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On Lil Wayne and Future and Hip-hop Authenticity

Rap game ouroboros

If you pay attention to the Rap Internet, you are probably up to your elbows in people slinging the term "appropriation," mostly in the context of the Harlem Shake meme. Even more loosely, people have been talking about what the idea of "ownership" in hip-hop actually, like, means these days. If you want to get caught up to quite literally the rhetorical end of it, just read The New York Times's Jon Caramanica's piece from last week, "A Hip-Hop Moment, but Is It Authentic," which basically explains that rap music is a land of messy boundaries that are becoming more and more blurred, and no amount of finger-wagging and thinkpiecing is going to change anything.

And that's fine, because appropriation is something that goes on every day in hip-hop and is indeed something to be noticed and thought about, but not necessarily criticized. So instead of thinking about Baauer and how he's single-handedly ending the idea of pop music as we know it, let's think about Lil Wayne and his new video for "Love Me," featuring men of the moment Future and Drake double-teaming a hook for a song that is loosely about getting double-teamed by as many girls as humanly possible.

Lest we forget, a large chunk of why the Rap Internet even exists is because of the prolific output of Lil Wayne. In what could be termed his "mixtape era," he fell into ubiquity by using the Internet to give away as much awesome music as humanly possible. He was quite literally the Rapper Eater, destroying everything in his path, be it a beat or a rapper who had the unfortunate luck to show up on a track with him. People started talking about him, because he deserved to be talked about, and they talked about him (and other prodigious talents) on the very Internet that spawned him.

As he worked too hard all these years to establish, Lil Wayne is not a human being. He is more powerful and stranger than hip-hop, or even time itself. These days, he's become a Rapper Eater in the worst possible way, existing in a Gollum-like deathlessness where he subsides off of other rappers, lean, and rudimentary skateboard tricks. I am Not a Human Being 2, his upcoming album, quite plainly asserts this fact in its title. And where he once gleefully feasted on the flesh of his competition, now he merely absorbs them, expelling their husks so that he may live another day.

Wayne in many ways is one of the progenitors of Future's style, specifically the strung-out robot vocal thing that Future does so well. But now, Future is, well, the future of that style, and Lil Wayne is not. So instead of forging ahead, Wayne simply put out a Future song in "Love Me." The track originally showed up on Future's FBG: The Movie mixtape, and finds Wayne going back to the Futuresque well, riding a sublime beat by frequent Future collaborator Mike WiLL Made It, and in the process nicking a style that he himself helped pioneer. It's a similar move to what Kanye West has often done: Find the hot act, suck them in and then invert them in an attempt to prove you can do what they do, only better. Writing of West's warping of a Lex Luger beat for "H.A.M.," Alex Pappademas at Grantland said, "By buying a rising Virginia producer's beat and then tricking it out like the Sistine Helicarrier, Kanye was borrowing a little of Lex's insurgent young-gun swag and his basically-unrivaled-at-that-moment Southern trap-sound credibility while simultaneously putting a competing producer in his place."

And ultimately, that's sort of what Wayne is doing here: Appropriating by curating, engaging in defensive trendhumpery, effectively saying, "Easy there, Future. Verses are my job. Stick to the hooks. Like T-Pain." It's as complicated as any of the hoopla surrounding "Harlem Shake," though a decidedly subtler brand of complication. And at the end of the day, fuck it. Everything's gotta come from somewhere. Even the stuff we hate.

 
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4 comments
sneakygringo
sneakygringo

"He was quite literally the Rapper Eater, destroying everything in his path, be it a beat or a rapper who had the unfortunate luck to show up on a track with him."

Hahaha, wooo, hoo, hooo, ha, hmm. Ahem. That's, um, some of the funniest sh1t I've read in ages. Wheeezy couldn't destroy Bieber, even if he had his unit jammed down the Bieb's lickle yap-hole. Jesus wept, I spend too much time ignoring these mainstream fairies, you guys are too funny.

I do agree with the bit about any rapper who showed up on a track with him being unfortunate though.   The 'rap eater', ha, priceless.                                                     

koolbee33
koolbee33

Good opinions.....expressed in articles, and comments....I just wonder who really wagging.....as the articulate brother cjlampkins termed "the internet communication age", my only question is what is the determining factor...in determining airplay and sales and therefore popularity......overabundance of opinions (sounds like we all have one...there), so can't be quite that.....street credibility???....hmmm, a well kept secret is credibiliity...not being on blast, 24/7/365, when it comes to the misnomer of street and credibility......critical analysis....that produces the same conclusions is not analysis.....but hypnosis?  Much Respect to Everyone....not coming down on anyone, just posing the question.....who is wagging the dog, the tail or the dog itself, or the master/owner???  Most relevant quest and question to be asked and soul searchingly analyzed.....

PEACE......ONE

JPMcMahon
JPMcMahon

"By buying a rising Virginia producer's beat and then tricking it out like the Sistine Helicarrier, Kanye was borrowing a little of Lex's insurgent young-gun swag and his basically-unrivaled-at-that-moment Southern trap-sound credibility while simultaneously putting a competing producer in his place." Wow. Hey, I'm an old head, but I honestly don't remember anything this convoluted or esoteric coming from the keyboard of Robert Cristgau, let alone Lester Bangs. Does anyone outside of Williamsburg really think this way about the product that is coming out from WEEZY, for Christ's sake? If popular music needs this kind of analysis, then ultimately it must suck. I'm glad I came up in a time when questions like "Does it ROCK?" or "Is this the FUNK?" were the only ones that really needed to be answered.

cjlampkins
cjlampkins

@JPMcMahon I don't think that the conclusion that popular music sucks can logically follow from the fact that we analyze it. We live in an era of constant analysis due to the overabundance of opinions brought about from the internet communication age. I think it's at the very least a testament to our own objective observance that we can critically analyze something as simple as a song whose main line is "as long as my bitches love me."

Well written article. I would probably have different things to say about the Kanye/Lex Luger situation, but that is an apt description. I think there's something to be said about the fact that Future sort of gained his fame by adding a "street credibility" aspect to the auto-tune sing-rapping style that Wayne has created (if I can say that).

 
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