By: Dennis Cook
This is a maddening record, both pure commercial crapola and Kate Bush tinged loopy invention akin to Outkast.or Edan (with a much dirtier mouth). Starting by "shooting your grandmother up" and throwing "a million uppercuts," the platinum kid continues to show a level of ambition, creatively and fiscally, that most of his peers can only stare slackjawed at. That said, the soul sucking cameos from Babyface, T-Pain and a surprisingly lazy Jay-Z just come off as obvious (though successful) pandering to the mainstream. Even vaguely intriguing single "Lollipop" is just a Cameo vocoder slow jam taken down a half notch.
It's when Weezy moves away from the obvious "Between The Sheets" samples and thickheaded yes-y'all-ing that he takes off for Mars – where brotherman has been claiming he's from lately. "A Milli" is a stuttering bouncer, dancehall slapped around by raw ass electro while he buzzes around our heads like a gold plated gadfly. "Dr. Carter" is a primo hip-hop instructional along the lines of Blackalicious' "Rhymes For The Deaf, Dumb & Blind" or any number of early Masta Ace lessons. Oddly enough, of all the chart-courting cameos it's Robin Thicke's blue-eyed soul on "Tie My Hands" that works best with Wayne's jittery, all-over-the-fuckin-map style, adding some cream, if you will, to his strong, black coffee. "Shoot Me Down," with it's dark, heady atmosphere and sung hook from D. Smith suggests Wayne has heard a little MC 900 Ft Jesus. Again though, it's when he deviates from the main road, as on the outer space shout-out "Phone Home," the well weeded, Freestyle Fellowship-esque "La La" and the brilliantly remedial "Let The Beat Build" (where he holds off any sort of listener release so long with "just a snare and an 808" you'll want to bite him), that one gets that Lil Wayne could be a great artist, a visionary in his field, if only he wanted to fully commit to it. He doesn't and that's what ultimately makes this official release a pale shadow of the weird, frankly psychotic brilliance that flashes periodically on his many mix tapes.
Oh, everyone shouting about Weez's unique style should jump across the Atlantic (and back in time) to peep short-lived U.K. hip-hop act Earthling and 1995's Radar and 1996's Blood Music EP to hear how rapper Mau had this free-associative flow down cold (and often more intelligently) more than a decade before Lil Wayne hit upon it after his stint in boy-rapper sensation Hot Boys.
And one last gold star for putting a lengthy sample of Nina Simone's version of "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" at the head of closer "Dongtgetit," a fine, mopey inward look and social diatribe worthy of Gil Scott-Heron. If just a few folks discover Simone through this touch he'll have done music some good, beyond his own varied but sometimes inspired contributions.
JamBase | Spaceways
Go See Live Music!