THERE'S A CERTAIN sort of romantic rock fan who idolizes the figure of the perfectionist recluse, the Brian Wilson or D'Angelo who retreats to the studio womb and births a masterpiece (or loses his marbles trying). But that sort of mystification of the creative act overlooks how workaday the process of artmaking can be. Moreover, it ignores the strain of rock artistry that attempts to integrate craft and the production-line ethos--the tradition that thrills to stories of Holland-Dozier-Holland being given two hours to scrape together a B-side for Martha and the Vandellas.
Given that tradition, Mannie Fresh just might be the greatest living American artist. The playful Cash Money auteur brags in interviews of his ability to churn out jittery tracks in less than half an hour, and while his compositions are hardly flawless, he keeps horns, guitars, and keyboards dodging around each other with amazing dexterity. This being hip hop, of course, he has some loquacious kid chattering empty boasts up top. In this case, the voice belongs to one Lil Wayne--who is not to be confused, I don't think, with Lil Zane, Lil Buddy, Lil Kim, or Lil Hardin.
Lyrically, Wayne goes deeper into the finer points of street-slinging than anyone but his potential competitors might find of interest. But the opening track here, "Get off the Corner," offers the kind of tension-packed street drama most gangstas are too lazy to craft.
The computer-savvy amongst us might just download that gem from a source that will remain nameless. (It starts with an "N" and ends with an "apster.") After all, it's not like either Wayne or Fresh needs the cash. I'm sure that Lights Out has already sold enough to keep him in as much ice, whips, and other accouterments as befit a thug of his stature--er, I mean, accomplishments.