By Sam Winston
What happened between him being the little kid gimmick of the Cash Money crew to the latest guilty pleasure of every ITunes listener who buys less than three rap albums a year?
I remember an And1 Mixtape Tour at the New Orleans Arena where Lil Wayne, Cash Money record label owner Brian "Baby" or "Birdman" Williams, and producer extraordinaire Manny Fresh performed at halftime about four years ago. They were booed off the floor.
This was the New Orleans record label that brought New Orleans bounce music to the rest of the world, shouting the city out along the way and coming back to film their videos in New Orleans projects even after they had "made it." At the time, Cash Money's biggest star, Juvenile, had moved onto greener pastures, while BG, the moderately successful number two, had just fallen off the map. All that was left in the talent stable was young Lil Wayne (whatever happened to Young Turk?). And he was booed off the floor in front of his hometown crowd. Wayne even cursed the fans as he exited, which drew even more boos.
At that moment, I turned to my brother and said, "Those guys are done."
Not so much. In addition to a number one album and at least one of your friends sheepishly saying, "The new Lil Wayne is actually kind of good," you have critics writing material like...
"His raspy bullfrog of a voice has become one of pop musics most recognizable, embracing possibilities that suggest a cartoon, an alien, a troll who lives under a bridge, and a bong-hugging surrealist."- Chicago Tribune
My theory on his success is one of persistence, connections, and borrowing as much as it is talent or good music. When you drop out of McMain High School after just one year, and you're driving Mercedes CLK's before you're old enough to have your license, being a rapper when you grow up is the best and only option. In other words, a few boos and slumping album sales couldn't have thrown Wayne off his path. Secondly, having the connections to borrow Jay-Z beats and connect with Beyonce to resurrect your career doesn't hurt. And lastly, doing a complete style makeover, which some attributed to outright stealing, was the final touch.
I guess I just can't get over his voice, which is annoying to begin with, and sounds really fake after having seen him live at the House of Blues in New Orleans with the Hot Boys way back when. It's almost as if he had that voice before he went through puberty, and now imitates it because that's what he is known for. You can catch him slipping in and out of it if you listen closely. And perhaps it was also from seeing him around town too much, at the Red Room, the Hornets games, etc and thinking, "I'm really tired of seeing Wayne everywhere."
And now its the same thing all over again. Lil Wayne just won't go away.