Lil Wayne: The Rikers Island Prison Rap


The heartbreaking genesis of this song? Lil Wayne heard his protégé Drake’s collaboration with Jay-Z, “Light Up,” over the radio in his cell in Rikers, where he’s serving a year and day on weapons charges. Once the center of the rap universe, Wayne was left a spectator. But not for long–a day later, Drake’s team had him set up over the phone, contributing a new verse to the song all the way from Rikers, where he describes himself as “Feeling like Elvis, ‘Jailhouse Rock’/I’m not Tupac, I’m the new ‘Pac/Behind bars but the bars don’t stop.”

In doing so, Wayne joins a long, long tradition of jailhouse rapping, most of it terrible. Dwayne Carter’s verse here is not that–and it’s certainly a better use of his time than prank calling strangers–though how you salvage the crackling, grainy Rikers’ wire sound and match it with the icy smooth fidelity of Jay and Drake on “Light Up” is an engineering feat beyond our comprehension. Probably, you start with a source better than the one we have–Drake Ustreaming the bars from a laptop somewhere in the UK, where he’s promoting Thank Me Later. This part though, we could hear loud and clear: “Jail is like third base/I’m coming home eventually.” [Rap Radar]