A few words in defense of Lil Wayne

Published 10:20 am Friday, June 27, 2008

Here at the Modern Age, Im known to have a fixation with hip hop music. Most of my columns have a Hot Jam of the Week, and if you see me in public, theres a pretty good chance that Im sporting a t-shirt bearing the emblem of one of my favorite groups, the Wu-Tang Clan. In my car, there is an entire CD booklet filled with rap albums from artists such as the aforementioned Wu-Tang Clan, Jay-Z, Kanye West, and Mos Def. But the newest album in that disc dossier is an album by the name of Tha Carter III by none other than Lil Wayne.
For those of you who dont really know who Lil Wayne is, he has proclaimed himself the Best Rapper Alive, and the majority of hip hop fans are prone to agree. His inventive, free-associative rhymes, coupled with his distinctive, imaginative voice have made him one of the most original rappers to emerge in the twenty-first century. Unlike some rappers such as Jay-Z, whose favorite topic is himself and how much he rules, Waynes unafraid to talk about anything under the sun, be it boastful, his crush on the songstress Ciara, thoughtful analyses of male-female relations, or jokey verses filled with punchlines such as You cant get on my level. Youd need a spaceship or a ladder thats forever. His work ethic is well-documentedin 2007, he recorded over 300 tracks. Think a combination of Tupac Shakur and Keith Richardsan immeasurably talented and prolific artist, but the public consensus is that he wont live past the age of twenty-seven. Rumored to be addicted to, oddly enough, prescription cough syrup, Waynes voice has been ravaged by something, be it drugs, tobacco, or just a cough that wont go away. This guy doesnt speak; he croaks like a frog.
On the other hand, Lil Wayne may be the greatest genius to bless the rap world since the RZA bought his first sampler. He is the consummate rock star in a world where that sort of behavior is becoming increasingly discouraged. In his concerts he is lowered onstage in a cage and plays electric guitar in a semi-terrible but also exuberantly charming manner, and lives his life in the ultra-fast lane, all while concocting gargantuan singles such as Lollipop, an eerie song that sounds like the soundtrack to life on the moon.
Speaking of aliens, on his new album, Weezy has a song called Phone Home, which re-imagines the rapper as a Martian, which is a good metaphor for Waynes persona, which is completely alien to the hip hop world. DeWayne Carter, as hes known to his mother, is a very private person who generally does not enjoy having the details of his personal life leaked to the public. He is a student at the University of Houston, a loving father, and a philanthropist, working to restore New Orleans, his hometown, to its former glory after the Hurricane Katrina disaster while publicly cultivating an image of himself as a hard-living hustler with a few screws loose up in his head.
The public image that Carter projects is thrown into stark contrast with some of the songs on Tha Carter III, such as Tie My Hands, which offers a sense of hope to the residents of New Orleans without getting preachy, while admonishing the Bush administration for its mismanagement of the Katrina situation. Other tracks, such as Dr. Carter, focus on the art of rapping and what makes someone a creative force, while DontGetIt, which samples Nina Simones version of Dont Let Me Be Misunderstood, waxes political on racial profiling and why Al Sharpton, to put it lightly, is a self-important windbag.
So who is the real DeWayne Carter? Is he a hedonistic party animal with a gift for rap or a thoughtful, introspective artist who works hard to better himself, his craft, and others? My guess is that, much like everything in life, the answer lies somewhere in between the two extremes. I think that Lil Wayne wants to keep us guessing, and with Tha Carter III, hes succeeded.
A quick note to my readers: Im still taking submissions for my upcoming advice column, Bad Advice with Drew Millard. Please e-mail your questionsno matter the topic, be it gardening, relationships, or why rap music is awesometo me at texmex00@gmail.com.

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