it was also the first hip-hop song that engraved my love for hip-hop. It captured me in a way that no other song had done before. It had this dirty south/grimey vibe mixed with a pop club sound that resonated with me in a different way than most songs. Since then, Wayne has gone from hip-hop rockstar, to the new underdog: Getting Platinum records and pushing his artist like Drake, Nicki Minaj, and Tyga (who has left the label); to going to prison, having many episodic seizures, and the continous legal battle between former ally Birdman. But as of late I keep asking myself how will Wayne be remembered? Does he deserve more respect then he gets?
“Lil Wayne is still my favorite rapper” Says Chance the Rapper in a tweet to a fan. You can hear Wayne’s influence in most rappers flow, lyricism, style, etc. “ Wayne is still fun.” ASAP Rocky states in an interview, “are we forgetting that Wayne made everybody switch their flow up and start using the E’s and R’s, and ‘I’m ir-regul-ar, seg-ular’? Like, c’mon, are we forgetting that Wayne changed hip-hop, too?”. Wayne is a wordplay juggernaut that put some of the best rappers to shame, and he made it sound fun at the same time. I’ll tell friends about a new Wayne song or verse, and the consensus is usually the same, “he’s was better during Tha Carter 3”, “I can’t get into Wayne”, “*Insert conscious rapper* is way better than Wayne!”. I will admit as a lyricist Wayne is great, but he is not the storytelling, activist that other rappers like Kendrick Lamar and J.Cole are . But Wayne was never that. On songs like “Shooter” off Tha Carter 2 he will share a glimpse of his disgust toward radio stations treatment southern rappers “And to the radio stations/ I'm tired of being patient/ Stop being rapper racists, region-haters”, yet he didn’t dwell on it. He wasn’t a philosopher, he is a wordsmith who knows how choose the right words in the right place which makes him fun!
Though at the same time, Wayne can be irresponsible with his image. There’s the obvious: the eight month jail stint he served in Rikers Island on gun charges, for example, something that many fans championed him for being a true “gangster”. He famously rapped a line about Emmett Till on a Future song that brought so much bad media attention his way, that he lost his sponsorship with Mountain Dew. Even recently (November 2nd 2016) in an interview with CNN he stated “I don't feel connected to a damn thing that ain't got nothin' to do with me” in reference to the Black Lives Matters movement. I have personal qualms with aspects of Black Lives Matter, but to disregard a movement because it doesn’t touch you personally is disrespectful to his own race. I know he didn’t mean it in a malicious sense, but he could’ve handled his response better. Plus, Wayne is trying to be an entrepreneur like his idol Jay-Z, and has started different business ventures like Trukfit clothing, Young Money Sports, and even a mobile game called “Sqvad Up”. He needs to know how to protect his image and brand.
Now back to today, Lil Wayne is having legal troubles with Bryan “Birdman” Williams, CEO of Cash Money Records and a former father figure. Birdman discovered Wayne when he was a child struggling to have a sufficient life with his single mother. Birdman started Cash Money Records in 1991 with his brother Ronald “Slim” Williams. Though they started the label with native New Orleans artists, Lil Wayne took Cash Money Records to new heights. Wayne stayed on when other popular artists, like Juvenile, left Cash Money, and brought it to an unforeseen height with his record Tha Carter 3 (2008).
That album - with songs like “A Milli”, “Got Money”, and “Mrs. Officer” - revived the label like a phoenix and led to the birth of a new era. Things were smooth until 2015, when it came time to drop Wayne’s next album, Tha Carter V. Universal Records and Birdman refused to drop the album, and Wayne never received the advance for the album. In the two years since, things have not improved. Wayne filed a court order against Birdman and Universal Records and severed his connection with his former mentor and Cash Money.
The drawback to this is Wayne has lost funding from his parent label. This has led to dropping mixtapes and touring at festivals and nightclubs instead of the large stadiums, like Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena, that he played at the height of his career. It has people wondering if this is it for Wayne. Rick Ross stated “Us seeing Lil Wayne’s [situation] and suffering from that, I think we kind of all got used to it. I think the culture has fucking accepted that Wayne would not put out another album. And that’s not the way the game [should be]. That’s not the way we designed this. That’s not the way this is supposed to be.”
As a fan of Wayne, I agree with Rozay, Tha Carter V has become the new Detox, but not in a good way. Millions of Wayne’s fans are waiting for a gladiator-style return, when he drops an album that annihilates every other fighter in the arena. For now, however, we get endless features, the occasional project (like Sorry 4 the Wait 2, Dedication 5, and the T-Pain leaked T-Wayne), and endless promises that something will come out soon. Birdman has gone on record multiple times stating that Tha Carter V is coming out at the end of 2017. I would like to think this isn’t the end, and hope he’s able to make the comeback he deserves.
Joseph Bonney is a writer, artist, hip-hop enthusiast, and gamer currently living in San Marcos,Texas. A recent English graduate with an Art/Design minor, when he's not working, he's usually doing 1 of the 4, or eating. Follow him on Instagram: @joebonesart