Monday, August 15, 2011

Lil Wayne: A Critique of a Culture

I'm not a fan. Now that that small fact is out of the way I can say that I do admire the man's hustle and the twinkle in his eye when he's doing what he loves; he's got a way with words that make people feel smarter when they get his metaphors which I think is admirable. Hell, before him, none too many dudes knew what metaphors were, so I definitely respect that. However...something is missing lately in his rhymes.

For that paragraph up there, I often get looked at as "that one girl." You know, that one girl who's always a bit different; she's always reading and using four syllable words. She's always listening to "alternative" music. The snooty black girl. A musical purist/elitist. And yeah...I can kind of see that; but I still have a point.

Take for instance the new leaked single, "She Will" with Drake. Yes, I'm Aubrey biased, but at the same time I can listen objectively ("Marvin's Room" was shallow, sappy and pointless - see? I can be honest.). "She Will" has sick production; it has a throw back 90s West Coast vibe with trilling bells layered under the bass; the bass is going to boom in cars across America at all times of the day and night, I can already feel it. Then the strings add a bit of an eerie feel, bringing the vibe down to make the song feel heavier; they make it feel like the words over the music have weight to them.

And then you listen to the lyrics and it sounds like everything he's ever said in a song before. Disjointed ideas with witty punchlines doesn't make a great song. Interesting, sure, but not so much as engaging as it would be if there were a common thread between each set of 16.

"She Will" is (I'm guessing) about what a girl will do when you've got all the money and influence behind you, but throughout the song the "she" takes a backseat (no pun intended) until Drake's hook (which is debatably about either a stripper, or Nicki Minaj or Nicki Minaj stripping?) which isn't in the least surprising as Drake tends to put a lot of focus on the woman - positively or negatively is debatable as well.

 The "she" is an afterthought, kind of like all the items and imagery sprinkled throughout the song; "she" is just another thing to acquire along the way and forget about in the end. The song is just a front, in my opinion, for Wayne to boast about himself and what women will do for him. And like that, it's just like every hip-pop song I've ever heard by him.

You want a sum of up the song in a few sentences? He's blind to the criticism. He gets b*tches. He's got a preoccupation about his soul going on, hence his preoccupation with hell and heaven imagery and the thin line of "life" between the two. He's the man right now in rap. He gets money. And oh yeah, he gets b*tches.

It's not so much Wayne (really) but what he reps that I have a problem with. An artist being good at what he's good at isn't a crime; it isn't like I want a painter to pick up a mic and spit something awesome. It's not that he himself is a self-absorbed poser (*cough cough*) but his obnoxious followers (fans) typically are. You disagree that Wayne is the greatest rapper alive and you don't know hip-hop. You don't think Young Money is taking over the world, you don't know hip-hop. You don't pop it for a real dude to a YM beat, and you don't represent hip-hop. And there's where I find my problem.

I am hip-hop. I'm jazz, alternative, pop... but more than anything, I'm hip-hop. Hip-hop is innovative and broad; it takes from many cultures and styles to make up an array of interesting and unique mixtures that shouldn't work, but do. I can't say that Wayne is the greatest alive, because I haven't heard every rapper in the world. I can't say YM is taking over the world because I don't think any company has captured the world the way Bad Boy circa 1996 did. And I don't pop my booty (in public or otherwise) to music I think demeans me.

I am my own person. I have my own thoughts. I love hip-hop...but I don't love hip-pop, or it's current leader, Lil Wayne.*

*You know who the exception is; I'm not ashamed to be a girl with a crush :P.


Wu Young said...

I'm not a Wayne fan. At. All. I get what he does but it's not my preferred mainstream rap of choice. My boys and I had a conversation about Wayne being the best garbage rapper ever. His fans are rabid but you're right about fans being that way. Overall I think I'm just to old for Wayne and his crew. I'm sure a lot of folks don't like my favorite emcee but that's cool.

*side note* I don't know why I don't like Drake but I don't. I've actually spent a great deal of time pondering this too.

Tes said...

I think the blind following of the fans as a whole, not the fans individually, and the lack of any innovation or free thought on their part is what makes Wayne seem so...whatever/blah. To me anyway. That and the fact he's saying the same thing today he said years ago...that gets boring when you really listen.

*to the side note* Not a lot of dudes openly like Drake, but they can recall a few of his lines here and there when it suits them. As a 20 year old woman with a thing for black men and Jewish men who are relatively smarter than their peers and slightly sensitive? Aubrey Drake definitely sweetens my tea. :)

Wu Young said...

Like I told Ms. Moneypenny at breakfast on Saturday when Wayne came up. "Rap about whatever you like but don't bore me." Wayne, Ross et al bore me.

Drakes a Jew? I guess that the problem, I'm not in his target demo.