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Lil Wayne's "Fly In" Is Its Own Introduction to 'Tha Carter II'

In the chaotic world of Lil Wayne, the second track on 'Tha Carter II' is as important as any other.

Day 313: "Fly In" – Tha Carter II, 2005

There are certain things kids today will never understand about the way we experienced music. Funnily enough, some of them are the same things our parents never understood. Before, you bought the album. Now, you stream the album. Either way, you know what you're getting. But for a brief period there in the mid-2000s, you just bootlegged stuff willy-nilly. These were the days of burned CDs, of Kazaa and Limewire, of WinAmp, of 56k modem connections.


It should have been apparent at the time—the present, alas, specifically the version of the present that breaks the rules, is rarely easy to read—but Lil Wayne's ideal medium was this fragmented, unruly musical landscape. In the precise, data-driven logic of today's music world, every track must exist as intended, for maximum monetization. But Lil Wayne's music spread via less conventional means: official and semi-official and entirely bootleg DJ mixtapes, mix CDs from friends, burned copies of albums that inexplicably had two Linkin Park songs tacked onto the end, burned copies of albums that were missing entire songs.

Curmudgeonly old music writer types, myself included, like to bemoan the loss of context now, post-liner notes. But back then it was the wild wild web. You picked your favorites out of the mess, not necessarily knowing or caring about their genealogy, and maybe sometimes they played the same ones on the radio. One of the most challenging thing about A Year of Lil Wayne is that there isn't really a canonical version of Lil Wayne. Every fan has probably a half dozen tracks they would consider essential that many other Lil Wayne fans probably don't even know exist. Lil Wayne is an artist whose oeuvre was never meant to be processed in exact ways, which is part of the appeal.

I never bought Tha Carter II CD. I must have had a burned copy, or maybe I took the MP3s off of someone's hard drive. I honestly don't remember. The other thing I don't remember about it is… the first song. I've definitely heard "Tha Mobb" over the years, but in my mind the album always began with "Fly In." I can justify this lapse for two reasons: one, it mirrors the intro of the first Carter, "Walk In" (except flying, get it?), and two, it literally begins "So they ask me, 'Young boy, what you gonna do the second time around?'" thus implying it's an introduction track. Presumably once you've heard "Tha Mobb" you know exactly what Lil Wayne is going to do the second time around, and you are dutifully wowed.


Then again, "Fly In" also serves, with a different beat, as the introduction to a later mixtape, The W. Carter Collection, which is even more confusing because there it's called "Mr. Carter," which is the title of a song on the following album, Tha Carter III. Like I suggested, Lil Wayne's music defies easy organization.

"Fly In" might be the best Lil Wayne song. It's spare and supremely focused, rap cut down to its bare essentials and yet at the same time bafflingly complex. Just those opening lines are fascinating, the way the meaning shifts as each one arrives:

They call me
Mr. Carter
I kissed the daughter
Of the dead's forehead
I killed the father

In five lines, we've met Mr. Carter, a guy who kisses daughters. OK, well it's not that simple; he kisses the daughter of a dead guy. But it's on the forehead, which is a nice, moving show of affection. Very thoughtful. Except, oh yeah, we should probably mention that Lil Wayne is the guy who killed the dad. Another thing: It just took me 58 words to say that, and Lil Wayne did it in 17. Good writing is concise writing, and that is as concise as it gets. Hemingway would be proud.

As brilliantly written as those lines are, though, Wayne's word choices aren't his only strength here. This is a meticulously written song, but it's also a pump-up track, a slow build that literally gets hotter as Wayne complains about how it's hot in the kitchen (he just sits on the counter, though). And there may be no moment in Lil Wayne's catalogue that better captures his drive than the lines where he tells us, "Usually I'm a hooligan for the money / Yeah I'm eating / But I got a tapeworm in my tummy." That quick reversal paired with extremely specific imagery—"tapeworm" and "tummy," which are also alliterative—is Wayne's talent in a nutshell. And the fact that said line that perfectly encapsulates his abilities is about why he still is striving to be great is, well, that's just exquisite.

There isn't a syllable out of place in this song. The amount that Wayne crams into his bars is astounding. He also describes an entire game of Pac-Man. And that's just the beginning.

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