Once upon a time in a universe far, far away, HipHopDX used to host blogs. Through Meka, Brillyance, Aliya Ewing and others, readers got unfiltered opinions on the most current topics in and beyond Hip Hop. After a few years, a couple redesigns and the collective vision of three different Editors-In-Chief, blogs are back. Sort of. Since our blog section went the way of two-way pagers and physical mixtapes, Twitter, Instagram and Ustream have further accelerated the pace of current events in Hip Hop. Rappers beef with each other 140 characters at a time, entire mixtapes (and their associated artwork) can be released via Instagram, and sometimes these events require a rapid reaction.
As such, we’re reserving this space for a weekly reaction to Hip Hop’s current events. Or whatever else we deem worthy. And the “we” in question this week is myself, Andre Grant, and freelance writer Ural Garrett. I serve as HipHopDX’s Features Staff. Aside from tackling stray topics, I may invite artists and other personalities in Hip Hop to join the conversation. Without further delay, here’s this week’s “Stray Shots.”
What’s Really Eating Lil Wayne?
Ural: Weezy F. Baby’s fall from grace within Cash Money as an artist has been a long time coming. Post Tha Carter III, many have called into question the quality and impact of Lil Wayne’s music. Outside of 2009’s No Ceilings, everything from his half-assed attempt at Rap/Rock through Rebirth and on to I Am Not A Human Being II all feel forgettable. It doesn’t help that Tunechi essentially molded two of music’s most revered acts in Drake and Nicki Minaj as well. For someone who once proclaimed themselves as “the best rapper alive,” it’s clear whatever fire lit under him has dissipated.
No one understands that more than Wayne’s mentor, father figure and label boss Baby a.k.a. Birdman. In fact from a business standpoint, not releasing Tha Carter V in this current industry climate makes perfect sense. None of the first several of singles from the project have charted well or even made anyone of importance’ “best of” this year. “Believe Me” featuring Drake is serviceable. However, it’s nowhere near the brilliance of Drake’s solo “0-100.” Even more radio orientated tracks like the god-awful Christina Milian assisted “Start a Fire” can’t touch Minaj’s roll-out of “Anaconda.” From an artist standpoint, the two artist he had a hand in catapulting have lapped him which leads to the point that no-one wants to either recognize or admit. Yes, there’s a complete lack of faith in Tha Carter V and Wayne himself hasn’t figured that out yet. Then there’s the hype around Young Thug, someone clearly cut from Weezy’s template and the current eye of Baby’s affection.
Those with a full understanding of Cash Money’s history with artists, especially Juvenile, Mannie Fresh and BG, have wondered for years what kept Wayne on the label. Baby and Wayne have had a special relationship that seemed untouchable. Last week’s Tweets and the rant during Vice’s 20th Anniversary shattered that image. It’s almost similar to how the elevator brawl between Solange and Jay Z broke up Beyonce’s perfect public perception.
Maybe it’ll get worse before things get better for the creator of the term “bling bling.” From a Hip Hop perspective, it was pretty interesting when Q-Tip made the announcement that Wayne was becoming a member of the Zulu Nation. Though many were baffled by the news, one could take an optimistic approach. Could this be the start of a new era or re-invention of Lil Wayne? Time can only tell. Right now, he’s at a career cross-road.
Almost a week later Dr. Carter delivers a cryptic tweet of “YM! That’s it. Nothing Else” leaves a lot of questions. Is Wayne be on his way to taking Young Money to another label? Did Baby and Wayne squash whatever issues were at hand? Regardless, all of Hip Hop is watching.
Andre: Entertainment, for the most part, is smoke and mirrors. And so relationships within the entertainment sphere are almost always fraught and fragile, with only the appearance of a solid foundation anchoring it’s weight. So it was a lesson in how quickly things can fall apart based on appearances. Especially if the person airing their grievance is Lil Wayne. But what’s eating him? His recent kicking of the “lean” habit that killed Pimp C was shaping up into a fairly solid 2014. The old Wayne seemed to be making his way back to the fore as he cleaned up nice on Young Money’s record this year Young Money: Rise Of An Empire. And “Believe Me” was more than servicable. Drake and Wayne Ken and Ryu’d that beast to the forefront of your mind. And, most importantly, the old Wayne reared his head again and he didn’t sound like he couldn’t keep up with his younger, more spry protege´. All that said, I was looking forward to Tha Carter V as Tunechi’s re-emergerence. His version of MJ’s ’94 – ’98 run. A second three-peat for the resident joker of the Rap game.
Because, and let’s be honest, Lil Wayne has as much to do with todays current Rap climate as Kanye. Think of how each of his persona’s have been carefully bitten by rappers looking to seem fun, wonky, and non sequitur. Think back to Kendrick Lamar‘s ’09 material wherein he sounds eerily like Lil Wayne on tracks like “Best Rapper Under 25” and “Compton Chemistry.” Wayne is a person you must go through, then, if you aren’t obsessed with sounding like you have amazing Rap taste because you only listen to B.I.G., ‘Pac, and other 90s staples. If the 2000’s were your bag then it’s Em’, Wayne, Kanye and Hov’ (at least in spurts) for you. The emphasis on “turn-up,” the bars you can’t really understand but are like a language all to themselves (Rich Homie Quan, Young Thug), the bubbly effervescence and cool weirdo raps (Lil B, the hipster Trap/Rap Atlanta scene). At his prime, Wayne was the cross-road where weird, fun, and lyrical met. He is in a category of rappers whose enduring style and charisma may have even outpaced him. A rarity.
The situation at Cash Money has always seemed funny style. Every so often someone comes out to say they never got paid fo this or that hit single, that Baby never apologized or just showed a callous disregard for his fellow man with the way he treated them. And that graveyard? That course is as deep as it is wide. Here’s the real question: what will happen to Cash Money if Wayne takes off? Do we honestly believe the unpolished and largely untested Young Thug can replace him? Not even close.
Ural Garrett is an Los Angeles-based writer and photographer. For the past several years, he’s written for numerous publications ranging from HipHopDX to SoulTrain. When not covering music, video games, films and the community at large, he’s in the kitchen baking like Anita. Follow him on Twitter @Uralg.
Andre Grant is an NYC native turned L.A. transplant that has contributed to a few different properties on the web and is now the Features Editor for HipHopDX. He’s also trying to live it to the limit and love it a lot. Follow him on Twitter @drejones.