About two weeks ago, thanks to a reader suggestion, we did a piece called, One Song To Prove Kanye Can Rap and it blew the fuck up. Partly because Kanye is the King of the Pageviews and partly because the task at hand was so compelling. Really, it works for any artist, so we are going to keep bringing it back from time to time. This go around, it's time to prove Lil Wayne can rap.
Yoh already touched on it, but with Carter V looming, Wayne fans are hoping for a return to his heyday. The past few years haven't been great for Weezy fans. Near-death comas, a song with Paris Hilton, and more rock albums than Creed; too bad all we really want is the old Wayne back. It might be lost on some that Wayne was once the King of Hip-Hop Sales and the self-dubbed "Best Rapper Alive." While it is easy to laugh at that now, there was a point when that was at least an argument. It's our job to show those people, using just one song, that we aren't crazy for hoping Carter V is a classic.
So, here's the hypothetical situation: Somehow, someway, there's a person out there who loves hip-hop, but has never actually heard Lil Wayne rap, and doubts that he's very good. (Not hard to imagine after the past five to eight years.) Your job is to prove to that person with one song, and one song only, that Wayne is actually one of the best rappers walking the Earth. Which record are you going with? No mention of the song's production, the album, nothing. We're talking justrapping. You have one song or guest verse to showcase Weezy's lyricism, flow, delivery, and that special X-factor that every great rapper must possess. This isn't a "best song" debate. "Lollipop" might be your favorite, but you can't tell me that's his best rap performance. It's so hard to put just the verses in a vacuum, but that's what you have to do. Make that hater say, "Shit, I guess he can rap." Which song are you going with?
It might be cliche to pick arguably his most popular single ever, but hey, if it bangs it bangs, and "Go DJ" bangs! What stands out on "Go DJ", at least to me, is Wayne's cadence, or should I say cadences. Wayne switches up his flow so many times, seemingly having no order of fluidity at all, but it doesn't matter because it sounds so natural. It's amazing how he can be so unorthodox and erratic but still curate such a fluid effort. You barely notice how many times he changes up his flow because he's so much fun to listen to. Lyrically, he's as colorful as ever and the lines really stick with you. I can rap every bar to this one, but I don't remember ever actually trying to learn them as I do with most songs I know from start to finish.
"Seat Down Low"
You can't discuss Lil Wayne in his prime without mentioning the fact that he bodied every popular beat from the mid to late 2000s. If it was a popular song, there's a 90 percent chance Lil Wayne borrowed it, and that he put out a better version than the original. He could kill any rapper over any beat. Case in point, "Seat Down Low". The original (T.I.'s "Top Back") bangs, but Wayne's remix makes T.I. sound like Justin Bieber. Wayne's energy here is absolutely unreal. If you played Wayne's version and then T.I.'s version for someone who had heard neither, it's likely they would assume Wayne's was the original; he just sounds so at home and so confident. It's not that any of his lyrics are life-changing (of course he is still clever) but his delivery makes them hit so much harder. I get chills every time I hear, "I come from the hardest city, ain't nobody fuckin' with it/Got a black-and-gold soul, with a fresh New Orleans fitted." Part of Lil Wayne's draw is this magical, unrivaled energy he brings and "Seat Down Low" is one of the best examples of said energy. The lyrics aren't deep, but they are clever, and his electrifying delivery covers any shortcomings. I don't see how someone could hear this and not be moved. This might be my pick.
"I Can't Feel My Face"
Obviously, having beats from Mannie Fresh helps Wayne shine (see "Go DJ" and "Seat Down Low"), but "I Can't Feel My Face" is way different. For the most part, Wayne is rapping over a stark instrumental, featuring a relatively simple drum beat that allows him to shine as an emcee; he stands on his own two. This is about as surgical as Wayne gets, staying on pace with the beat as he delivers each and every potent line. Yet another part of Wayne's magic is his ability to incorporate humor. From Free Willy to the Geico cavemen, Weezy has some downright hilarious lines, but they are still ones that will make you say, "Damn!" Most humorous songs aren't lyrically focused - it's more about making someone laugh than ratting off some dope bars - but while these lines make you laugh, they are super original and have some real punch. They have an "Oh shit!" freestyle vibe, but would also impress a lyric-focused fan.
Lil Wayne is no stranger to radio-ready hits, and none were big than "A Milli." Still, while "A Milli" is one of his most popular singles, it is different than a "Lollipop" or "Fireman" in that there is no real structure to the record. There is no T-Pain hook, no (official) features, nothing but Wayne rapping his ass off. Normally a single as big as "A Milli" needs some filler to appeal to the masses, but with this one it's all Wayne and the whole world was just like, "Holy shit, this guy can rap." It's so rare for a song like this to be that popular, but Wayne's delivery and wordplay made it possible. Plus, every rapper in the whole world rapped over this beat and nobody even came close to besting Wayne. "A Milli" is nothing but a display of Wayne's prowess and would be a perfect song to prove he can rap.
"6 Foot 7 Foot"
I couldn't decide between "A Milli" and "6 Foot 7 Foot", so I included both. Honestly, I slept on this song because it was one of Wayne's last real hits and he was already on a decline, but after going back and really listening "6 Foot 7 Foot" is quite impressive. Like "A Milli" it's really driven by Wayne more so than a traditional song. There is a semblance of a hook, but it's not really that traditional. Fine with me, though, as it gives Wayne more time to rip off some more dope one-liners, most notably, "Real G's move in silence like lasagna." It's also hilarious to listen to Cory Gunz follow Wayne. In context, hearing Gunz makes your realize Wayne's effort was really incredible.
I really should go "A Milli" but I'm going "Seat Down Low". "A Milli" might be the bigger hit and have more kick lyrically, but "Seat Down Low" has that magic, captivating Lil Wayne energy, and that's just as important to Wayne's essence as lines about pussy and his dreads.
What's your pick, DJBooth Nation?
[Lucas Garrison is a writer for DJBooth.net. His favorite album is “College Dropout,” but you can also tweet him your favorite Migos songs at @LucasDJBooth.]