Day 21: "Let's Get Dirty"/"Imma Hustler" ("10,000 Bars Verse One") – Sqad Up Vol. 7 (10,000 Bars), 2002
Go. Weezy Wee. Wooooooooooooo! Wow. Ok. Off to the races, Sqad Up 7—but more importantly it's Lil Wayne's legendary "10,000 Bars." This is the famous 35-minute recording session in which Wayne purged himself of his old career and opened up a new chapter by literally tearing through his entire notebook of previously written material. It's a key turning point: From then on, he famously stopped writing his raps.
In a 2009 VH1 Behind the Music clip, Wayne's longtime manager Cortez Bryant explains that you can hear the pages ripping in the background. "When I stopped writing I noticed that everything was realer now," Wayne says in the same segment. "I can't speak about nothing but what's real because I can't write nothing down."
"That changed Wayne as an artist," Bryant agrees. "He started pouring all his feelings out. Everything was on his heart; everything was in his head. He just started putting it out." What would come next was Tha Carter. But first, the matter of all these bars. (Just as a housekeeping note, as I address these I'm going to use the track breakdowns that are on the version of the tape that you can download through Lilwaynehq, the excellently thorough Lil Wayne fan site, which breaks the tracks down by instrumental rather than by verse. And I want to talk about at least a few dozen of the 10,000 bars, so we'll be doing this for a few days.)
As a whole, "10,000 Bars" lives up to its reputation as the end of an era. There's a density to the rhymes—lots of internal rhyme and careful composition—that sounds much more worked over and like it's coming off a page than the more stripped-down material that would come soon after (not that there was any lessening of quality; I challenge you to rap along to "Go DJ"). And subject matter wise the topics stick to a few core tenets of ways in which Wayne will shoot you, ways in which Wayne has been rich since he was a kid, and Wayne's general preference for getting head rather than having sex. Like he said, it got more varied from here.
On the first verse that runs through the first two tracks what stands out isn't so much any particular punchlines—although "spitting game through the platinum smile / you can see what I'm saying from half a mile" is awesome—but just the intensity of Wayne's flow. There's the dizzying tower of internal rhyme that is "I hop out the colossal Tahoe filled with models / poppin' bottles with pussy poppers until they swallow" and the laid back way he riffs on his hoes being like Nelly (because they go down, down, baby) and his moment of maturity (fuck em, fuck em, and fuck em). It's a joy to listen to him plunge into this, a great way to kick off what's to come. Okay, now stop listening at two minutes in until tomorrow. Just kidding. Listen away! Only 9,800 bars or so to go.