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The Immersion: The Rise of Lil Wayne & Tha CarterPosted by Dharmic X on 08/23/12 | Filed under Opinion, The Immersion
The stakes involved in the life of stealing and selling had gotten too high, and I was not willing to risk a confrontation that could potentially have deadly consequences. Simultaneously, being involved in these type of activities were no longer worth the risk to me. I simply fell back and abandoned the pursuit. Luckily, it takes time to become enmeshed to the point of being unable to remove yourself from that way of life; I had only spent a few months. While every action has a consequence, and stealing certainly did for me, no permanent damage was done, something I am very thankful for.
But throughout that whole time, my love for hip-hop only grew more. What once was just a way to stay relevant and keep up with my friends became an almost OCD-like impulse to download the newest music, and build up complete discographies of artists (for the most part, illegally). But it wasn’t just about compiling and storing thousands of .mp3 files for bragging rights. I was still making sure that I listened to every single file of music I downloaded... and that was beginning to become a lot of them.
In the springtime of 2008, I abandoned Limewire completely, tired of the viruses and fan-generated bogus files that it provided. Instead, I got my music fix through online hip-hop forums that provided mediafire/depositfile links to singles, mixtapes, and entire albums. This was the first time I had access to complete albums to play from start-to-finish, and I started to do that religiously, updating my playlists every day. (Lacking pocket money, especially after abandoning my hustle, my first album purchase would be much later).
Two albums would stay in my iPod on constant rotation throughout those Spring and Summer months. One of them changed my life. The other one was simply enjoyable.
Obviously, "Tha Carter III" was not my first introduction to Lil Wayne. Weezy had been buzzing in a major way for over two years prior to the release of that album, dropping mixtape after mixtape after show-stealing feature. My friends and I used to mob through the halls after-school reciting lyrics from “We Takin Over,” to “Pop Bottles.” Everything he touched turned to gold--even if that involved just rapping a hook (“Duffle Bag Boys.”) A year before Tha Carter III released, several songs leaked, and somehow, with only minimal promotion, two of those songs managed to chart on Billboard (“Gossip” and “I’m Me.”) As the album got closer to release date, the anticipation was thick in the air.
When I first heard Lollipop, two thoughts immediately came to mind. The first thought was that this was an atrocious and terrible song in every way imaginable, and the second thought was that this was going to be the song that catapulted Weezy into mainstream adoration and acclaim. I was right on both counts, but as much as Weezy sold out with the opening single, he saved face in the eyes of people like me with "A Milli", which was a head-nodding banger filled with the wittiness and charisma you had come to expect from the New Orleans rapper. "A Milli" was also my introduction into the world of mixtape rappers and their need to “freestyle” over the popular beat of the day; I heard many a verse over the “A Milli” beat, with notable standouts being Cory Gunz’s version (which is actually the original version to the song before Cash Money kicked him off the record) and Los’s version.
The spotlight was firmly on Wayne when he dropped the long-awaited album, and luckily, he didn’t disappoint. Was "Tha Carter III" a classic album? I think the jury is still out on that question, but it was a solid body of work nonetheless. Unlike the Tunechi of today, Wayne’s wit and punchlines sounded energetic and really clever, not lazy and uninspired. Tracks like “Got Money” and “Mrs. Officer” were catchy bangers, albeit on opposite ends of the spectrum. The features on the project (Fabolous and Juelz Santana on “You Ain’t Got Nothin,” Jay-Z on “Mr. Carter”) were memorable and stand-out. And there were some decent concept records as well thrown into the bargain.
My favorite song off "Tha Carter III" is its most serious and by far its most poignant, something that separated the Lil Wayne of his prime with the cheetah print-wearing monstrosity that insults the birthplace of hip-hop today: the ability to make records, songs that transcend hip-hop and speak on matters of importance. In “Tie My Hands,” Weezy is able to paint a picture of suffering and despair, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The wordplay is poetic and witty simultaneously, “I knock on the door, hope isn’t home, faith’s not around, the luck’s all gone; Don’t ask me what’s wrong, ask me what’s right? And I can tell you what’s life.” Perhaps more importantly, there’s a desperation that one can audibly hear in his delivery as he says, “They try to tell me keep my eye’s open, my whole city’s underwater, some people still floating.” Coupled with a mellow beat and a beautiful hook from Robin Thicke, and there’s no wonder why Wayne chose to perform this song at the Grammy Awards in 2009, and not any of the nonsense he has subsequently put out.
By the summer of 2008 (and to this day), I would have agreed with anyone who told me that "Tha Carter III" was a great album, maybe even Weezy’s best. But nobody could have convinced me that "Tha Carter III" was the best album of 2008, or that Lil Wayne was the “best rapper alive.” Both of those two honors belonged to another person...
(DJ Dharmic X is the host of This Culture Never Dies, 11PM-1AM Saturday on wnyu.org. Fans and haters, can follow him on Twitter and check him out on Facebook.)
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