There’s a moment in history when Jay Z thought he could bring an end to Auto-Tune. “DOA” was meant to be the execution of robotic melodies and hooks in hip-hop, but his microphone murder failed to assassinate the vocal effect, years later the song sounds more like an old man grumpy about the youngster’s latest fad instead of a murder weapon.
What I will remember most about the song is how Jay acknowledged mixtape Lil Wayne. Back then, the Wayne that appeared on the mixtapes was slightly different than the rapper who did the albums, mixtape Weezy was the unchained lion that mauled beats as if they were gazelles. That’s who Jay wanted to rap alongside, not the man that made “Lollipop,” but the rapper who released a double disc massacre that was nothing but pulverizing the production of industry favorites. The timing of “DOA” was perfect, Wayne still had a bit of fire in the tank, it showed when he released the fan-acclaimed No Ceilings that same year and honored Jay’s request. No Ceilings was the last great roar of an aging lion.
The mixtape Wayne that raps today is still a lion except his once sharp teeth have been replaced with dentures, his razor-edged claws are now pedicured nails and the brilliant roar is now a boastful bark. There’s been moments where he will give you a glimpse of the beast he once was but mostly he hasn’t lived up to his former reputation in years. That former reputation is what caused a stir of excitement when Wayne announced that on Thanksgiving he will be releasing the sequel to No Ceilings. After six years, he’s bringing it back from the grave and fans hope that means the rapper he once was will be returning as well.
That’s the silent promise of a sequel, there’s a magnetism that comes with bridging the familiar with new flavor. They aren’t always better than the first but the allure is in the possibility, there’s power in the wonder. Sequels aren’t new to Wayne, he’s an artist that has always created in series, but the resurrection of No Ceilings feels desperate. He’s out of options, this is his last chance to use something familiar to generate hype. He must know The Dedication brand has been tainted since the third volume, The Drought series hasn’t been the same since the fourth and Tha Carter V is currently in lawsuit purgatory.
Lupe, for example, made a sequel to his critically acclaimed debut album Food & Liquor. When it was first announced, I wondered if Leonardo da Vinci ever attempted to paint a second Mona Lisa. That’s how highly I view F&L, a brilliant masterpiece that’s aging without cracks or blemish. I didn’t doubt his ability to make another great album, Lupe proved that he could create outstanding artistry with The Cool, a sophomore release that’s arguably better than his first, but only after the release of Lasers, the promise of a second Food & Liquor became bigger than just a sequel. It wasn’t just Food & Liquor II, the title also included, “The Great American Rap Album.” The title was looked upon as a promise to return back the hands of time and deliver an album that can stand next to his first. If you were great once, you can be great again, the second-coming of greatness is what was truly desired from this album. While the album has moments that prove Lupe is still unbelievably talented, it didn’t reach the bar set by the title. It’s been recently announced that Lupe is working on a sequel to The Cool, once again expectations are skyrocketing.
Eminem is one rapper who will forever be in competition with the artist he used to be, haunted by the ghost of Slim Shady and the classics that cemented him in history. He challenged one of his greatest works by calling his latest studio album, Marshall Mathers LP 2. During an interview with Rolling Stone, Em confessed that he knew of the expectations that would surround the project, the name was picked due to the nostalgia that he felt the music represented. Critics found the album to be one of his best in recent years, ratings were high, sales were high, and some would say this it was a sequel done right. I would disagree. It’s like the sequel of a movie with a different leading role. While it may have elements that nod to its predecessor, the former actor simply can’t be replaced, there’s a void that simply can’t be filled. It wasn’t just impressive lyricism that made the Marshall Mathers LP a treasure, it’s all the feelings and emotions that Eminem conveyed from start to finish. I only feel nostalgia for the name.
The Documentary 2 is the kind of album that will satisfy any fan of the Game. It’s good music that is true to the artist he’s been for the last decade, the best he’s made in recent years. The Compton native decided to make the album a sequel to his debut classic because he felt that he was able to make better music than he did 10 years ago. It’s a thought that every artist should strive for, to make an album better than your last. After hearing the album, I went back to the first Documentary, and was reminded why Game was such a huge prospect when he came out in 2005. There’s a feeling of rawness that rattles out of every song – west coast gangster rap from a young man documenting the life he’s leaving and the life he’s entering. While he’s capable of making music that’s technically better, he’s challenging an album that exudes a feeling he hasn’t tapped into for years. The Documentary2 is just another title for a good album, possibly better than good, but comparing the two is Bellyvs. Belly 2.
When you think about Jay Z’s The Blueprint, Jeezy’s Thug Motivations/Trap Or Die, Redman’s Muddy Waters, Lil Wayne’s Tha Carters, they don’t live up to what made them groundbreaking. Would a change of title change their reception? Not likely, but I think some sequels would be able to be seen in a different light when not eclipsed by the past. On the other end of the spectrum, I have to acknowledge sequels like Nas’ Stillmatic, Raekwon’s OB4CL2, Kid Cudi’s Man On The Moon 2, Dr. Dre’s 2001, Future's DS2 and Joe Budden’s Mood Muzik tapes, all were able to be giants that weren’t overshadowed by the height and greatness of their predecessors.
Not all sequels are bad but, when a series is being repackaged to stir up anticipation based on a product from the past, it becomes irksome to fans.
The past can’t be recreated but that dream is constantly being sold. It’s easy to sell something familiar, it’s hard to convince people to buy something new. That’s one reason why I admire Kanye West, he’s always moving forward. Forward toward the future.
[By Yoh, aka TM10Yoh, Aka @Yoh31]