So, last week I accidentally posted the bit below about Lil’ Wayne and then deleted it in favor of something else. Lil’ Wayne’s appearance in the gossip mags as the lover of Chris Bosh’s wife made me remember it. My first thought was, screw the Heat. My second thought was, why? I compared pictures of Bosh and Wayne, then considered the height differential and examined all the angles.
Some things are just meant to stay mysterious. But, the current events do give me a good excuse to go back to Lil’ Wayne, the big talent in a not so small package.
On a recent expedition, my wife took over the radio and dialed through until she found the local hip-hop outlet. Soon we were treated to a song that I had heard many times—a song whose rhythm was attractive, whose pace was contemplative and whose vocals even managed to use autotune without being annoying.
The song? “How to Love” by Lil’ Wayne. I didn’t know who performed it and when my wife told me, I was shocked. This is the same Lil’ Wayne who my brother insists is borderline psychopathic from his consumption of cough medicine (that has to be apocryphal, right?) and the child rapper I remember from the 90s whose precocious talent I, in my ignorance, never attempted to separate from Lil’ Bowwow.
Yet, this is an artist who is into his third decade of recording (at only 30!) and who has racked up multiple gold records in the process. This song represents a fine change of pace for the physically ripped, dentally decorated and probably mentally unstable star. My wife says the song is about a stripper; Wikipedia agrees that a stripper is part of it, but not the whole story.
The limited production—flying the face of the dominant style of hip-hop and R&B which is to overproduce, has a maudlin electric guitar supported by a rangy and limited synthesized drum and occasional inserted vocals. The story of a woman’s life seems fantastically empathic and insightful for a male performer of any genre, much less Lil’ Wayne.
Yet, this song is not what struck me the most during this drive. I had heard “How to Love” at least 100K times over the past few years, assuming that it belonged to some new R&B singer. The song I recognized Lil’ Wayne in is ‘Pop That’, the single by French Montana that also features Drake and Rick Ross.
The music and content of this song are largely typical and forgettable. The music seems to be inspired by “Ni**az in Paris” and we have all heard an endless stream of rap collaborations before. The combination of different rappers can be extremely compelling (as in the best work of the Wu-Tang Clan) but too often the songs just seem to lack the cohesion and motivation of a single-performer piece.
The most compelling verse in this song and the best performed part is Lil’ Wayne’s contribution (although Drake’s contribution is credible, even though he seems to be trying to sound like Lil’ Wayne). Some of his lyrics are less than inspired. For instance, he rhymes “On my proactive shit, pop that pussy like a zit”, which is certainly evocative and vibrant, but not exactly appetizing.
More troubling, yet depressingly common, is the strain of misogyny throughout the song, strongest in repeatedly violent evocations of sex (“I make that pussy spit like Bone”; “I’m 5’5” but could six nine / then beat that pussy like Klitschko”) and referring to women only as bitches and hos.
Yet, what stuck in my head was a line from the middle of the verse where Lil’ Wayne declares “Money ain’t no thing but a chicken wing”. Now, my wife, probably because she didn’t need to go to the Urban Dictionary to confirm the meaning, thought that this was nothing special (the interpretation on rapgenius.com was underwhelming too).
And, while Lil’ Wayne may be merely proverbially dismissing money—which is itself surprising, since so much modern rap only but worships money in its verses—I found the proposition that money was only worth what you could buy with it (i.e., a chicken wing) interesting and evidence of a depth of philosophical reflection on Lil’ Wayne’s part.
(And perhaps hypocritical since we are talking about someone who has not had any limitations on his purchasing power or any kind of deprivation for many, many years. Yet, it is often those who are without need who speak most insistently about the superficial desires of material things…Seneca, anyone?)
The rest of the verse challenges this claim. Yet, with the new found sentimentality of “How to Love” to compare, I fear I have misjudged and underestimated this artists.
What do you think, my brother?