Last month, hip-hop superstar Lil Wayne made a controversial statement that said he is taking a hiatus from the genre. He decided to tender his “resignation” with an update to his Dedication mixtape series this past Labor Day. Dedication 4 looks to remind many of his detractors what made him into such a superstar in the first place: his wordplay.
Continuing with his usual mixtape formula, Wayne raps over current popular hip-hop instrumentals such as “Cashin’ Out” (Ca$h Out), “Amen” (Meek Mill featuring Drake), “So Sophisticated” (Rick Ross featuring Meek Mill), “No Lie” (2 Chainz Featuring Drake) and “Mercy” (Kanye West featuring Big Sean, Pusha T and 2 Chainz).
It is no secret that Lil Wayne is one of the most lyrically capable rappers in the mainstream. But one has to wonder if he gets tired of rapping about the same three topics in every song. Throughout the mixtape, Wayne aims to showcase his wordplay on tracks like “Mercy” (with Nicki Minaj) and “So Dedicated” (a remix of “So Sophisticated”). Still, it is hard to ignore the fact that he consistently raps about drug abuse, decadence, partying, and graphic descriptions of oral sex and violence. While he does a good job of getting people into the songs and making these already-popular beats his own, the overused subject matter tends to be a turnoff for even the most die-hard fan. At some points, the mixtape feels like it’s dragging on, but tracks like “Green Ranger” (featuring J. Cole) show some attempts at coherent songs.
Wayne has not sounded this confident and this full of swagger since he released No Ceilings back in 2009. His verses are clever and entertaining enough to make one realize how much the genre may change without his presence. This begs the question: will his hiatus have a positive or negative effect on hip-hop?
Let’s look at some facts: Lil Wayne introduced the onomatopoeia “bling-bling” to popular culture. He also introduced the phrase “drop it like it’s hot,” which later went became the title for Snoop Dogg’s signature song. He brought mainstream attention to the hip-hop mixtape, to the point that now even non hip-hop artists similarly release music in the format. He signed Drake, Nicki Minaj, and Tyga and created Young Money Entertainment, currently hip-hop’s most popular label (for better or for worse). Young Money, in turn, inspired the return of the hip hop crew to mainstream popularity.
But also keep in mind: Wayne released Rebirth, a failed “rock” experiment. He also spearheaded Autotune rap and formed T-Wayne with T-Pain. Nicki Minaj, one of the most popular artists in the genre, is more comparable to Katy Perry than Lauryn Hill. And Drake, the “sensitive” rapper has now become an instigating “bad boy.” Are these even pros or cons? That’s not for me to decide.
- “So Dedicated” (Featuring Birdman)
- “Green Ranger” (Featuring J. Cole)