As many of you may know, Lil Wayne recently had a health scare (which was erroneously reported as a fatal health scare, which nearly gave me a heart attack myself). But Weezy lives.
I take this opportunity to celebrate the man who continues to be one of the best rappers alive (even if, to hear critics tell it, his best days are behind him). Vive Weezy!
1. “Upgrade U”
Spitting over Beyoncé’s “Upgrade U,” Wayne puts on a show, with nearly every line quotable, riding the beat like it was a car he’s racing down the highway. This is from Wayne’s mixtape glory days. Many of his best moments have been turning other people’s hit songs into a showcase for his inimitable flow.
Wayne is an athlete of rap. It’s not about meaningfulness with Wayne, necessarily — it’s about being the cleverest with words, the most nimble spitter, the best.
Good line(s): “Even deaf bitches say hi to me / She tell her blind bitch and she say, ‘I gotta see.'”
2. “A Milli”
Personally I got kind of tired of this song at some point via overexposure, but its impact was felt when it first came out. A memorable beat and bars on bars.
Good line(s): “I’m a venereal disease / like a menstrual bleed / through the pencil and leak on the sheet of the tablet in my mind / cause I don’t write shit cause I don’t got time” “I don’t owe you like two vowels / But I would like for you to pay me by the hour.”
3. “The Sky is the Limit”
Wayne turns a mediocre Mike Jones song into a grandiose anthem. This was one of the tracks, when I went through a phase in college listening to Wayne almost exclusively, that proved to me how unique and exciting Wayne is.
Good line(s): “My flow is art, unique / My flow can part a sea.”
This one is exciting because Wayne, even more than usual, is focused exclusively on stunting on every other rapper. Over a repetitive beat, Wayne (his voice in-a-sense made part of the beat by the DJ’s scratches) shows off just how easy it is for him to run circles around the average spitter. He even raps in French.
Good line(s): “Even the paralyzed feel my impact.” “Check my pattern scheme / I probably have on rocks from the moon and Saturn’s ring / Um, whose badder, give ’em a ladder / Tell ’em climb on up here and watch me get at her”
5. “La La La”
As I said, Wayne is not primarily known as a meaningful or nostalgic rapper (and certainly not a conscious rapper), but he has the ability to do it all, and on this track, which was recorded for but didn’t appear on Tha Carter III, Wayne raps about growing up in New Orleans over a sample-driven beat. When I first heard the song it made some hairs stand up on my arm.
Good line(s): “And I swear I feel born again / I’m in the building like the audience”
6. “My Daddy”
Another mixtape highlight/career milestone. Wayne thoroughly blasts those who homophobically criticized him for kissing his adoptive dad, Cash Money boss Birdman, at the same time earnestly thanking the guy who believed in him when he was young.
Good line(s): “So diss me, and don’t diss my daddy / ‘Cause who was there when no one wasn’t / Just my daddy / Who was there when I needed money / Just my daddy / So who be there when I see the money / Just my daddy / Who said that I’d be the one / Just my daddy / Hello Hip-Hop, I’m home / It’s your daddy” “Beef, yes, chest, feet, tag, bag, blood, sheets, yikes, yeeks, great Scott, Storch, can I borrow your yacht?” “Hip-hop is my new bought house / My flow just grew legs and walked out (bye)”
7. “I Feel Like Dying”
I think a lot of big Wayne fans love this song. Recorded in the midst of his heavy drugs days, this hazy, trippy song is hauntingly beautiful. I remember noting the dissonance between that emo title and the sample of a girl’s voice saying it and Wayne’s laughter. Feels like a nihilistic song almost, yet very peaceful.
Good line(s): “If I should ever fall, the ground would then turn into wine.”
8. “Ignorant Shit (with Drake)”
Drake and Lil Wayne have collabed many times, but this is my favorite, a showcase for both their lyrical skills. Wayne, not to be upstaged by his signee, brings the goods.
Good line(s): “And you can suck my wings / Stand on my money, headbutt Yao Ming.”
9. “3 Peat”
The triumphant opener to Wayne’s most anticipated, biggest studio release to date, Tha Carter III, the capper on an extraordinary run of mixtape releases, this song finds Wayne urgent, passionate, and as ever, lyrically dexterous.
Good line(s): “Get on my level / you can’t get on my level / you will need a space shuttle or a ladder thats forever”
10. “Dough is What I Got (‘Show Me What You Got’ Freestyle)”
Wayne stunts over Jay-Z’s single and gives his own public service announcement: he’s the best rapper alive. He makes a good case for it, going relentless on the track. One of his most impressive performances (and sounds like he’s having a great time doing it).
Good line(s): ” “I must be Lebron James if he’s Jordan” “I am talking to no particular audience / but understand I’m the guardian / And understand there will be no guarding him”
11. “You Ain’t Got Nuthin (feat. Fabolous and Juelz Santana)”
Another highlight off Tha Carter III, Weezy is joined by two arguably underappreciated rappers, first off, Fabolous, and then, Juelz Santana, with whom he has a oft-rumored but yet-to-be-released collaborative album, I Can’t Feel My Face. Everyone goes in, but Wayne is the most memorable, his husky smoker-lung voice even more delirious than usual.
Good line(s): “And after mine there will be nine, damn I mean there will be none / I will be one, of the greatest things you’ve ever felt, you’ve ever seen / Or heard, Car-ter, hov-er, y’all scared, not me”
12. “This Is Why I’m Hot (Freestyle)”
Another cut from Wayne’s mixtape glory days. Not content to simply spit sick lines, Wayne for no discernible reason raps with a fake Jamaican patois. And it works!
Good line(s): “How come every joint be on point like a harpoon? / How come evry bar stand strong like a barstool? / How come every line is so raw you gon’ snort too?”
13. “Let The Beat Build”
Great looping gospel beat by Kanye West and memorable lyrics by Wayne make this another Carter III classic.
Good line(s): “I’m peepin’ at your people different / I pay my dues, You keep the difference / I can see the end in the beginning / So I’m not racing I’m just sprintin’ / Cuz I don’t wanna finish / They diminish, I replenish”
14. “Seat Down Low (‘Top Back’ Freestyle)”
Da Drought 3 is stock-full of classic tracks. This is another. Wayne spits over a Mannie Fresh beat for T.I. (Mannie was at one time the celebrated in-house producer at Cash Money Records).
Good line(s): “Yeah baby, we ballin’ like Rawlins and Spalding / Pint of DJ screw and that Hawaiian / I am leaning like a three-legged lion”
15. “I’m Me”
This is one of those where Wayne throws down the gauntlet. Rap is life to Wayne, it’s more than a job.
Good line(s): “And you all have witnessed, but I have not finished / So keep your mouth closed and let your eyes listen” “I’m from the dirty like the bottom of my pants cuff / And there ain’t nuthin gon stop me so just envy it / Hey, I’ll accept a friendly quit”