At this point, Gimme Noise has almost nothing invested in Lil Wayne.
This is a politically and culturally volatile -- even sacrilegious -- thing to say, I know, and there are lots of critics at City Pages who will vehemently disagree. For these people -- people who took I Am Not A Human Being and We Are Young Money seriously, without irony -- every verse and remix and mixtape and posse cut which Weezy graces with his presence is deserving of a deep reading at the very least, if not outright canonization. But c'mon, no fronting, really? This guy is really deserving of the earthbound-deity treatment?
[jump] Chart dominance and an avalanche critical co-signs made him arrogant and lazy. Where's the inventiveness, the urgency, the cracked-out, sizzup-sloshed spectacle, the quest to redefine rap's parameters? For me - and, I suspect, for a lot of fans -- Lil Wayne became interesting around Da Drought 3 and fell off circa Da Hottest Nigga Under The Sun. The autistic genius of a "A Milli" gave way to the heavy-lidded wank of "Right Above It."
Jail is no joke, but for the sake of Weezy's career specifically and rap generally, we should all give thanks for his imprisonment. Now, of course, he's out, and back in the studio; yesterday, a remix of Birdman's "Fire Flame" with fresh-outta-lockup Wayne verses leaked.
So what's the verdict?
Curfews, solitary confinement, and crap rations appear to have done Wayne a much-needed solid.
First, the beat. It's massive and stomping, recalling "Fireman" from Tha Carter II; even as it replaces the infernally epic scrunchie-syntheszier effects with infernally epic stuttered organs, it's a melodic match, probably intentionally so. The catchy-as-HIV "fire flame" chorus refrain reinforces this theory. Canny of Birdman/Wayne to draw that particular parallel right out of the prison gates.
Wayne comes daft, if not dementedly daft. There's no attempt to sidestep the penitentiary elephant in the room; Weezy jumps on his back. "Fresh off of my bid," he asserts, before breaking into a pop-cultural pun: "I Lucille ball/Bitch, I Love Lucy." Then he's deliciously all over the map, indirectly comparing himself and the rap game to Michael Vick and dead fighting dogs, suggesting that we may have hallucinated his absence or overvalued its significance ("And they say time is of the essence, but what if that clock is wrong?"), empathizing with Rubix cubes and blowtorches searing wax; after Birdman's forgettable verse, he's back, with better metaphors ("pockets so deep it's like my money gotta swim out").
A classic? Nah. But the hunger and rabid determination are palpable; you can tell he was totally sober when he cut that. Tt's sort of like (the admittedly superior) "Roman's Revenge"; it's an acknowledgment of better things to come, a promisory note of sorts. It's enough for me to want to give Wayne one more chance to be my favorite rapper.