Making it Wayne: A Post-Prison Appreciation

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Published March 29, 2011

 

PHOTO BY BJARNE JONASSON

Since Lil Wayne got out of jail, less than six months ago, the hard-working rapper has appeared on more than two dozen releases. While the Internet is a big place, it still doesn’t give us quite enough room to discuss all of that voluminous output in the detail in deserves, so we’ve included a list of the ever-expanding Lil Wayne oeuvre below. If you’re a true fan and have, say, a full weekend with nothing but some nice speakers, chronic, and time to kill, you will be richly rewarded to explore it all. But here are some of his post-prison highlights:

 

 

 

DJ Khaled’s “Welcome To My Hood” pits the people versus the police in a jam as celebratory as it is mournful: the song is about being rich in a world of poverty and police brutality—and manages to make that sound kinda fun, frankly. Weezy begins his verse by acknowledging that being on lockdown wasn’t all that glamorous (“bitch, I’m on probation, so my nerves bad”) and addressing his former captors directly: “Tell the warden kiss my ass.” He wheezes out his lines in a typical helium-pinched croak, sounding sleep deprived but still witty: “Bitch, I’m from the murder capital/ ho, I’m far from practical.” DJ Khaled, T-Pain, Rick Ross and Plies do their best to give him a run for his money, but the Martian easily steals the show.

 

 

 

“We Back Soon” has an almost suicidally dark vibe, without even the slightest hint of joy to leaven it. The song is a dreary, druggy statement of survival (“been to hell and back, and made it back fine,” Wayne mutters) and you can hear him wincing. The lyric is largely about smoking weed, but the attitude is more like methadone: a man trying to stand up and sound defiant despite the feeling of impending assault coming from all directions. There’s something so true about it, it makes your ears stare.

 

 

 

“If I Die Today” features Rick Ross and some squiggly analog synthesizers, and finds Weezy in a more romantic mode (“I’m fucking her good, she got her legs on my neck / I get pussy, mouth and ass, call that bitch triple threat / When I was in jail she let me call her collect / But if she get greedy, I’m-a starve her to death”). Coming from Weezy, that’s virtually a Hallmark card.  But the emotional heart of the song is a line in the “hook” (though it is far from what most people would consider a hook—and could only be considered a chorus because it happens to be repeated more than once) when Weezy croaks out a hint at just where he sees himself in the pantheon of entertainers: “If I die today, remember me like John Lennon.” All you need is love, indeed.

 

 

 

One of Wayne’s strongest post-prison singles is the remix of “Hustle Hard,” on which he follows verses by Ace Hood and Rick Ross with the urgency of a player just released from the bench. (Or prison. Whatever.) The track has a relentless hammering energy, with a sparse piano phrase providing a nearly blank canvas against which Weezy sounds like a man desperate to retake his spot at the top of the world. It’s a purely materialistic call to action, but Wayne whines out lines against a bruising, nihilistic beat produced by Lex Luger, making it feel like life is about more than just money—indeed, at moments his hunger verges on cannibalism: “I eat these rappers, Anthony Hopkins.” And it’s as delicious as it sounds.

 

 

Perhaps the most personally revealing song he has ever recorded, “I Hate Love” ranks among the more startlingly honest expressions of a broken heart in hip-hop history. Behind all the bragging and bling, Wayne tells a tale of being psychologically shipwrecked, virtually screaming out his words in a voice hoarse with depression, insomnia and shock. And maybe that’s why we love him. Because in a world flooded with bullet-proof hardness, he occasionally dares to express a vulnerability that verges on being totally vanquished. And while it’s hard to hear, that’s keeping it realer than real.

Got time for more? Check out these recent Lil Wayne records:

“Motivation,” Kelly Rowland feat. Lil Wayne“Fire Flame (Remix),” Birdman feat. Lil Wayne“Roman’s Revenge 2.0,” Nicki Minaj feat. Lil Wayne“Look At Me Now,” Chris Brown feat. Lil Wayne and Busta Rhymes“Six Foot, Seven Foot,” Lil Wayne feat. Cory Gunz“Hoes & Ladies” T-Wayne (T-Pain and Lil Wayne)“Fuck You,” Slim Thug feat. Lil Wayne“Can A Drummer Get Some (Remix),” Travis Barker feat. Lil Wayne, Swizz Beatz, Game, and Rick Ross“All Of The Lights (Remix),” Kanye West feat. Lil Wayne, Big Sean, and Drake“Grenade (Remix),” Bruno Mars feat. Lil Wayne“Rock N Roll,” Swizz Beatz feat. Lil Wayne and Lenny Kravitz“Hit The Lights,” Jay Sean feat. Lil Wayne“Someone To Love Me (Remix),” Mary J. Blige feat. Lil Wayne and Diddy“Strobe Lights,” Diddy-Dirty Money feat. Lil Wayne“Soo Woo,” Game feat. Lil Wayne“Money In My Pocket (Remix),” Short Dawg feat. Lil Wayne“Green And Yellow,” Lil Wayne“Miss That Pussy,” Lloyd feat. Lil Wayne“Bow Chicka Wow Wow (Remix),” Mike Posner feat. Lil Wayne“Red Nation,” Game feat. Lil Wayne“Love Affair,” Lil Twist feat. Lil Wayne