12 years ago, there was no doubt in my mind that Lil Wayne was speaking factually when he named track No. 7 on ThaCarter II, "Best Rapper Alive.”
Surrounded by a seemingly endless stream of ferocious mixtape releases, Tha Carter II and its subsequent follow-up Tha Carter III are portraits of a version of Wayne that was experiencing massive success but retaining the hunger and razor-sharp skill set that curated it.
Over the past several years, however, Wayne has (for the most part) kept his participation in hip-hop constrained to Auto-Tuned, lean-drenched musings that contain a fraction of the wit and diverse delivery of his “peak Weezy” period. There have been a few stellar appearances here and there, but by and large, my confidence in that opening sentence’s validity has steadily waned as time progresses. (In fairness to Wayne, being trapped under Birdman's greedy fingers hasn't done wonders for his creative juices or his output.)
Earlier today (May 11), flat Earth truther and occasionally still-great rapper B.o.B released his Wayne-assisted single “E.T.” off his forthcoming Ether album (out tomorrow), and I’ll be damned if Wayne didn’t just reach into his sleeve and pull out a verse to let us know he’s still got it.
Seriously, holy shit. This is a classic Weezy verse.
Running with the alien theme both rappers have dabbled in heavily over the years, Wayne appears recharged and completely alive on "E.T.," reminding listeners why he was once on top of the game.
Anytime I hear the first few words of a Wayne verse and they’re free of Auto-Tune, I know shit’s about to get real. On “E.T.,” Weezy F sounds just as sharpened and collected as he did during the most potent moments of Carter III and the iconic mixtapes that preceded it.
The classic Weezy wordplay is heavy, and just like in the good ol’ days, Wayne manages to exude an energy that’s simultaneously dripping with swagger and tinged with introspection and insight, a combination that made mid-2000s Weezy an untouchable force.
It’s worth noting that B.o.B also delivered a stronger and more focused performance than I’ve heard from him in recent memory, but when paired with the kind of verse that true Lil Wayne fans have been waiting for with bated breath, there’s little to no hope of owning the spotlight.
In just over a minute, Wayne did what he’s somehow always able to do, which is remind us that no matter how many lazy, Auto-Tuned radio-ready features he might pump out, he is still undoubtedly one of the best rappers alive, at least when he so chooses.