Hip Hop Culture for Grown-Ups
Words by Tony Grands
No matter how you angle it, Lil Wayne is a rap music legend. Anyone who claims to have never liked him as a rapper at some point or another is lying to you & themselves.You may not agree with his perception & portrayal of life as he sees it, but that’s another story. In regards to recognition & respect for his musical output & artistic ability, his is definitely a name that will never be erased from the hallowed halls of Hip Hop heroism, however vapid they may eventually become.
Lil Wayne is quietly the exception to many unspoken rap world nuances, including successfully running his record label, & avoiding the curse that plagued virtually every “child” rapper before him. Wayne withstood the literal test of time & upon completion of his somewhat forgettable label roster, seemed to emerge victorious amidst – or at least an even match with – his contemporaries. But, after years of dedication & omnipresent ring kissing, his fan base’s lustful clamor has become groans of exhaustion & sighs of contemplated disappointment. One has to wonder where all the love went.
It’s true that rap fans are notoriously fickle, infamous for becoming turncoats at the first sign of their favorite rapper’s deviation, but what Wayne is accomplishing may be the first time ever that an artist, rap or otherwise, has somehow managed to [re]convert his legion away from him.
With the recent release of his Gangsta Grillz-powered mixtape, Dedication 4, it’s apparent that Wayne’s approval numbers are reaching an all-time low. Within hours of it’s online release, scant verses were copied & pasted to social networks for ridicule & blind criticism wallpapered the internet. If this was to be his moment of salvation, he may have to settle for a swan song instead, since according to the horse’s mouth, he’s taking a break from rapping to concentrate on skateboarding anyway.
Legend has it that, with Wayne’s last visit to Rikers Island he rebuked his narcotic demons & focused on a sober future. Luckily for him, he apparently passed the majority of his court-mandated drug tests & was eventually freed from his tax-funded enslavement. Unluckily for us, however, is the fact that the once-lyrically agile Wayne’s brain was now devoid of the imaginary universes & parallel dimensions that he once ruled with syrup & smoke-scented breath. In those worlds, he was like a god amongst smaller rappers, & without hesitation, he bellowed this belief to the heavens. But now, much like people said I was immediately following my release from rehab, he’s drab, drowsy, a former shell of his drug-addled, verbally cantankerous, “best rapper alive” self.
For awhile, people hoped, wished, prayed, & hinged themselves upon the fact that maybe that Wayne will return. But alas, with every Trukfit reference & skate jargon-riddled tweet, he moves further & farther away from those memories.
The Gang Bang Veteran
Even though I’m (almost) positive that Lil Wayne’s Blood gang propaganda is responsible for countless acts of ignorance & atrocity, it’s easily one of the odder, strangely recognizable career moves that he’s made as of yet. Whether or not he’s as genuine & authentic with the activity & dealings as he claims to be has yet to be publicly seen, but he sure puts himself in harm’s way reasonlessly if not.
Years ago, claiming a gang that you didn’t belong to could get you enemies from both parties, & that never ended well. Perhaps it’s just a sign of the times, & gang culture is now a legitimized subset of mainstream America, thanks to Lil Wayne & the other elitists who can afford to start wars because they’ll never have to fight in them.
It’s no secret that people love violence, it’s what the red in the American flag symbolizes (don’t quote me). But to give basic instructional tutorials on something as point specific as gang banging (the genocidal, fratricidal kind, not the porn one) over music is a pretty low down tactic of mass manipulation, if you ask me. & that’s word to whatever conspiracy theorist newsletter you subscribe to.
For the most part, this argument has been nullified by the fact that all throughout Hip Hop history, men have donned feminine-esque apparel. & while this is indeed true (for most genres of music, actually), it was a stark contrast to the Lil Wayne who we’d grown to love & respect. Even after the infamous picture of him kissing Baby Williams, the rap community gave him a pass because, c’mon, he was Lil Wayne.
Slowly, Timberland boots became space kicks, & not only did the masculine baggy jeans get less baggy, but have arguably even become spandex in some instances, a material that should only touch men’s skin in regards to sports.
Even though it’s not a hot topic of discussion nowadays, Wayne’s cross-dressing became a distraction for him AND his fans.
Picked Up The Guitar
Wayne’s proverbial guitar grab of 2010 (Rebirth) was symbolic of the direction he was headed with his life as a musician.
We all know he couldn’t really play that damn thing, & much like Rick Ross when asked whether he was once an honest man with a legal job, Wayne shucked & jived & fronted for the cameras, insulting our collective intelligence one cheesy grin at a time. Not soon after he picked up a guitar, he picked up a skateboard, & the rest is
history a work still in progress.
Lil Wayne, the business man, saw Drake as a bonafied opportunity to jump into the future of Hip Hop & rap music & stake his claim to a portion of it. Like any good record executive should. As quickly as Drake’s name became engulfed in the perpetual hellflames of urban music, Lil Wayne was there, standing next to him with a smile on his face, a pen in his hand, & dollar signs wafting in his cornea(s). Lil Wayne, the rapper, probably had no idea how much he would have to step up his game in order to compete with the one artist in rap who is – arguably – as popular (if not more so) than he is, though.
Traditionally, rapper CEO’s hand pick their henchmen accordingly, but as swiftly as Drake started shouting, “Young Money!” it’d become clear that he was no henchman, but a star that would eventually blaze brighter than his boss’. This type of anti-symbiotic atmosphere can perpetuate two things: Wayne can get more competitive or get lazy & complacent. I’m not crediting Drake’s sonic superiority for dismantling Wayne’s ambition, but I wouldn’t have ever guessed that Drake would be making claims that he hasn’t gotten paid yet, either. Stranger things have happened.
Stay tuned for the post I drop when Wayne announces a partnership with some upstart game developer for his skateboard/adventure
video game digital simulator.
Words by Tony Grands